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Don't Criticize Our National Broadband Plan
WHATEVER you do, don't point out how it forgets to improve competition...
by Karl Bode 01:41PM Thursday Dec 24 2009
Last week consumer advocacy groups weren't very impressed with their first glimpse of the country's first ever broadband plan -- noting that while it touched on a bevy of uncontroversial subjects (like accessibility assistance), it didn't address the industry's biggest problem: a lack of competition. This apparent oversight joins other potentially troubling signs for Uncle Sam's plan, including the government's decision to waffle on obtaining independently verifiable data from ISPs, and the NTIA's decision to dole out taxpayer funds to the baby bells' controversial broadband mapping dog and pony show, Connected Nation.

Blair Levin, the FCC's chief designer of the broadband plan, this week seemed to reinforce the notion that the agency's plan may be many things when it's finished -- but ambitious won't be among them. Levin tells Amy Shatz of the Wall Street Journal that any return to line sharing is likely out, despite rumors to the contrary. Levin also shoots down Rep. Rick Boucher's suggestion from last week, requesting the FCC aim high (like around 50 MBps) when crafting broadband goals (Levin prefers 2-4 Mbps). Oddly, Levin also takes a moment to, of all things, complain about consumer group criticism of the broadband plan:
Mr. Levin also dismissed criticisms last week from public interest groups unhappy the plan may not propose some ideas for encouraging competition, such as rules that would require Internet providers to share their lines with competitors. "I find their criticism not very productive," Levin said Monday.
It's not exactly clear when Levin wanted consumer advocates to remind him that competition should be the cornerstone of any decent plan. With literally tens of thousands of telecom lobbyists currently working overtime in DC trying to water the plan down, under-funded consumer advocates hardly pose the greatest threat to the plan's productivity. With the FCC professing that they're so eager to absorb all input, you'd think that reminding them that competition is the cornerstone of a healthy market would be very productive. Especially considering recent FCC reports keep forgetting to mention it.

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