FCC's Levin-recent public broadband comments lack detail

WASHINGTON, July 20 Mon Jul 20, 2009 4:54pm EDT

WASHINGTON, July 20 (Reuters) - Recent public comments aimed at helping to shape a plan to extend affordable high-speed Internet access to all Americans have been disappointing, a top U.S. official said on Monday.

"Sloppiness" and the "lack of seriousness and purpose" in the public comments are not helping to advance the U.S. National Broadband Plan, Blair Levin, the top broadband coordinator at the Federal Communications Commission, said at a conference to promote minority involvement in the technology and telecommunications policymaking process.

"There's actually very little in the 8,500-something pages that moves the ball forward," Levin said.

Levin has until February to craft a national plan as mandated by the U.S. Congress to ensure people living in unserved and underserved communities in the United States have access and subscribe to high-speed Internet, a policy being pushed by the Obama administration.

He cautioned that there is a danger the U.S. economy could suffer if the opportunity to extend broadband service to these parts of the country is missed.

According to the filings, Levin said industry players want to make sure that their market share is protected and he added that those companies should not expect any free gifts from the FCC. "We are not going to be Santa Claus," Levin said.

He said the comments agree on general concepts and policies but lack details to help officials in crafting the plan.

In addition to the FCC, the U.S. departments of Commerce and Agriculture are trying to roll out billions of dollars of stimulus funds in the forms of loans and grants that will be made available for state and local communities and industry participants in a competitive bidding process.

(Reporting by John Poirier; Editing Bernard Orr)

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