04/09/2010

FCC sticks to its public safety broadband plan

By Joelle Tessler
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that it intends to move forward quickly with key recommendations in its national broadband plan — even though a federal appeals court this week undermined the agency's legal authority to regulate high-speed Internet access. The FCC said it will focus on a number of major proposals this year, including plans to establish a nationwide wireless network for public safety that will help firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers communicate.

The FCC needs that authority to push ahead with many parts of the broadband plan, which it released last month. Among them: a proposal to expand broadband by tapping the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural areas.

The FCC laid out its 2010 "broadband action agenda" without indicating how it will proceed in light of the court ruling. But the agency says it will ensure it has the legal authority it needs for its sweeping plan to increase broadband usage and Internet speeds.

"Does the FCC still have a mission in the Internet area?" FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick wrote in a blog post following Tuesday's court decision. "Absolutely."

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