Republicans Signal Major Concerns Over Broadband Plan

Dislike plans for net neutrality regs, fiber unbundling, and mandatory wholesaling requirements

Republicans have signaled their major concerns, and likely lines of questioning, about the broadband plan in a briefing memo to Republican congressional members and staff in advance of the March 25 broadband oversight hearing with the five FCC commissioners.

While a broadband hearing in the Senate had to be cancelled at the last minute earlier this week, the House Energy & Commerce Communications Subcommittee hearing is expected to go off as planned, according to an FCC staffer prepping for the hearing late Wednesday (March 24).

In the memo, the Republicans suggest the broadband plan essentialy confirms the success of a free market that has resulted in 95% broadband penetration, and two-thirds adoption. "By continuing our deregulatory policies, we can beat the new plan's goal of making 100 Mbps service available to 100 million homes by 2020," says the memo.

They said that doesn't mean they don't like some elements of the plan, including efforts to "cut waste" in the Universal Service Fund, and freeing up more spectrum.

The Republicans argue that if the Demcrats had not defeated their efforts to target broadband stimulus bucks to unserved areas, rather than include underserved as well, broadband deployment might have been "even further down the road by now."

As to the FCC plan to free up 500 MHz of spectrum by 2020, the Republicans say that could advance broadband while generating needed revenue, but only if the FCC does not "give the spectrum away or rig auctions with conditions." One suggestion has been that the FCC might put a condition of free service to low-income households on the winners of the reclaimed spectrum it would auction for wireless broadband.

The Republicans don't like plans of imposing network neutrality regulations, fiber unbundling or mandatory wholesaling requirements, rate regulation of special access, and mandatory gateway devices, which the plan suggests is a way to spur broadband adoption by creating a set-top device that could turn TV's into all-media monitors.

Those, say the Republicans, "are the surest ways to deter the investment we need to reach the new broadband plan's goal."