FCC Unveils National Broadband Plan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released its National Broadband Plan to Congress.

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski called the document an “action plan” for a “21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy.”

An Executive Summary of the Plan (PDF) stated that nearly 200 million Americans possessed a broadband Internet connection as of last year, up from 8 million in 2000. 100 million citizens are still without broadband at home however and perhaps more importantly, “nearly a decade after 9/11, our first responders still lack a nationwide public safety mobile broadband communications network.”

The plant details four ways in which the government can hold sway over the broadband “ecosystem,” which included: designing policies to ensure competition, ensuring efficient allocation and management of assets, ensuring that low-income citizens can afford broadband and reforming laws, policies, standards and incentives to maximize benefits for thepublic education, health care and government sectors.

Specific recommendations included:

•  Developing disclosure requirements fir broadband service providers
•  Changing rules to ensure a competitive and innovative video set-top box market
•  Making 500MHz of spectrum available for broadband within 10 years (The FCC says it only
   has 50MHz in inventory at the moment)
•  Creating the Connect America Fund in order to offer affordable broadband and voice
    services with at least 4 Mbps download speeds.
•  Launching a National Digital Literacy Corps

The report also issued six goals that should serve “as a compass” over the next decade:

1. 100 million homes should have affordable access to download speeds of at least 100
    Mbps and upload speeds of 50 Mbps.
2. The U.S. should lead the world in mobile innovation.
3. Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service.
4. Every American community should have access to at least 1 Gbps broadband service to
    anchor schools, hospitals and government buildings.
5. First responders should have access to a nationwide wireless public safety network.
6. Ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy.

Stealing a page from Google, the report stated that “the plan is in beta, and will always be,” as it will “always be changing.”

It’s estimated that the plan, if enacted, could cost anywhere between $20 and $350 billion dollars. Some also wonder if the plan would actually raise the price of Internet connections, despite the use of the word “affordable” throughout the document.

A PDF of the full plan can be downloaded here (it’s a rather large 12MB file).

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