FCC Launches Broadband Plan Rulemakings and Inquiries

The FCC launched its broadband plan proposed rulemakings and
inquiries Wednesday (April 21) with a number of proposals including reforming
universal service.

The broadband plan was issued on March 16, and an agenda was
crafted two weeks ago. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called it unprecedented
in ambition and transparency and an aggressive roadmap for executing on key

But he also pointed to a tower-citing decision last year,
e-rate support for schools and libraries as anchor centers, and the FCC's new
spectrum dashboard as steps the FCC has already taken to pave the way.

He also said it was "vitally important" to move
forward and act on the roadmap.

Genachwoski said he was confident the FCC has the authority
to implement the plan and, in the wake of the Comcast/BitTorrent decision,
would work with his colleagues to "make sure the FCC is on a sound legal
foundation."  He has not yet said whether
the FCC will try to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service to put
it under a mandatory access regime, or find other authority under its current
information-service classification.

Commissioner McDowell called it the first step toward
much-needed "honest, constructive and comprehensive" universal
service reform. He said the FCC should contain the growth of the fund, reduce
the contribution factor, broaden the base, and make it competitively neutral.

Genachwoski called USF reform a "Rubix Cube" of a
project. The Reform will not be easy, he said, but that the FCC was committed
to laying the groundwork for USF support of broadband.  The chairman called it "a vital mission
of the FCC."

Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker was not present to vote
on the host of items due to the death of her mother earlier this week. Her vote
was still being recorded electronically and reflected in the record.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.