April 8, 2010 / 12:01 AM / in 8 years

FCC official says Comcast ruling may impact broadband plan

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A top Federal Communications Commission official acknowledged on Wednesday that the Obama administration’s ambitious plan to expand broadband access could be impacted by a court ruling that limited the agency’s authority to regulate operations of network providers.

Austin Schlick, the General Counsel of the FCC, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that FCC recommendations aimed at accelerating broadband access in rural parts of the U.S. as well as connecting disabled and low-income Americans, were among the various provisions of the recently unveiled broadband plan that could be affected.

“We are assessing the implications of yesterday’s decision for each one, to ensure that the Commission has adequate authority to execute the mission laid out in the plan,” Schlick wrote.

His comment follows Monday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Court of Columbia Circuit. In the decision, a three judge-panel ruled that the FCC failed to show that it had the necessary authority to stop Comcast Corp from blocking the use of applications for distributing television shows and other large, bandwidth-hogging files over the Internet.

The ruling dealt a blow to proponents of Net Neutrality, who argue that providers should treat all traffic on the Internet equally, as well as to the FCC’s authority to oversee the Internet.

Schlick said on Wednesday that the ruling has no effect at all on most of agency’s broadband plan. But he listed more than a half-dozen plan recommendations on aspects like cybersecurity, consumer privacy and low-income access which he said could be affected.

The FCC unveiled its broadband plan in March, in a proposal that calls for upgrading Internet access for all Americans and shifting spectrum from television broadcasters to support the huge demand for smartphones and other wireless devices.

Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic with additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky

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