Stearns backtracks on broadband plan criticism

Rep. Cliff Steans (R-Fl.) is now backtracking from his early criticisms of the Federal Communications Commission's new National Broadband Plan.

Initially, Stearns, the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, expressed concerns the plan might be "littered with hidden agendas" that would ultimately "exacerbate the uncertainty and hinder investment."

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, sent days before the plan was delivered to Congress, Stearns questioned whether the plan would be a "political document" that would pave the way for net neutrality and Title II reclassification provisions to become law with relative ease.

But during an interview with C-SPAN's "The Communicators" this week, slated to air this Saturday, Stearns admitted the National Broadband Plan included no such items.

“I have to be honest with you, there’s nothing in this national broadband plan talking about that, which is good news, so I’m sort of relieved,” he said, adding he was still skeptical of the plan's potential costs.

The congressman later added he agreed with the plan's proposal to reform the Universal Service Fund -- a pot of federal dollars slated for expanding telecommunication services to under-served areas.

The FCC said it hopes to use that money to expand broadband services, too, which current law prohibits. Stearns said he supported that idea, signaling a key area of agreement with subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.)