Thumbing Nose at Court, FCC Sets National Broadband Plan

“We don’t believe that that the court decision deprives us of the ultimate authority to move forward”

(Also read: "What the "Net Neutrality" Decision Means for Hollywood".)

The Federal Communications Commission is not backing away from the internet, despite a recent court decision saying that it has no new-media authority.

On Thursday, the FCC unveiled an ambitious schedule to implement its National Broadband Plan — and a top FCC official made clear that commission chairman Julius Genachowski intends to “move forward with our policy agenda.”

“We don’t believe that that court decision deprives us of the ultimate authority to do so,” Edward Lazarus, a former Los Angeles lawyer who now is Genachowski’s chief of staff, told group of media lobbyists and reporters at Washington’s Media Institute.

Without detailing exactly how the agency intends to counter the court ruling, he added: “We are obviously examining exactly what we need to do to go forward with the soundest legal authority but we are going to accomplish this agenda.”

Lazarus called the steps the FCC is taking vital to the commission's role of “mediating between the past and the future.”

The broadband plan announced Thursday anticipates a two-year series of actions aimed at improving the availability and speed of broadband.

Some of the moves are controversial. The FCC wants broadcasters to give up some of their usused spectrum to be used for other services, like wireless.

Other steps are less so. The FCC wants to use its already-established Universal Service program, which provides phone service to the poor, to also provide internet service.

Lazarus said in his speech that Genachowski decided to lay out the proposal as a package in the hopes that industries would look at the benefits of the whole rather than focusing on individual controversial elements.

Among the key goals of the plan:

· Seek to make an additional 500 megahertz of spectrum available for mobile broadband within the next 10 years.

· Transform the Universal Service over the next 10 years to support broadband service.

· Upgrade the E-rate program, which connects public libraries and K-12 classrooms.

· Reform and upgrade the Rural Health Care Program to connect more public health facilities to high-speed internet facilities and to foster telemedicine applications and services.

· Extend broadband service to unserved areas of the nation 

· Bring all states to a baseline level of “3G” (or better) wireless coverage.  

· Fulfill mandate from Congress to ensure that video navigation devices, such as smart video devices, are available to consumers in the marketplace, spurring innovation in home video devices and driving increased broadband adoption and utilization.  

· Facilitate the creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety wireless broadband network.

· Aid the transition to next-generation 911 and alerting systems.

In a statement announcing the schedule, Genachowski said the FCC is anxious to put its broadband plan into action.

“The Commission’s Bureaus and Offices have already begun executing on the strategy the National Broadband Plan lays out to connect all Americans to broadband, unleash innovation and investment, enable job creation, and ensure a bright future of economic opportunity and prosperity,” he said.