US FCC issues broadband agenda despite court loss

* FCC chief says court ruling narrowly cast

* FCC lays out 2010 timetable for broadband plan

By John Poirier

WASHINGTON, April 8 (BestGrowthStock) – The head of the U.S.
Federal Communications Commission vowed to press ahead with a
broadband expansion plan despite a court ruling this week that
undermined the agency’s authority to manage networks.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said on Thursday that the
appeals court ruling was narrowly cast and he issued a
timetable for public comment and rulemaking on broadband goals
ranging from reallocating airwaves to expanding Internet access
for rural and low-income households.

On Tuesday, a three-judge U.S. appeals court panel ruled
that the FCC failed to show that it had the necessary authority
to stop Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O: ) from blocking the use of
applications for distributing television shows and other large,
bandwidth-hogging files over the Internet.

The ruling dealt a blow to proponents of Net Neutrality,
who argue that providers should treat all traffic on the
Internet equally, and to the FCC’s authority to oversee the
Internet.

“The court decision earlier this week does not change our
broadband policy goals, or the ultimate authority of the FCC to
act to achieve those goals,” Genachowski said in a statement
that included the opening of more than 60 proceedings on
elements of the National Broadband Plan.

“The court did not question the FCC’s goals; it merely
invalidated one technical, legal mechanism for broadband policy
chosen by prior commissions,” he said.

The FCC, which has argued it has broad authority over the
Internet, last month unveiled an ambitious plan to upgrade
access for all Americans and shift spectrum from television
broadcasters to support the huge demand for smartphones and
other wireless devices.

Other goals of the plan include redirecting the Universal
Service Fund (USF), that currently subsidizes telephone access,
to support high-speed Internet access for the poor and those in
rural areas.

On Wednesday, the FCC’s general counsel, Austin Schlick,
said in a blog post that the court ruling could affect that
effort to transform the USF program.

Although Schlick said the ruling has no effect on most of
the agency’s broadband plan, he said some other aspects like
cybersecurity and consumer privacy could be affected.

The court ruling is likely to set off a flurry of lobbying
at the FCC by Internet access and content providers like Google
Inc (GOOG.O: ), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N: ) and AT&T Inc
(T.N: ) seeking to influence the agency’s next move.

The FCC has not indicated whether it plans to appeal the
court’s ruling.

The decision could free broadband providers from numerous
requirements in the short term, however the FCC could try to
reclassify the service into a different category that would
permit the agency to apply more regulations, one analyst has
said.

The FCC’s 2010 timetable for pursuing its broadband plan
can be found at:
http://www.broadband.gov/plan/broadband-action-agenda.html

Stock Market Today

(Reporting by John Poirier; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

US FCC issues broadband agenda despite court loss