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FCC To Unveil National Broadband Plan

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FCC To Unveil National Broadband Plan


FCC To Unveil National Broadband Plan

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Today, 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, as Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE: 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 360-page plan for nearly a year, FCC officials say they've got it.

Mr. JULIUS GENACHOWSKI (Chairman, Federal Communications Commission): It's going to be essential that we promote competition, because competition is the best way that we're going to achieve lower prices, better services, faster speeds.

ROSE: FCC Chairman Julius 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.

Mr. GENACHOWSKI: We have the opportunity to lead the world in mobile broadband, but we face some real obstacles. We're going to run out of spectrum if we don't take some action.

ROSE: 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 for 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.

Gordon Smith is president of the National Association of Broadcasters.

Mr. GORDON SMITH (President, National Association of Broadcasters): There does just seem to be a policy bias to get rid of broadcasting. And I just think that that is being done by unelected people from an ivory tower that frankly are forgetting some of the values that are valuable still that broadcasting serves.

ROSE: Broadcasters may not be the only hurdle facing the FCC's plan. Rural telephone companies are unhappy about the commission's recommendation to expand the government program that subsidizes rural phone service to include broadbands 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, like who would be eligible to bid for that auctioned spectrum.

Ms. GIGI SOHN (President, Public Knowledge): If you don't ensure that the incumbents - mostly AT&T and Verizon - 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.

ROSE: 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.

For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose.

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