Despite a federal appeals court ruling that concluded the Federal Communications Commission lacked the authority to regulate the Internet, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee, told lawmakers the ruling would not affect the body’s decision to go ahead with the National Broadband Plan.
Entitled “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan,” the FCC aims to improve efforts to connect all individuals and the economy to the benefits of broadband’s Internet service. The Plan’s call for action over the next decade includes connecting 100 million households to affordable 100M bps service.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled April 6 the FCC “has failed to tie its assertion” of regulatory authority to any actual law enacted by Congress, the agency does not have the authority to regulate an Internet provider’s network management practices. Congress had repeatedly decline to give the FCC the authority to enforce its network neutrality principles. The New York Times reported Genachowski defended himself from Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska on Capital Hill on Wednesday. Senator Johanns argued the ruling explicitly stated the FCC had no powers of regulation. “I don’t agree with that,” Genachowski said, according to the Times. “I assure you that anything we do in all of the areas concerning communications will have solid legal authority.”
Key elements of the Broadband Plan require the FCC’s use of network neutrality rules to keep the nation’s broadband pipes open, including the ability to dictate that broadband providers not favor their own content over legal content. The FCC has also launched two digital tools, the Consumer Broadband Test and the Broadband Dead Zone Report, which allows consumers to test their broadband service and report areas where broadband service is not available. The government has also made available a mobile app-the FCC’s first-of the Consumer Broadband Test, which is available through the Apple and Google Android app stores.
“We are putting the National Broadband Plan into action,” Genachowski said in a statement regarding the court’s April 6 ruling. “The Commission’s Bureaus and Offices have already begun executing on the strategy the National Broadband Plan lays out to connect all Americans to broadband, unleash innovation an investment, enable job creation and ensure a bright future of economic opportunity and prosperity.”
In related news, the wireless industry association CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent released the a statement in response to the U.S. House of Representatives passing the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act (H.R. 3125), which would require an inventory of radio spectrum bands managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the FCC. Genachowski had earlier expressed confidence that major U.S. television broadcasters were open to the FCC’s plan to auction off their spectrum contracts in exchange for a percentage of the profits
On behalf of CTIA members, Largent thanked the House of Representatives, and especially Congressmen Waxman, Barton, Boucher and Stearns, for passing the bill. “Enactment of a comprehensive inventory bill will be an important step towards ensuring our industry has sufficient spectrum to meet consumers’ increasing demands for mobile Internet access,” the statement read. “As we have said many times before, spectrum is vital to our industry as it fuels the -virtuous cycle’ of innovation. The passage of the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act will assist us in efforts to remain the most competitive and innovative wireless market in the world.”