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FCC dodges answers on reclassification in sweeping national broadband plan

As the Federal Communications Commission unveiled its sweeping national broadband plan, questions loom over the agency’s ability to regulate Internet service providers.

The agency chose to avoid answering what it will do as a federal court appears that it will undermine the FCC’s authority over those services, thereby putting into question some of the biggest proposals in its plan to bring broadband connections to every home in America.

Only on the penultimate page of the 338-page plan did the FCC address, in the most noncommittal way, that there are debates out there. The agency laid out arguments presented by corporations and the public on the legal frameworks available to carry out proposals including one that would reallocate an $8 billion annual phone fund for rural areas to broadband services.

In its plan, the agency said: “The FCC will consider these and related questions as it moves forward to implement the plan.”

Legal experts and some analysts had predicted the agency would consider reclassification of broadband services as a common carrier service in the context of Universal Service Fund reform.

Kyle McSlarrow, CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, has argued to the FCC that it can achieve its reform of the Universal Service Fund through existing legal mechanisms. Others, however, including the public interest group Public Knowledge, have argued that to make clear that it has authority over broadband, the agency should reclassify those services as a common carrier – as they were before former FCC chairman Michael Powell deregulated those services.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told Post Tech earlier this month that he will continue to argue to the court that the agency has authority. But if the agency loses its court challenge by Comcast, it will consider options that could include a reclassification of services.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 16, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Broadband , FCC  
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FCC Releases its National Broadband Plan: Why Does it Matter?

Better access to high-speed Internet boosts economic output. In the U.S. we could increase GDP 4.55% by ensuring that every American has access to broadband services. Clearly, it’s not just about playing online games and downloading hi-def movies. Broadband Internet has become important in every corner of the U.S. economy, and could become more so – from telecommuting to telemedicine to remote education. Yet in this critical infrastructure area the U.S. ranks 15th in the world – behind France, Japan, Korea, Sweden (and 10 others). The FCC’s plan could change that. Heaven knows we need all the help we can get to stay competitive.

Posted by: MyAIC | March 16, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

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