FCC Insider Levin Calls for Citizen Participation

NEW YORK — Introduced as a man without a title, Blair Levin, coordinator of the FCC’s national broadband plan, asked attendees at the Personal Democracy Forum 2009 to participate in the process that will define the plan.

But first, he reminded the audience of his ties to the FCC. “I want to be one of the first to say this: I bring greetings from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski,” Levin said. “While many have been waiting for months for his confirmation, I’ve been waiting 15 years. I first met him in the spring of 1994.”

“I won’t say what the national broadband plan should be because I have no idea what it should be, but I can talk about process,” he added. “The process will be guided by three principles: be open, be data driven, and deliver a plan, not a report.”

“The process will be transparent, inclusive, and participatory,” he added. “Citizens will be No. 1.”

Ready to tackle the lobbyists

Levin showed a chart that a telecom lobbyist had brought to the FCC, although he did not say which company the lobbyist represented. The chart showed investment per year and had a helpful line saying that investment had risen 40 percent during the deregulation era of the Bush administration’s FCC.

But Levin, who was chief of staff for Reed Hundt during the critical years from 1993 to 1997 during which the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed and CLECs were first created, pointed out that between 1996 and 2000, investment had grown by 108 percent. He said that only a lobbyist would try to persuade you that 40 percent is better than 108 percent.

He added that he was not making a statement about regulation versus deregulation. “Correlation does imply causation,” he said.

A need for speed

“We will move fast,” Levin said. “I will say this: what we come up with in September will not be fully thought through. [Author Jeff] Jarvis would give us the
opportunity to make mistakes and get corrections.”

Levin promised that the plan will have specific recommendations.

“We need your help,” he said. He asked attendees to study the law and to read about the FCC’s meeting on July 2, when Commissioners began taking steps to map out its broadband plan.

He also asked attendees to participate in Broadband.gov, the FCC’s site for promoting and gathering feedback on its broadband rollout initiatives. The site is currently in beta.

“It will not be final for some time,” Levin said.

Levin also said that it’s important for attendees to follow and participate in the FCC staff workshops that will be held in August and to follow the FCC’s fall meeting.

Finally, he asked everyone to send the FCC their best ideas.

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