FCC Sends National Broadband Plan to Congress

March 16, 2010

Washington - Mar 16, 2010 - The Federal Communications Commission has delivered its National Broadband Plan to Congress. The plan sets an agenda for connecting all corners of the nation to provide what the FCC calls the communications network of the future: A robust, affordable Internet.

"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," said Chairman Julius Genachowski. "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 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."

Titled "Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan", the Plan found that while broadband access and use have increased over the past decade, the nation must do much more to connect all individuals and the economy to broadband's transformative benefits. Nearly 100 million Americans lack broadband at home today, and 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband even if they want it. Only 42 percent of people with disabilities use broadband at home, while as few as 5 percent of people living on tribal lands have access. Meanwhile, the cost of digital exclusion for the student unable to access the Internet to complete a homework assignment, or for the unemployed worker who can't search for a job online, continues to grow.

The FCC says other gaps threaten America's global competitiveness, saying a shortage of wireless spectrum could impede U.S. innovation and leadership in popular wireless mobile broadband services. The FCC calls for more useful applications, devices and content to create value for consumers. The Plan also says the nation has failed to harness broadband's power to transform delivery of government services, health care, education, public safety, energy conservation, economic development and other national priorities.

The Plan sets forth several goals and recommendations:

  • Connect 100 million households to affordable 100-megabits-per-second service, building the world's largest market of high-speed broadband users and ensuring that new jobs and businesses are created in America.
  • Affordable access in every American community to ultra-high-speed broadband of at least 1 gigabit per second at anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and military installations so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow's ideas and industries.
  • Ensure that the United States is leading the world in mobile innovation by making 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for licensed and unlicensed use.
  • Move our adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and make sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school.
  • Bring affordable broadband to rural communities, schools, libraries, and vulnerable populations by transitioning existing Universal Service Fund support from yesterday's analog technologies to tomorrow's digital infrastructure.
  • Promote competition across the broadband ecosystem by ensuring greater transparency, removing barriers to entry, and conducting market-based analysis with quality data on price, speed, and availability.
  • Enhance the safety of the American people by providing every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.

    The Plan was mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009 and produced by an FCC task force that set new precedents for government openness, transparency, and rigor. Information for the plan was gathered in 36 public workshops, 9 field hearings, and 31 public notices that produced 75,000 pages of public comments. The debate went online with 131 blogposts that triggered 1,489 comments; 181 ideas on Idea Scale garnering 6,100 votes; 69,500 views on Youtube; and 335,000 Twitter followers. The task force augmented this record with independent research and data-gathering.

    About half of the Plan's recommendations are addressed to the FCC, while the remainder are for Congress, the Executive Branch, state and local government, working closely with the private and nonprofit sectors. The full Plan is posted on the FCC website at http://www.broadband.gov/download-plan.

    To augment the available wireless spectrum, some have looked at the current TV spectrum as a source to be refarmed. The Plan says the FCC should make 500MHz newly available for broadband use within the next 10 years, of which 300MHz between 225MHz and 3.7GHz should be made newly available for mobile use within five years. More important to broadcasters, the Plan says the FCC should initiate a rule making proceeding to reallocate 120MHz from the broadcast television bands.

    There are some valid goals in the Plan, too. It call for bandwidth aggregation management to combine bandwidth across multiple wireless networks to improve quality of service, increase throughput, eliminate dropped connections and improve network resource utilization. It calls for device connectivity and mobility by using the IEEE 802.21 standard for uninterrupted, seamless multimedia session transfers between 2G/3G/4G cellular, Wi-Fi or WiMAX networks, and other wired and wireless interfaces.

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