The FCC has finally provided cost estimates for the ambitious project of bringing broadband to all Americans. It ranges from $20 billion to $350 billion (thanks for the accuracy). According to an article on Nextgov.com, there are many questions to be answered before the FCC presents its national broadband plan to Congress in February. “All of the different policy options will have to be explored between now and February,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski after a public status report meeting on the effort.
The low end of the cost range would apparently provide infrastructure sufficient for basic web surfing and emailing, while the upper end would allow for bandwidth-intensive services such as downloading high-definition video and videoconferencing . The article also points at a fact we’ve been touting–only 4% of Americans do not currently have access to bandwidth. This compares to just over one-third of Americans who choose NOT to subscribe to broadband services.
Perhaps the most significant implication is the fact that the $7.2 billion allocation from the economic stimulus law will clearly not be sufficient to fulfill even low-end requirements. Assuming the actual figures are somewhere between $20 billion and $350 billion (let’s pick $185 billion just for fun), the current allocation is only a drop in the bucket compared to what will actually be needed.
In the meeting, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also raised concerns as to whether or not enough spectrum was available to achieve the goals, a newly stated concern potentially impacting costs.
Government contractors in the technology space should continue following this unfolding saga as, in our opinion, it will create business opportunities. The next few months will be interesting as the FCC chooses initiatives to fund with existing ARRA grants and reveals how the full broadband plan will actually look–hopefully with a bit more accuracy. More to come…