FCC broadband chief hopeful plan suggestions will become realities

FCC broadband chief Blair Levin on Wednesday seemed confident many of the crucial recommendations in his agency's National Broadband Plan would eventually become realities.

At an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, Levin, the executive director of the FCC Omnibus Broadband Initiative, stressed the plan would help his agency, the executive branch and federal lawmakers begin "breaking down those barriers" that have long stifled action on the broadband front.

He said early movement was mostly likely at the FCC, which can institute a number of the plan's recommendations using its own regulatory powers.

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"If I was handicapping the document... obviously, where we make recommendations to the FCC, that's where [action] is most likely to occur," Levin said. "We spent a lot of time with the commissioners."

While some of the FCC's more Republican-leaning members have recently signaled concerns with the plan, Levin emphasized there was "a fair amount of consensus" on its key issues, including the report's proposed changes to the way the agency sells and uses wireless spectrum.

He later added a less contentious plan would have produced more consensus, but ultimately "would not have been as satisfying" or forward thinking as the report delivered to federal lawmakers this week.

But the broadband chief predicted support from the executive branch would "be more mixed." Still, he quickly noted that President Barack Obama's statement on Tuesday revealed the White House at least felt strongly about the need for reform, especially about creating an "interoperable public safety" network for first responders, as the FCC proposed.

However, Levin sounded a far less hopeful note about Congress, members of which will take their first stabs at the National Broadband Plan at two committee hearings next week.

A number of lawmakers have signaled support recently for the National Broadband Plan's primary recommendations. Yet, Levin said "Congress' actions are always more difficult to predict. Consequently, he later added, "we designed the plan so the core recommendations could be done without Congress..."

Still, Levin concluded with a generally hopeful note on the National Broadband Plan's ability to spur action nationwide, in the pursuit of the FCC's ambitious goal of extending broadband to 90 percent of American households by 2020.

"The call to act is working, there will be a lot of stuff coming out, and we're happy," he said.