Stearns Wants Answers on Cost of FCC Broadband Plan

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A top Republican has fired off a letter to the Federal Communications Commission wondering how much it spent on a broadband plan he says sounds like it reiterates existing evidence that the vast majority of people have broadband, and two-thirds take it.

Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking Republican on the House Communications Subcommittee, wrote FCC chairman Julius Genachowski that, from what he has been hearing, the plan illustrates "the success of the national broadband plan we already have."

He said that given that top FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin has said that broadband "is primarily a function of private investment," with which Stearns heartily agrees, he expected the plan to be "rooted" in such observations.

He also warned the FCC that he hopes the national broadband plan is not "littered with hidden agendas" such as "placeholders for network neutrality, old-style, Title II common-carrier regulations, or the type of spectrum conditions advocated by M2Z and others in the past that have hobbled auctions."

The plan is expected to reference network neutrality, but leave the heavy lifting for the currently open proceeding on codifying and expanding the FCC's Internet openness principles. Some, including John Muleta, CEO of M2Z Networks, are interpreting the FCC's announcement this week that it was considering using spectrum for a free or low-cost broadband service to mean it may put such conditions on bidders for the 500 MHz of spectrum it proposes freeing up for wireless broadband.

Given what he said should be a free-market-focused report, Stearns said he could not help wondering how much the FCC spent to come up with its conclusion and how many people it took.

He also wanted to know why the Feb. 17 deadline was moved back to March 17, what was done during that time, and the answers to a number of other questions, including how soon an electronic, searchable version of the document will be available for perusal by congressional staffers and the public.

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