FCC's broadband plan critiqued as overly broad, unfeasible

Some analysts wonder whether Congress will even deal with the issue

The National Broadband Plan that will be submitted to Congress March 17 already appears be impossibly broad and technologically difficult to roll out, based on what's known about the proposal so far, several analysts said Tuesday.

In fact, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan is so far-reaching that Congress is unlikely to do much with it, the analysts said, citing Congress' difficulty in tackling such massive efforts.

"Congress is not going to spend any time with this plan, because it won't get any of the elected officials re-elected, so they'll just get a five-minute overview from their staffs and pass over it," said analyst and consultant Andrew Seybold, who is writing his own national plan to address the expansion of broadband services to urban and rural areas.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said that whatever Congress gets from the FCC needs to be "broken into stages rather than being put into a big omnibus bill, because, frankly, Congress can't get a big omnibus bill right. You are not just talking about technology here; you are talking about politics."

Not all of the FCC's proposals have yet been revealed. But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been talking about various initiatives and he laid out major proposals for mobile broadband a week ago in a speech before the New American Foundation. The FCC has also discussed various facets of its proposal, including everything from Net neutrality reforms to efforts to erase the digital divide, improve energy and health care efficiency and even finally solve a nagging problem with radio interoperability for first responders.

In his mobile broadband vision, Genachowski called for freeing up 500MHz of wireless spectrum over the next decade by utilizing unused spectrum from TV broadcasters who voluntarily trade it for a share of profits when the spectrum is sold.

The National Association of Broadcasters was cool to Genachowski's idea. "We look forward to working with policymakers to help expand the rollout of broadband without threatening the future of free and location television, mindful of the fact that local TV stations just returned more than a quarter of our spectrum following our transition to digital," the NAB statement said.

Gold said "good luck" to the FCC in finding TV broadcasters willing to offer up unused spectrum for broadband. Another analyst, Will Stofega at IDC, saw it differently: "If there's a good buck to be made, I wouldn't doubt some will come forward."

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