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FCC Asks Congress for 4-Week Extension of Broadband Plan

The FCC has asked Congress for a four-week extension of the Feb. 17 deadline for delivering a national broadband plan.

"In order to ensure that there is sufficient time to more fully brief Commissioners and key Members of Congress, to get additional input from stakeholders, and to fully digest the exhaustive record before the agency, the Chairman has requested from Congressional leaders a short extension of 4 weeks in order to deliver the final plan," said Colin Crowell, senior counselor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in an e-mailed statement.

That means the plan joins the Feb. 17, 2009, DTV deadline among those the FCC had to push back, although in the case of the DTV transition it was a congressionally mandated move.

"I am disappointed that the FCC's broadband team is unable to deliver a national broadband plan to Congress by the statutorily mandated deadline," said FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell.

McDowell said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski broke the news to him Tuesday.

"At the same time, I appreciate that Chairman Genachowski shared the news of his decision with me Tuesday afternoon," said McDowell. "Once we receive a draft plan, I hope the document will reflect the benefit of the additional time being taken to prepare it."

McDowell had pointed out in an interview earlier this week that he had seen nothing more than a draft and was hoping to see more soon.

FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin had told B&C three weeks ago that the broadband team would meet or beat the deadline.

Back in July, B&C asked the chairman whether, like the DTV date, the broadband deadline would have to be moved. "We are going to hit our target," he said at the time.

"The FCC has been given an enormous responsibility by Congress to create a broadband plan that reflects our highest aspirations as a country," said Crowell. "Over the last several months, the Commission has embarked upon an unprecedented and open, public process. The agency's staff has been exemplary in its work in meeting this challenge."

The plan is a huge undertaking, with the FCC charged with taking into account entertainment, education, health care, energy policy, government services and emergency communications.

"The Commission has a difficult task of developing the national broadband plan," said CTIA: The Wireless Association President Steve Largent. "We know the FCC has and is working diligently to complete the plan, and believe it is more important that the Commission get it right. If they need more time to get it right, then Congress should allow it."

It has issued a raft of requests for input on all of those, as well as holding numerous workshops and hearings.

FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin had told B&C three weeks ago that the broadband team would meet or beat the deadline. His staff has been working long nights and holidays to try to collect and digest the information by the due date for what is an unprecedented undertaking whose consequences are likened to those of the creation of the railroad and interstate highway systems.