Among its VoIP activity last week, the FCC approved an NPRM on broadband over power lines (BPL). All five members supported it. After the standard support for a promising new technology, the commissioners mentioned interest in how BPL relates to homeland security and critical infrastructure and consumer choices among "multiple, facilities-based providers" of broadband services. Commissioner Martin focused on the role of regulation to prevent interference while Commissioner Copps lamented - and dissented in part - that the hard questions about "CALEA, universal service, disabilities access, E911, pole attachments, competition protections" were not considered by the NPRM.
Special mention should be made of Commissioner Adelstein's statement. Some may argue that radio frequency interference is reason enough for Commission rules. But Commissioner Adelstein goes one step further and gives the NPRM statutory grounding:
"A little noticed provision of the Communications Act, Section 157, reads that "[i]t shall be the policy of the United States to encourage the provision of new technologies and services to the public." I am fully committed to that mission to promote new technologies, and to provide a framework for innovation so they can succeed. In order to do so, we must first resolve the technical interference issues addressed in this NPRM."
Kudos for his fidelity to the law. But after last year's disastrous attempt to produce the TRO in a timely fashion, let's hope that we are not back in this space next year reminding the Commission of another instruction from Section 157: "If the Commission initiates its own proceeding for a new technology or service, such proceeding shall be completed within 12 months after it is initiated." Consumers shouldn't have to wait a year for regulatory clarity in VoIP and BPL.