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FCC Delays Broadband Plan Delivery

The agency has been granted a one-month extension to prepare its national broadband plan, which is a mandate of President Obama's economic stimulus program.

Signs that the Federal Communications Commission is having trouble grappling with a national broadband plan surfaced Thursday when FCC chairman Julius Genachowski asked Congress for a one-month extension for filing the plan.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, (D-W. VA) who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, indicated the new date for filing the plan with Congress is March 17, giving the FCC another month to prepare the measure. The FCC has compiled a voluminous record through more than 50 public workshops and field hearings. Democratic members of Congress including Rick Boucher, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on communications, also supported the extension.

Republican FCC board member, Robert McDowell, said he was "disappointed" with the delay. "Once we receive a draft plan," McDowell said in a statement, "I hope the document will reflect the benefit of the additional time being taken to prepare it."

The Department of Justice called on the FCC this week to find more spectrum for wireless delivery of broadband. The telecommunications industry is also eager to see the FCCs plans for improving broadband access.

Genachowski said the extension will have no impact on the plan's budget. "The additional time," said the chairman in a letter to lawmakers, "will enable the FCC to continue to obtain input from key stakeholders and more fully brief Commissioners and the House and Senate Committees on aspects of the Plan as it comes together."

Genachowski noted the "extraordinary importance of the task (of preparing the plan) that is responsive to the unprecedented record developed during the comment and workshop period." The plan, mandated as part of President Obama's economic stimulus program, has taken on new urgency as smartphones continue to gobble up spectrum. In October, Genachowski warned of a looming "spectrum crisis"

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