Reviews of the Broadband Plan are Pouring In

Carl Weinschenk

The reviews are coming in for the National Broadband Plan unveiled earlier this month, and they are anything but raves.

 

Cecilia Kang offers a sampling of views. She refers in this post to the view of Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, who argued before the FCC for a system that would create more competition. His proposals were attacked and subsequently dropped. Kang quotes Washington Post blogger Rob Pegoraro, who criticized the plan's approach to wireless broadband. The Post's editorial board, meanwhile, sees current market conditions as sufficient.

 

There are several issues to be decided. One troubling thing for advocates of the FCC's plan is that the folks at odds are, at least in one case, usually simpatico Democratic commissioners, according to NextGov. At issue in that instance is the plan to take over broadcasters' airwaves in exchange for incentives. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the story says, objects because of the impact the process could have on minority- and women-owned broadcasters. The story also says that Michael Copps, a Democratic commissioner, implied that a lack of competition could lead the FCC to go beyond what is suggested in the plan.

 

A far more basic question is whether, in the end, the FCC will even have the control to implement the plan or whatever it morphs into over the coming months. This BetaNews article actually is a broader look at how the role of the FCC is changing; the framing element is the broadband plan.

 

The story reports on a speech given by Verizon's Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Tom Taulke to the New Democrat Network. The 800-pound gorilla in the broadband room is an appeal of a fine levied by the FCC against Comcast for throttling down the file sharing service BitTorrent in an unauthorized manner.


 

The thinking is that the fine likely will be overturned. This, in the convoluted world of legal and regulatory rulings, would severely hamper the authority of the commission to administer telecommunications. The authority on which the FCC rests-the Communications Act of 1934 and its 1996 update -- could be in danger. The world of telecom has changed immensely even since the more recent date, and the courts may force the regulatory framework to change just as drastically. This, in turn, could impede the FCC's ability to implement the Broadband Plan.

 

Some sources of criticism and concern are not being so subtle. Consider this from Sam Greenholtz, the principal of Telecom Pragmatics at the Gerson Lehrman Group:

The new FCC National Broadband Plan appears to be a joke. Spending about $15 billion is not nearly sufficient. A minimum of $100 billion is probably necessary for any plan to be taken seriously.

Green also calls the "vast majority of people (many of them rookies) working at the FCC are just clueless on the subject of broadband." He will, of course, be willing to provide advisory services to anyone interested

 

The bottom line is that there will be tremendous changes in the plan -- if it is put into effect at all. The fireworks probably won't be as brilliant as they were in the health care debate. Thankfully. But broadband is a hot button issue, though not quite as divisive as health care.



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