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Rockefeller Urges Broadband Action

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) Wednesday criticized the FCC's National Broadband Plan, calling it long on vision and short on tactics.

That came in an oversight hearing on the national broadband plan in the committee Wednesday.

Rockefeller, addressing lone witness FCC Chairman Julius Genachwoski, said he was looking for real solutions for real people, not a menu of options for the FCC and Congress with "far off time frames." He said that, to him, that was not good enough, He said the plan made over 200 recommendations, but "takes no action and suggests no action."

Rockefeller was fresh from visiting the scene of the recent mine disaster in his state, and was clearly unhappy at the lack of cell phone service at that scene. He also took issue with suggestions that the digital divide was more urban than rural.

But Rockefeller also called the plan a "great start," despite his concerns.

"I am going to challenge the FCC to make the hard choices that will help bring broadband to every corner of this country," he said. "Putting ideas on paper is not enough. Just seeking comment on a slew of issues is not enough. It's action that counts."

Ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), said she had concerns with the plan as well, including not enough incentives to private industry and the spectrum reclamation plan for broadcasters.

Hutchison said that if the FCC reclassifies broadband as a Titlie II service without Congressional authority, it would put the FCC's general authority in question.

Rockefeller said, in contrast, that the FCC should do what it needs to do, including "bending the curve," to assert the authority to implement the plan. He also said he was ready to step in with a bill if necessary to clarify its authority, which was called into question by the court ruling last week overturning the FCC's network management call against Comcast.

Following Rockefeller's opening, Genachowski said in his opening statement that the broadband plan was one of action, that the FCC was acting already, and that it had announced a robust schedule of implementation of its proposals..

Rockefeller said he would continue to push the FCC to keep rural American in mind as it rolls out the plan, and urged the commission to come to Congress if it needs any help to speed its actions. [I]f there is a need to rewrite the law to provide consumers, the FCC, and industry with a new framework, I will take that task on," he said.