Last week the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the FCC and its expanding role in promoting and encouraging broadband Internet services across the United States. Over the last few years, the FCC has been navigating some tricky regulatory waters, and this ruling brings further clarity to their role.
In 2009, Congress charged the FCC with developing what is now known as the National Broadband Plan, with the goal to bring affordable broadband service to all Americans. The problem has been in figuring out how to get it done. Broadband providers are not currently obligated to contribute into the Universal Service Fund (USF), and it has been uncertain whether the FCC had the regulatory authority to make changes to the current regulations, redirect funding to broadband service providers, and encourage broadband services across the country – specifically into rural areas.
Last week, the 10th Circuit looked at two different regulatory sections: 47 U.S.C. § 254 and Section 706 of § 1302. A large group of telecommunications providers filed suit against the FCC claiming the agency had overstepped their authority by using these sections to redirect funding into broadband. The Appellate court ruled in favor of the FCC and determined that the FCC can change how USF funding is currently allocated and redirect funding which will encourage the build-out of broadband access.