House To Drill Down Into Broadband Plan

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Look for the Federal Communications Commission to get a lot more oversight of its National Broadband Plan from the House Subcommittee on Communications, according to a memo sent to Democratic staffers that circulated April 16.

The briefing memo, for an April 21 hearing, "The National Broadband Plan: Deploying Quality Broadband Services to the Last Mile" which is focusing on the "broadband availability gap," says that hearing is one of "a series of hearings on specific proposals in the NBP," the subcommittee is teeing up.

On March 25, the subcommittee held its first hearing on the plan in its entirely, but now it also wants to drill down to particular proposals and sections, in this case chapters 4, 6 and 8 on availability. The FCC will have a number of action items for Congress as part of the plan, including potentially money to speed the migration of universal service from phone to broadband and incentive auctions for freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband applications. The commission sees wireless as a key broadband player going forward.

Witnesses for the April 21 hearing, according to the memo (no witness list had been publicly posted at press time), will be Sharon Gillett, chief of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau; David Villano, assistant administrator of the telecommunications program at the USDA (the Department of Agriculture is handing out broadband stimulus grants and loans); Joe Garcia, regional vice president, National Congress of American Indians; Austin Carroll, GM, Hopkinsville Electric System and Mark Dankberg, chairman and CEO of Viasat.

The hearing will look at universal service issues, pole attachments and rights of way, municipal nets, speed and price issues and competition policy as it vets the plan's adoption spurs for both underserved and unserved communities.

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