FCC Readies Plan to Bring Affordable Broadband to 100 Million Homes, Dubs Plan ‘Connecting America’

Broadband Stimulus, FCC, National Broadband Plan, Universal Service, Wireless March 15th, 2010

, Managing Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission will present its congressionally mandated plan to bring high-speed internet access throughout the United States to lawmakers tomorrow, outlining six long-term goals and detailing its views on better ways to encourage broadband competition, free up available spectrum and modernize health care, among other things.

The agency hopes that its 360-page document will help bring affordable broadband to at least 100 million U.S. homes, which would enjoy download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and uploads speeds of at least 50 mbps.

It also strives to make the United States a leader in mobile innovation “with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation,” according to the “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan” document.

Under the plan, every American community would have access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service at institutions like schools and hospitals. Additionally, first responders would be able to access a national, wireless public safety network if the plan’s recommendations were implemented.

It also pushes for each American to be able to use broadband to track and manage their energy consumption.

FCC officials reiterated in a Monday press briefing for reporters that the plan’s goals are a directional compass that will constantly be evaluated.

The officials said they expect that within the next few years most people will access broadband services via mobile devices, and their plan reflects that.

The plan calls for making 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for broadband within 10 years, of which 300 megahertz should be made available for mobile use within five years. In some cases spectrum could be reallocated or the FCC could change technical rules that would free it up, FCC officials said Monday.

The vast majority of the plan does not require government funding, but its ideas “seek to drive improvements in government efficiency, streamline processes and encourage private activity to promote consumer welfare and national priorities,” the plan reads.

The funds that are requested relate to public safety, deployment to unserved areas and broadband adoption efforts.

The plan argues that if the spectrum auction recommendations are implemented, the plan is likely to offset the potential costs.

The plan also calls for shifting up to $15.5 billion over the next decade from the existing Universal Service Fund to support broadband, and says that if Congress wants to accelerate broadband deployment to unserved areas, “it could make available public funds of a few billion dollars per year over two to three years.”

Officials declined to put a price tag on how much an implemented plan might cost.

The agency also seeks to expand the Lifeline and Link-up programs for bringing telephone service to low-income Americans to include broadband, and to launch a Digital Literacy Corps to organize and train youth and adults to teach digital literacy skills.

Officials also said the don’t see the plan as a major call for reform of telecommunications law, but lawmakers could consider a privacy act to encourage consumers that their privacy when using broadband would be protected.

The plan also reaches out to many other agencies and departments. For example, it recommends that Congress and the secretary of Health and Human Services consider developing a strategy that documents the proven value of electronic care, or e-care, technologies.

An executive summary of the plan is available on the FCC’s web site, http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-296858A1.pdf

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