FCC chairman talks about National Broadband Plan but says little

Specifics on National Broadband Plan still mysterious

LAS VEGAS — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski addressed an audience at the Consumer Electronics show today about the scarcity of wireless spectrum and the National Broadband Plan, due out next month. However, taking the slogan "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" a bit too literally, Genachowski revealed little new information about the plan.

Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro led the question-and-answer session.

Shapiro asked Genachowski about the process for the National Broadband Plan and whether he could "show a little leg."

“We hope it will be the living, breathing plan for the country for years," Genachowski said, adding that the broadband team has held more than 50 public hearings and workshops.

Broadband expansion could serve as an engine for economic growth and help achieve goals for health care, education, energy and public safety, Genachowski said.

However, broadband deployment remains uneven. "There are still places in the U.S. where people can't get broadband even if they wanted it," he said.

Shapiro noted that almost everyone at CES had experienced problems with their wireless devices. More than 110,000 tech-oriented people had descended on one area, and the wireless system was overloaded.

"The record is pretty clear," Genachowski said. "We need to find more spectrum." However, we also need to make more efficient use of the spectrum we have, he added.

Genachowski said we need to ask if we are devoting enough money to spectrum research. "There isn't enough spectrum for us as a country to do what we need to do."

He said the FCC needs to become a 21st-century agency. Toward that end, the agency relaunched its Web site as Reboot.fcc.gov this week with the goal of encouraging greater participation by the public.

Shapiro asked for "a one-sentence goal of where we're going." He pressed Genachowski several times for a clear summary of the FCC’s direction. "How do we measure you?" Shapiro asked. "What is it you want to do?"

"We'll announce goals," Genachowski promised in response. However, he said, "I'm not allowed to talk about [those goals] today."

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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