McDowell: Still Unclear How Broadband Plan Will Be Presented

FCC Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell says he has yet
to see the details of the FCC's broadband plan, and that if there is to be a
vote on the plan, internal rules say he and his colleagues will need to sit 21
days before a vote, which would be before the meeting at which it is scheduled
to be formally presented.

That would mean within the next three weeks or so by the
latest given the Feb. 17 deadline to Congress.

Speaking in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series, McDowell said it remains unclear whether there will be a
vote or not. FCC chief broadband advisor Blair Levin told B&C in an interview in late December that a vote is not
required. He said the law "simply requires that the commission deliver a
plan," to Congress. "The question of how the commissioners describe
the plan is one that is best left to the commissioners," he said. "We
are in conversations about that. This is a very unusual kind of assignment. It
is not voting on a notice of proposed rulemaking, but it is not voting on a
report in the same way as a number of reports to Congress [in the] past. So, it
is an unusual thing and I think that everyone in good faith is trying to figure
out what the best way of proceeding is."

McDowell said the broadband team has given him briefings and
that the plan will come down to what the FCC can do to provide fatter, faster,
affordable broadband. He said he was looking forward to seeing more, saying he
expected to at the FCC's Feb. 11 meeting, when it will be formally presented.

He said that could just be the broadband team presenting it
to the commission, then sending it to the Hill. He also said that the longer
there is no specificity on how it will be presented, the shorter the odds that
there will not be a vote.

Asked about a lack of clarity on what happens with the
report, McDowell said he thought the commission had done an excellent job of
absorbing comments to create an outline.

A spokesman for Levin was not available for comment.

McDowell put in a plug for cable's Docsis 3.0 rollout. Asked
whether the plan was necessary, he pointed out that up to 95% of the country
gets some kind of broadband service, with 92% penetration by cable. He said
that the latter can be upgraded to 100 Mbps via Docsis.

He conceded that closing the gap with the remaining 5%-8%
would be tough, pointing to wireless and satellite delivered broadband as
important technologies in the mix, the latter particularly for very remote
areas like Alaska.

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.