WASHINGTON, July 8, 2010 – The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission responded to senators’ questions generated after he testified before them in April on the National Broadband Plan and other issues.
Questions from members of the Senate Commerce Committee varied in scope and widely reflected concerns from states that the respective senators represent.
Genachowki had appeared before the committee on April 14 and 64 pages of follow-up questions covered everything from reallocation of spectrum to coverage of Native American lands and Hawaii.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowki to explain, “why would it be good public policy to abandon the rate of return regulatory system that has already allowed the deployment of broadband to many rural, high-cost areas of the country,” in favor of the more inhibitive price cap regulatory system.
Genachowki responded, “A shift from rate-of-return to incentive regulation advances both to the general goal of ensuring widespread deployment of broadband networks and the specific tool of universal service reform. Rate-of-return regulation was implemented at a time when monopoly providers offered regulated voice telephone service over copper wires in a particular geographic area. Such an era no longer reflects the reality of converging technologies and competition in the 21st century broadband world.”
Inouye also pressed Genachowki to make sure that Native Americans in rural areas and Hawaii’s translator television system would not be affected by the reallocation of spectrum.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., asked Genachowki how much the recent Comcast v. FCC decision affecting the network neutrality debate would affect the National Broadband Plan.
“In the decades since Congress created the commission, the technologies of communications have changed and evolved,” Genachowki responded, “and with the guidance of Congress, the commission has tailored its approach to these changes. But the basic goals have been constant…”
Kerry and Genachowki also discussed many of the aspects of the broadband plan that deal with not only underserved Americans, but also those not able to afford broadband, as well as the wireless market, which they said was dominated by two carriers.
Genachowki also told Kerry that 10 megahertz of the 700-megahertz block of spectrum would be given to public safety first responders.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-Neb., asked what every taxpayer wants to know: Where is the money going to come from?
“Universal service resources are finite and contributions have grown significantly over the last decade. The contribution factor is at its highest level ever at more than 15 percent,” said Genachowki, “To keep the overall size of the universal service fund within baseline projections, the commission will need to eliminate inefficient funding of legacy voice service and refocus universal service funding to directly support modern communications networks that will provide broadband as well as voice services.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., focused on the public safety first responders and their allocation of spectrum, and Genachowki outlined many of the steps already taken by the FCC to fix the problems that cause deaths in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
“The bottom line is that, without significant public funding, the public safety broadband network will neither be nationwide nor fully interoperable,” said Genachowki.
Genachowki also addressed smart grid technology, television white spaces, and regulation of the private sector.