FCC Seeking Diverse Workshop Lineup


A spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission says the agency's broadband workshops remain flexible, and that more workshops and panelists are being and will be added "as people speak to us and as we see a need."

Apparently in response to some criticisms that the FCC's broadband workshop participants were heavily skewed toward industry, FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin Friday took stock of those participants to date on the FCC's new broadband blog (http://blog.broadband.gov/).

Riffing on the "12 Days of Christmas," he ticked off a list that was headlined by 15 participants from small and disadvantaged businesses and ended with "one each from the analyst world, legal, retail and the Web.

"No partridge in a pear tree," said Levin, "and there won't be one. Unless some engineer can figure out how it can serve as a wi-fi router."

One of those critics added a comment to that blog that, even using Levin's list, by his count there were still "76 of 110" with "direct or indirect ties to industry," or 69%. And if just the workshops focused on policy were broken out, that number plummeted to 3%.

"The comment that there has to be an absolute balance between Consumer Federation or Consumers Union and every provider I just think that is unrealistic," says FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield. "If you are going to talk about broadband, you have to talk to people who are providing broadband. What it shows is that we have got people providing broadband from many different corners of the broadband world.

"I don't know how you classify participants who are small or minority disadvantaged businesses, but they are definitely people who would tend to come from the consumer side," Wigfield continued. "Obviously, we want to hear from everybody, but I don't think it is even possible to say, 'If we call Verizon, we have to call another consumer group.' There aren't even that many groups that exist that you could do that. So, I think it is not a very realistic view about the range of participants you need to call to get a picture of what has to happen for broadband deployment in the U.S." Wigfield also said that the first set of workshops, which will be completed by Labor Day, won't be the end of it. At least one other has already been added on state and local issues, and there will be more, he said, as well as panelists added.