FCC's Martin Says Broadband Deployment Is Top Priority

The new Federal Communications Commission chairman gives a few hints about his tenure during a Supercomm appearance.
CHICAGO -- Calling broadband deployment his agency's "top priority" is about as exciting and contentious as it got during the Supercomm appearance of Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin Tuesday afternoon.

Showing perhaps that caution and measured statements will be a hallmark of his tenure atop the FCC, Martin offered up no surprises and only a few strong opinions during a not-too-probing question-and-answer session with industry representatives.

"We need to make sure there is a level playing field for all service providers," Martin said, as part of the prioritization of encouraging broadband deployment. He also said the FCC would do whatever it could to help accelerate the transition to digital television, which would free up additional spectrum that could be used for new wireless Internet services.

On the matter of actually passing regulations, Martin said the FCC might try to do more issue-specific actions like its recent order regarding mandatory links to E911 services for Voice over IP providers.

"Sometimes the commission tries to do everything, and then gets stuck doing nothing at all," said Martin, who has been an FCC commissioner since 2001. Some issues, like 911, are "too important" to get trapped in the procedural morass the FCC is sometimes known for, he added, and therefore may be addressed individually as needed.

Martin also said he was in favor of looser local-franchising requirements for companies who want to provide video services, an issue that was on many minds here at the show.

New entrants in the video market, Martin said, shouldn't have to be burdened with "trying to serve everyone before they can serve anyone." He added, "I do not want to have traditional local franchise [requirements] be a barrier to entry."

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