FCC Delays National Broadband Plan

The federal agency charged with developing a national broadband plan to bring affordable, high-speed Internet connections to all corners of America says it needs at least one more month to complete the plan. Congress originally imposed a Feb. 17 deadline for the FCC to present the plan to lawmakers.

The Federal Communications Commission said Jan. 6 the agency will miss the Feb. 17 deadline by which it was required to present a national broadband plan to Congress. In asking lawmakers for a one-month delay, the FCC said it needed more time to prepare the report that is supposed to be a blueprint for bringing high-speed Internet to all corners of the United States.
The plan was ordered and funded by Congress as part of President Obama's economic stimulus bill, approved by lawmakers in 2009. The FCC has held dozens of open meetings, hired outside consultants and made the national broadband plan the primary policy objective under new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
"In order to ensure that there is sufficient time to more fully brief commissioners and key members of Congress, to get additional input from stakeholders, and to fully digest the exhaustive record before the agency, the chairman has requested from congressional leaders a short extension of four weeks in order to deliver the final plan," Colin Crowell, senior counselor to Genachowski, said in a statement.
According to preliminary details from the plan, the FCC is expected to recommend a restructuring of the $7 billion USF (Universal Service Fund), which subsidizes telephone service in high-cost areas, to include broadband services. More controversially, the FCC is expected to recommend reallocating spectrum to accommodate what is expected to be an explosion in wireless services.
Consumer groups have complained that the early details of the plan are lacking in policy specifics encouraging competition among broadband providers.
Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said earlier the week of Jan. 4 it is not certain whether the plan will actually be voted on by the five commissioners or simply submitted to Congress by Genachowski. In addition, McDowell said the plan wouldn't be legally binding on Congress or the FCC.
"Once we receive a draft plan, I hope the document will reflect the benefit of the additional time being taken to prepare it," McDowell said in a statement. "I am disappointed that the FCC's broadband team is unable to deliver a national broadband plan to Congress by the statutorily mandated deadline."