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FCC's national broadband plan: What's in it?

By Grant Gross
March 12, 2010 05:02 PM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission plans to release a national broadband plan next week that will lay out an ambitious set of goals for broadband deployment and adoption.

The official version of the plan will be released at a commission meeting Tuesday, but FCC followers have seen the agency unveil several major thrusts of the plan in a series of speeches and briefings in recent weeks. In a mid-February speech, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski kicked off the announcements by saying it was the agency's goal to bring 100M bps (bits per second) broadband service to 100 million U.S. homes by about 2020.

Many members of the U.S. tech community have called for a national broadband policy for years, and Congress, in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in early 2009, required the FCC to develop the plan.

Several tech groups have expressed general support for the announcements so far, but others have questioned how the FCC will accomplish what appears to be a wide-ranging and expensive plan. FCC officials have talked about a cost of $12 billion to $25 billion to implement parts of the plan, with wireless spectrum auction proceeds offsetting the costs, but some critics have suggested the FCC's cost estimates are far too low.

In a time of huge U.S. government budget deficits, there will also be pressure in Congress to use any auction proceeds in other ways.

The broadband plan could meet resistance from incumbent providers as soon as it sees the light of day, said Craig Settles, a community broadband consultant and president of

"I believe the plan is too ambitious for many inside Washington to fully embrace in terms of executing legislation and making funds available," he said. "The average lawmaker, particularly with elections coming up this year, could not care less about broadband. These are the ones most susceptible to lobbyists' attempts to neuter the plan. The telecom and cable industry will mine the lofty rhetoric while trying to kill anything they feel threatens profits."

The major question is whether the FCC can accomplish the "exciting and ambitious" goals in the plan, said Daniel Hays, director of the telecom practice at PRTM, a management consulting firm. "Until we've seen the details, what we've seen so far is sort of like the goal of climbing Mount Everest," he said. "It's a really great goal, but unclear if there's the detail in the plan and the thinking that's going to get us there. Getting it done in 10 years is going to be a Herculean task."

But it was appropriate for the FCC to set ambitious goals, countered Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the trade group the Information Technology Industry Council. In recent years, the U.S. has fallen behind many other industrialized nations in broadband adoption and speed, and the U.S. economy will suffer if it continues to lag, he said.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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