FCC Launches Broadband Plan Rulemakings, Inquiries

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The Federal Communications Commission launched its broadband plan proposed rulemakings and inquiries April 21 with a number of proposals including reforming universal service.

The broadband plan was issued on March 16, and an agenda was crafted two weeks ago. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski called it unprecedented in ambition and transparency and an aggressive roadmap for executing on key recommendations.

But he also pointed to a tower-citing decision last year, e-rate support for schools and libraries as anchor centers, and the FCC's new spectrum dashboard as steps the FCC has already taken to pave the way.

He also said it was "vitally important" to move forward and act on the roadmap.

Genachwoski said he was confident the FCC has the authority to implement the plan and, in the wake of the Comcast/BitTorrent decision, would work with his colleagues to "make sure the FCC is on a sound legal foundation." He has not yet said whether the FCC will try to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service to put it under a mandatory access regime, or find other authority under its current information-service classification.

Commissioner McDowell called it the first step toward much-needed "honest, constructive and comprehensive" universal service reform. He said the FCC should contain the growth of the fund, reduce the contribution factor, broaden the base, and make it competitively neutral.

Genachwoski called USF reform a "Rubix Cube" of a project. The reform will not be easy, he said, but that the FCC was committed to laying the groundwork for USF support of broadband. The chairman called it "a vital mission of the FCC."

Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker was not present to vote on the host of items due to the death of her mother earlier this week. Her vote was still being recorded electronically and reflected in the record.

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