Author of National Broadband Plan not rattled by regulation fight

The so-called 'godfather' of the FCC's National Broadband Plan said Thursday he is "not worried" that his report's biggest recommendations to expand high-speed Internet are currently mired in legal limbo.

Even though a federal court decision against the FCC in April called into question the commission's authority to regulate Internet companies, Blair Levin, the former head of the agency's broadband task force, said much of it would ultimately remain intact.

Proposals to take stock of the country's unused spectrum and auction off unused portions of it to wireless providers is not "really a Title I or Title II thing," Levin explained. He said the same of the agency's goal of increasing broadband Internet adoption nationwide.

But the former FCC official did note that the commission's plans to expand high-speed Internet access to low-income consumers might be hard to implement, now that the FCC cannot exert direct, explicit authority over the companies that provide it.

He soon added, though, "I'm not worried about it," albeit noting to audience members at CCIA's Washington Summit that the court case left Chairman Julius Genachowski with "a lot of bad options."

One of those options, which Genachowski took last week, would apply some of the rules that already govern phone companies to the nation's Internet providers. The announcement has since invoked the ire of big telecommunications firms, which argue the FCC has far exceeded its legal mandate and would only stifle innovation.

That debate could ultimately play out in federal court rooms, if companies choose to challenge the FCC's mandate to change its own rules. But Levin seemed to implore stakeholders not to lose sight of the other, equally important elements of the National Broadband Plan.

"It would be good for us" to reach consensus, he said, "so we can move on to greater things."