FCC’s National Broadband Plan Released


On Tuesday, March 16, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the much-anticipated National Broadband Plan.  The plan is designed to be a roadmap for the next decade with regards to implementing broadband Internet access to unserved and under-served populations within the U.S.

While the plan itself is lengthy, there are six stated goals the FCC wishes to achieve with the implementation of this plan:

1. At least 100 million U.S. homes with affordable access to 100 megabits per second download and 50 megabits per second upload.
2. The U.S. should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the world’s fastest and most extensive wireless networks.
3. Every American should have affordable access to “robust” broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
4. Every American community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions (schools, hospitals and government buildings).
5. Every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.
6. Every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

While the goals of the plan are lofty, many questions remain as to whether or not the FCC can pull off the various tenets of the plan.  For example, a key proposal for funding the massive program is to reclaim a chunk of spectrum from broadcasters and re-auction these to companies offering broadband service.   Some $20 billion of spectrum auction money would have to wind its way through the labyrinth of Congress without being diverted, according to an article from the Associated Press.  

 The FCC plan also lays out a concept for overhauling the Universal Service Fund to pay for broadband instead of basic telephone service–its historical focus. The $8-billion-a-year program was originally established to subsidize telephone service in sparsely populated places.  Apparently laws must be changed to allow for the transition from telephone service to broadband.

Not surprising, early reactions from the big phone and cable companies were positive as this could mean billions of dollars to their business over the course of a decade.  Other business opportunities will certainly be spawned in the areas of installation, construction, development, even education and marketing.  It will be fascinating to watch how all this plays out as our nation addresses the building of its “highways of the future.”

All the best,

Lorin

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