• Congress Holds Hearing On the National Broadband Plan; Congressman Dingell Seeks Clarity on Pending WCS-SDARS Rulemaking
  • September 30, 2009 | Authors: Jennifer L. Richter; Carly T. Didden; Jennifer A. Cetta
  • Law Firm: Patton Boggs LLP - Washington Office
  • The House Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee recently held a hearing to discuss the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. All five members of the FCC testified and agreed that the National Broadband Plan is a priority. Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) told Chairman Genachowski he is aware of the priority assigned to the National Broadband Plan: “[T]he blueprint is urgently needed to promote universal broadband access, achieve data rates substantially higher than the average speeds available today and promote greater demand for broadband among those who have access but have not subscribed to it.” Chairman Boucher mentioned the need for a nationwide, fully-interoperable communications network for first responders, and he said the subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on this issue. He also said the subcommittee is having bipartisan discussions about an appropriate statutory reform of the Universal Service Fund.

    During the hearing, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), pressed members of the FCC for adoption of final technical rules governing WCS and SDARS spectrum, which will free 30 MHz of spectrum at 2.3 GHz for nationwide wireless broadband: “I would enjoy a candid discussion with our witnesses about the rule pending before the Commission addressing interference between Wireless Communications Services (WCS) and Satellite Digital Audio Radio Services (SDARS),” Dingell said at the opening of a September 17 House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee hearing on FCC oversight. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the full Commerce Committee, emphasized broadband’s significance to energy and health care.

    Chairman Genachowski came under fire from House Republicans for the recent hiring of Mark Lloyd, an agency official promoting media diversity. During the hearing, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), a former radio broadcaster, expressed concern about a 2007 article in which Lloyd stated that “conservative talk radio dominates the airwaves of our country – to the detriment of informed public discourse and the First Amendment.” Lloyd also attracted criticism for stating that the defunct Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to air opposing views, was never formally repealed. Chairman Genachowski affirmed that the FCC would not reinstate the Fairness Doctrine “through the front door or the back door” and would never censor based on political views, Congress Daily reported.