Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chair of the House Communications
& Internet Subcommittee, has commended the FCC for its national broadband
plan. He said the FCC had done a "truly outstanding job" sifting
through the comments and coming up with a strategy. But he also said he was
worried the plan does not accurately reflect broadband deployment.
The Wednesday (April 21) hearing focused on deployment to
unserved and underserved areas, including rural areas like much of his
district. He said he wanted to insure access at "meaningful speeds and
"truly affordable prices." The
plan found that 95% had access to at least 4 Mbsp download service,
leaving only about 7 million without service. Boucher said he had "serious
concerns" about the accuracy of that figure, echoing concerns raised by
Free Press in prepared
testimony for the hearing.
Boucher said the broadband availability map for his own
district over-reports figures, and said he was sure it had happened elsewhere.
"I can't consider those projections to be
reliable," he said.
Boucher said there remain many areas without access to
broadband, or if they do, at only slow speeds and high prices.
Ranking committee member Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) invoked the
BitTorrent decision as a warning to take a light touch on broadband regulation.
He pushed for letting the unfettered free market build out broadband. He said
he was not saying government should have no role, but that it should target the
remaining 5%, rather than the 95% that have it. Stearns did not express any
reservations about that 95% figure.
"Congress and the FCC must not revert to failed
regulatory ideas," he said, like net neutrality or forcing access to
Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman
(D-Calif.) said consumers should have access from a "variety of
providers." He gave a shout out to
lowering pole attachment rates and transforming the Universal Service Fund into
a broadband fund. He praised the FCC for launching its USF proceeding in its
public meeting Wednesday.
John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said he was "conflicted"
about the plan. "Before we deploy we ought to map," he said. He also said the FCC needs to define the
standard speed, whether it is 4 Mbps or 100. He said he rejected the suggestion
that it is the government's role to support overbuilders.
Democratic Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) agreed that accurate
data is indispensable.