FCC releases National Broadband Plan to Congress

18 03 2010

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission released its proposal for improving Web access on Tuesday. The National Broadband Plan aims to provide affordable, high-speed Internet to 90 percent of Americans by 2020.

Read the National Broadband Plan

The FCC issued a formal press release, saying the FCC delivered the plan to Congress, “setting an ambitious agenda for connecting all corners of the nation while transforming the economy and society with the communications network of the future – robust, affordable Internet.” It also reports:

“In every era, America must confront the challenge of connecting the nation anew,” said Blair Levin, executive director of the Omnibus Broadband Initiative at the FCC.  “Above all else, the plan is a call to action to meet that challenge for our era.  If we meet it, we will have networks, devices, and applications that create new solutions to seemingly intractable problems.”

The plan, officially titled “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan,” targets stands to benefit nearly 100 million Americans who currently lack broadband in their homes, in addition to 14 million Americans who do not even have the option of broadband access.

Over the next decade, the plan’s goals include connecting 100 million households to affordable 100 megabits per second service, extending access to “anchor institutions” such as schools and hospitals and promoting the service to rural communities and “vulnerable populations.” The average speed under current conditions hovers around 3.9 megabits per second.

Image courtesy of Broadband.gov

Beyond providing high-speed Internet access, the FCC says the plan will further the education of Americans who are not yet digitally literate, promote broadband service competition by ensuring greater transparency and “enhance the safety of the American people by providing every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.”

The FCC plans to finance the costs that arise as a result of the proposed broadband service. About 300 megahertz of the new spectrum will be made available to wireless Internet providers over the next five years. The FCC plans to cover other expenses by transferring funds currently used for other telecommunications into programs promoting the broadband expansion, including $15.5 billion to develop a high-speed Internet network into rural areas.

President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act first required the formation of the broadband plan in February 2009, with an allocated $7.2 billion to related initiatives. The FCC then initiated a task force that implemented new precedents for government transparency and rigor.

CNN reports:

“FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has framed the broadband plan as a boost for the economy. ‘The National Broadband Plan is a 21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy,’ he said in a news release. ‘It’s an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the challenges of global competitiveness and harness the power of broadband to help address so many vital national issues.’”

In order for the Broadband Plan to go into effect, Congress must first approve it. Still, the opposition is pointing out potential flaws in the proposal. After the FCC proposed that 500 megahertz of spectrum be open for mobile use, the broadcast industry protested when it found out the chunk would come directly from broadcast TV spectrum.

Despite potential obstacles to the plan’s success, the FCC has experienced widespread support for its cause. Proponents advocate the implications the plan has for the progress of Americans’ communication, education and the general economy. Information Week reports:

“History teaches us that nations that lead technological revolutions reap enormous rewards,” said Genachowski. “We can lead the revolution in wired and wireless broadband. But the moment to act is now.”

– By Ashley Dischinger, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

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