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FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says competition is the best way to regulate broadband and bring affordable Internet to the roughly 100 million Americans who do not have it.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says competition is the best way to regulate broadband and bring affordable Internet to the roughly 100 million Americans who do not have it. Alex Wong/Getty Images
On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission released a much-anticipated plan to improve Americans' access to the Internet. But some of the FCC's recommendations are already running into political resistance.
Congress ordered the FCC to come up with a way to bring fast, cheap, affordable Internet access to the roughly 100 million Americans who don't have it. After working on their plan for nearly a year, FCC officials say they've got it.
"It's going to be essential that we promote competition," says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "Because competition is the best way that we can achieve lower prices, better services, faster speeds."
Genachowski says the plan would introduce more competition into the U.S. broadband market by freeing up a big chunk of the public airwaves for wireless broadband.
"We have the opportunity to lead the world in mobile broadband, but we face some real obstacles," Genachowski says. "We're going to run out of spectrum if we don't take some action."
The actions FCC officials are proposing include taking some wireless spectrum away from other uses. Specifically, FCC officials are proposing to auction parts of the public airwaves that TV broadcasters originally got free — with auction revenues going to compensate those broadcasters and to pay for other parts of the broadband plan.
But some TV stations are unlikely to give up that spectrum without a fight.
"There does seem to be a policy bias to get rid of broadcasting," says Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters. "And I just think that this is being done by unelected people from an ivory tower that are frankly forgetting some of the values that are valuable still that broadcasting serves."
Broadcasters may not be the only hurdle facing the FCC's plan. Rural telephone companies are unhappy about the FCC's recommendation to expand the government program that subsidizes rural phone service to include broadband, too.
Public interest advocates hailed the plan as a good start. But Gigi Sohn, president of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Public Knowledge, says there are a lot of questions it doesn't answer, such as who is eligible to bid for that auctioned spectrum.
"If you don't ensure that the incumbents ... don't get that spectrum, if you don't put some sort of assurance that allows the smaller companies to get that spectrum, then that policy result is pretty worthless," Sohn says.
That's one of many question FCC officials may have to answer in the coming days as they present their plan to Congress and the public.