FCC: Key parts of broadband plan in flux after court decision

By Cecilia Kang
Wednesday, April 7, 2010; 4:45 PM

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that it is committed to overseeing Internet services, but that a loss in a federal court earlier this week hinders its ability to carry out some key policies related to its national broadband plan.

But the FCC didn't say what it would do to correct that.

"The Commission must have a sound legal basis for implementing each of these recommendations," wrote FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick in a blog post. "We are assessing the implications of yesterday's decision for each one, to ensure that the Commission has adequate authority to execute the mission laid out in the [broadband] plan."

Schlick tried to minimize the effect a U.S. appeals court decision would have on most of the dozens of broadband proposals the agency presented to Congress on March 16. It can still make airwaves available for mobile broadband networks. It can foster innovations to TV set-top boxes that would promote competition and bring broadband services to television. On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of Comcast, which argued against sanctions placed on it by the FCC in 2008 for violating open Internet principles. That decision cast into limbo the agency's ability to regulate broadband services.

"The Comcast/BitTorrent opinion has no effect at all on most of the broadband plan," Schlick said in his post. "Many of the recommendations for the FCC itself involve matters over which the Commission has an express statutory delegation of authority."

But he also said key aspects of the plan to bring affordable broadband connections will be hindered. Those include goals of bringing broadband to low-income and rural areas and getting those communities to adopt the technology. Experts say the FCC may not be able to convert a $8 billion phone subsidy to be used also for new broadband networks after the court's decision. Cybersecurity efforts to protect broadband users, consumer protections on speeds and prices, and privacy are also removed from the agency's jurisdiction after the court case.

FCC extends comment period for net neutrality after court decision

The Federal Communications Commission, with its ability to create a new net neutrality regulation in limbo, extended a deadline for the public to weigh in on the proposed rule to April 26.

Comments had originally been due this Thursday, but in an unusual postponement, the FCC said it wanted to give people to more time to craft their arguments for or against the rule. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Comcast against the FCC in a net neutrality case. The decision has thrown into doubt the agency's ability to come up with a new net neutrality rule -- along with other broadband regulations.

Wireless trade group CTIA and a pro-net neutrality group called the Open Internet Coalition asked the FCC yesterday to extend the deadline to "enable all interested parties to evaluate and consider the legal implications of the D.C. Circuit's . . . decision," they said in their request.

"It is the policy of the commission that extensions of time shall not be routinely granted," the FCC said in a statement. " However, we find that good cause exists to provide all parties an extension of the reply comment deadline."

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