FCC chairman: Regulations are 'slowing down broadband deployment'

Government regulations are obstructing the spread of broadband lines across the country, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski told The Hill on Wednesday.

One obstacle to broadband buildout is local and state regulations, which he said are "slowing down deployment."

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Genachowski cited some rules dealing with pole attachments and tower siting, which require phone companies to seek a regulatory OK before they can deploy equipment.

The FCC's heightened effort to slash red tape syncs with President Obama's calls to get rid of unneeded regulations, according to Genachowski. 

It is "consistent with the principles of looking carefully at regulatory barriers [and the] benefits and burdens of regulation in this area," he said. 

The FCC held a daylong conference Wednesday focused on reducing regulatory barriers to broadband deployment. In launching the conference, Genachowski said he wants answers on "what are the main obstacles to broadband deployment" and "what can the FCC do to accelerate broadband buildout."

He also sent an e-mail to staff on Friday with a copy of Obama's executive order on reviewing regulations.

But the effort to remove burdensome regs is nothing new at the FCC, according to the chairman. "This is an issue we have been working on for some time," he said, citing commission efforts around tower siting.

Still, the FCC under Genachowski has faced strong criticisms for creating new regulations. 

Net-neutrality rules, which passed in December, met strong criticism from broadband companies worried the rules would remove incentives for investing in their networks.  

The policy was viewed as being emblematic of regulatory overreach. Tea Party candidates during the campaign season said the same of healthcare reform and cap-and-trade proposals.

Nevertheless, Genachowski said on Wednesday that agency efforts designed to spur broadband deployment have been welcome on Capitol Hill. 

"In general, we've been getting positive feedback [about] focusing on strategies to make sure broadband is encouraging economic growth," he said. "It seems to me that this is one of many examples [of policy] that shouldn't be partisan in any way. It's about competing with the rest of the world in the 21st century."