WASHINGTON, September 3, 2009 – Federal Communications Commission broadband czar Blair Levin dismissed critics of the commission’s process in creating a national broadband strategy and promised a steady push forward with clear goals in mind.
Levin spoke on Wednesday to a group of telecommunications attorneys and executives in downtown Washington.
Levin said he was puzzled as to the poor quality of the filings the commission received in July in response to the FCC’s first notice of inquiry on plans for a national broadband strategy. To those who questioned the need for the filings and assumed Levin and agency Chairman Julius Genachowski had already predetermined the course of the broadband plan, he asked rhetorically, “if I know what I want to do [on broadband], why am I here?”
There is no “secret plan,” nor “multiple choice” option that the commission will choose from, Levin cautioned. “It doesn’t work like that,” he said. Complicating the problem is a lack of good data on broadband availability nationwide. The U.S.’s mapping data “doesn’t add up” enough to be useful, he said.
The workshops the commission has been conducting are to allow staff to take ownership of parts of the plan and narrow down action items on broader issues, Levin told the group. But the commission will be requesting more information through hearings and “more specific” public notices this fall, he said. The notices will be “very narrow – very focused,” he said. “We have a very steep mountain to climb.”
Good data is essential to any recommendations that the FCC will make to Congress, Levin said. At the heart of the commission’s mandate to develop a plan is the idea that the U.S. suffers economic and social deficits from a lack of broadband deployment. Universal deployment is important to ensure growth is widespread, he said.
But the overall goal of the broadband plan is the start of a “dynamic process” including Congress and other agencies with the authority to implement the strategy, Levin said. The plan is a “mechanism to drive a dynamic process to improve the broadband ecosystem,” he said. He added that the commission’s report to Congress will only be the beginning of the process.
The plan will not be “self-executing,” he cautioned, since the job of the commission is to give options to decision-makers, and not to make any decisions itself. But the FCC will follow the detailed approach laid out in the recovery act in making recommendations to Congress and other stakeholders, including states and cities. “If we do our job right, we don’t have to do it [again] for another ten years.”