FCC's broadband plan goes under the microscope

A key lawmaker threw his support behind the FCC's proposal to give broadcasters a share of the proceeds from spectrum auctions intended to foster mobile broadband. However, another senior lawmaker voiced his concerns over the proposal, and the commission has also come under fire for how it regulates broadband services.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on communications, technology and the Internet, threw his support behind the proposal, calling it the "right approach," according to Reuters.

The auctions are a key piece of the FCC's national broadband plan, which was unveiled earlier this month. The plan calls for freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless carriers over the next 10 years--300 MHz of which are supposed to be freed up in the next five years. The plan aims to move 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcasters to wireless.

However, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), expressed concern that broadcasters have already given up a notable amount of spectrum via the digital TV transition, and that further such actions could have a negative affect on the public.

Meantime, AT&T and Verizon Communications lambasted a proposal to reclassify the regulation of broadband communications. The FCC might move to classify broadband as a telecommunications service, which would give it clearer authority to regulate the Internet and codify new net neutrality regulations for wireless and wireline networks. Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of legislative and external affairs, echoed comments made by Verizon earlier this week, and in a blog post called for Congress to look at how the FCC regulates Internet services. He argued strongly against reclassifying broadband.

"The FCC derives its authority from the Congress, and if the courts say the FCC lacks the authority it needs to do what it wants to do, the proper--and constitutionally correct--answer is to ask the Congress to address the question," he wrote. "Any other answer will appear as a means-justifies-the-ends rationalization by the commission ... an action it can't reasonably expect anyone in disagreement to accept. At best, it would lead to litigation and investment uncertainty."

This week at the CTIA Wireless 2010 conference in Las Vegas, both AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega called for a light regulatory touch, especially with respect to net neutrality.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Washington Post article

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