Levin: 'Pretty Good' Year for Broadband Plan

Publish date:

Blair Levin, former executive director of the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan, says that it has been a "pretty good year" for the plan.

He says it has been a case of "two steps forward, one step back," and that there are some things about which he has said "great" and others where he said "oh, really?"

Blair Levin on C-SPAN

But he also said that is to be expected and that the plan was not meant to be a blueprint where everything has to be exactly right.

In an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series, Levin said that the plan was always meant to be an "agenda-setting and target-clarifying device." That means that it has targets to both shoot for and shoot at.

The Communicators interview with Levin will air Saturday, June 4, on C-SPAN at 6:30 p.m. and Monday, June 6, on C-SPAN2 at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., all times ET.

He cited spectrum reform, Universal Service Fund reform and rights-of-way reform as among its key issues.

Levin said he thought the debate had gone "off track" on the spectrum reform issue. He said the issue to resolve is not whether to reallocate spectrum, but how to reallocate it on an ongoing basis to serve evolving needs.

The most important resource the government controls is spectrum, he said, and the need to reallocate that as needs arise is getting lost in debates like repacking broadcasters and whether to allocate or auction the D block.

Levin said he supported incentive auctions, which would compensate broadcasters for exiting spectrum in favor of wireless broadband. One alternative would be to wait for a crisis, then have the government just come in and take the spectrum, he said. He would be "OK" with that, but said that it was a "crisis" response that would lead to years of litigation. Incentive auctions would be a market-based solution, which he favors.

Asked whether broadcasters are sitting on underutilized capital, he said some are and some aren't, but that the market should determine whether, post cable and internet, there was still a need for 25 or 30 TV stations in New York. For the 25th broadcaster in New York, it may be more valuable to sell the spectrum, he suggested.

Levin said he did not think it was likely the FCC would make an end-of-summer deadline for reforming the Universal Service Fund. But he said, with a smile, that the commission should be forgiven for missing its deadline by a month or two--Levin's broadband plan missed its initial deadline. That deadline was not as important as moving in the right direction, he said.

The former FCC chief of staff did not entirely rule out his candidacy for the next open Democratic FCC seat-likely that of Michael Copps, who is exiting by year's end--but he indicated that was not on his radar. He said he had work at the Aspen Institute, where he is currently employed, that "would be more fun than being the next commissioner.... I think I'd prefer to keep working on some of the stuff that I am working on at Aspen. I think that is more important for me right now."