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09:10 AM

FCC Preparing Broadband Plan

A tight supply of broadband spectrum and the use of set-top boxes for Internet connections are just two of the matters the commission is working to address.

With just two months left before the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to submit its national broadband plan to Congress, the commission is sorting through some controversial issues crucial to the completion of the plan.

Leading those issues, is the perennial question of how to find more spectrum which is expected to be in tighter supply as more smartphones with video capability hit the market.

The latest broadband focus was presented this week by Blair Levin, head of the FCC broadband task force. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has already sounded the alarm on a coming crisis, he predicts will be caused by tighter spectrum availability.

Other major issues to be taken up in the coming weeks include proposed changes to the $7 billion Universal Service Fund and to the delivery of set-top boxes.

"Competition drives innovation and provides consumer choice," the FCC said in a release. "Finding ways to better use existing assets, including Universal Service, rights-of-way, spectrum, and others, will be essential to the success of the plan."

The FCC has suggested that the Universal Service Fund be revamped to help allocate additional funds for rural and low income citizens, who have been shortchanged in getting robust broadband.

The set-top issue centers around the FCC's suggestion that set-top boxes could be used for Internet connections in addition to their traditional role in providing TV connections.

A wide variety of special interest groups are expected to gear up in the coming weeks as debate on the proposed broadband plan grows. One of the first to weigh in on the FCC plan was Public Knowledge, a public interest group. In a statement, Gigi Sohn, the group's executive director, said: "Reforming universal service and supporting municipal networks are worthwhile goals, but they would do nothing to reverse the slide caused by eight years of misbegotten telecommunications policies that have crippled the most meaningful broadband competition for consumers," Sohn said in a state

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