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Advocacy groups demand FCC action on broadband

Two digital advocacy groups, Free Press and the New America Foundation, have released an early analysis of the National Broadband Plan that argues that while the plan takes several critical first steps toward solving the nation’s broadband deficiencies, the FCC must act decisively and quickly in several key areas in order to reach its goals.

In many instances, the groups said, the plan poses difficult questions without offering definitive answers. In critical areas, it doesn’t go far enough fast enough.

“In order to achieve the goals in the National Broadband Plan, the commission will need to take immediate steps,” said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press. “Now is when the rubber meets the road for the National Broadband Plan.“

The analysis recommends immediate FCC action on seven areas, including competition, universal service reform, adoption rates, spectrum, transparency, data and jurisdiction.

On spectrum, the groups applauded the FCC’s plan to challenge broadcasters for their underused spectrum. “But now is the time to better use unlicensed spectrum as well as white spaces,” the groups said.

The FCC, the groups added, must investigate all policy options that would infuse meaningful competition in the broadband marketplace in areas where there are abuses of market power.

The groups advocated providing consumers with simple, clear data about their Internet access, with full disclosure of monitoring, blocking and delaying of content. They also urged the FCC to clarify its jurisdiction over broadband networks without delay. “Decisive action will mean faster implementation of the needed elements of the National Broadband Plan,” the groups said.

Endorsing the group’s call on the FCC was House Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-CA. Waxman called on the FCC to take any necessary action to move forward with the National Broadband Plan after pending litigation has drawn into question the agency’s authority to implement key elements of the plan such as reform of the Universal Service Fund and numerous consumer protections.