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FCC seeks delay to US broadband plan

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The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is asking lawmakers to give it more time to draw up a national broadband plan.

In a letter (PDF) to Congress on Wednesday, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski requested an extension of the report's February 17 deadline by one month.

The plan is to be funded by Congress under President Obama's economic stimulus bill, which was approved early last year. The Commission's report is expected to lay out a blueprint to improve high-speed internet availability throughout the country.

Under its charge, the FCC has hosted numerous public hearings and requests for public comment on the issue. The Commission is now seeking more time to fully digest everything it's heard.

"The Commission makes this request in the interest of advancing a national broadband plan that reflects the extraordinary importance of the task and that is responsive to the unprecedented record developed during the comment and workshop period," Genachowski wrote in the letter.

He added that additional time would also let the FCC obtain input from broadband stakeholders and more fully brief the House and Senate Committees on the plan as it comes together.

Genachowski asked Congress consider accepting the final proposal on March 17.

From preliminary details, the FCC is expected to recommend an overhaul of the $7bn annual federal telephone service subsidy program for rural areas to include broadband services. The FCC also says it wants to buy back a large slice of TV spectrum and turn it into broadband.

The industry appears largely sympathetic of the FCC chairman's request, echoing sentiments that it wants the Commission to have it done properly.

"A broadband plan for our country may be too many years overdue, but with so much at stake, it's important to get this done right," Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, wrote in a blog post.

"If Chairman Genachowski believes that the commission needs an additional 30 days to work on the plan, then that is certainly a reasonable request and one we fully support," Robert Quinn, AT&T's federal regulatory vice president, in a statement. "The most important thing is getting this right, not meeting a deadline." ®

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