Congressmen Rush and Towns Urge FCC to Vote on Free Broadband Auction

Today, the FCC was scheduled to vote during an open meeting on a plan that would provide free broadband Internet to a minimum of 95% of the nation using the AWS-3 spectrum band. The plan is designed to kick start broadband competition, lower prices, and provide all Americans equal access to the myriad of benefits that come from being connected to high-speed Internet. This is a lifeline service to many rural and underprivileged communities. There is a groundswell of support behind it with over 400 state, local and federal government officials including leading members of Congress.

Less than a week ago, the FCC open meeting was cancelled in response to congressional pressure from the chairmen of the Senate and House Commerce panels who urged the FCC to focus on the upcoming digital TV transition and only vote on issues that the Commission is required to act on by statute.

As a result of the canceled open meeting, the AWS-3 spectrum vote remains “on circulation” and the FCC Commissioners can vote on it at any time.

Just yesterday, Congressmen Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY) delivered a letter to FCC Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein requesting that they immediately vote on the AWS-3 spectrum item. Since FCC Chairman Kevin Martin already supports the AWS-3 item, if the Democratic Commissioners vote on the matter, the item will be adopted “on circulation.”

The letter from Representatives Rush and Towns, both senior members of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, points out that the AWS-3 decision was required to be acted on earlier this year by law and is also currently long overdue as a matter of policy. The congressmen state, “Delay on this matter is not only a violation of [The Communications Act] law, but it thwarts the public policy of promoting high-speed data services in underserved communities across this nation.” To date, five Democratic members of the Subcommittee have called on the Commission to take timely action to conclude the AWS-3 rulemaking (Markey, Eshoo, Solis, Towns and Rush) as well as several bipartisan members of the Senate (Inoyue, Dorgan, Brownback and Hatch).

The AWS-3 spectrum band has been fallow for close to 17 years. Now that a plan has been devised to use this spectrum for broadband adaption, it has been mired in delay. The big telecom companies like T-Mobile and AT&T have used procedural delay tactics and political fear mongering to prevent the item from coming to a vote in order to prevent broadband competition. The public interest isn’t being served by these delays. It is time for the Commissioners to voice their opinions and proceed with a vote that furthers the public's interest on this issue.

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