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FCC's national broadband plan released

By Grant Gross
March 16, 2010 11:40 AM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission officially released the nation's first national broadband plan Tuesday, but the document will be just the start of a long process to extend broadband service to millions of U.S. residents.

The broadband plan, about 360 pages long, includes six long-term policy goals and dozens of specific recommendations for the agency, for President Barack Obama's administration and for the U.S. Congress. The FCC also views the plan as a living document, one that will change over time, FCC officials said Monday.

Much of the plan can be accomplished through the FCC's rulemaking process, but the agency will issue dozens of notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) in coming months, FCC officials said Monday during a background briefing with the media.

The FCC plans about 40 proceedings in the coming months, Pheobe Yang, general counsel of the FCC's Omnibus Broadband Initiative, said Tuesday. The agency will release an action plan in coming weeks, she said.

About half of about 200 recommendations in the plan can be accomplished through FCC action, Yang said.

The FCC should engage in a healthy debate about items in the plan, but it needs to take action, added Blair Levin, executive director of the Omnibus Broadband Initiative. "Analysis is not an excuse for paralysis," he said during Tuesday's FCC meeting.

The plan and the commission will need to be flexible, Levin added. "The plan is in beta and always will be," he said. "Like the Internet itself, the plan should change in light of new developments."

Among the long-term goals: affordable 100M bps (bits per second) service to 100 million [m] U.S. homes by 2020, and 1G bps service to anchor institutions such as hospitals and schools in every U.S. community in the same timeframe.

Even for fairly noncontroversial proposals, FCC rulemaking procedures can take several months. Some rulemaking efforts can take years -- the agency has had an open NPRM on telecom access fees since October 2007.

Asked what issues the FCC's first NPRMs will address, an agency spokeswoman said Monday that officials there aren't commenting on that yet.

One of the major proposals in the plan is to revamp the high-cost program in the FCC's Universal Service Fund, which now largely subsidizes traditional telephone service in rural areas. The national broadband plan would phase out the telephone subsidies in the $4.6 billion-a-year program over 10 years and put the money into a new broadband deployment program. The FCC's plan would take $15.5 billion [b] from the USF high-cost program and put it into broadband deployment over the next decade, and FCC officials said Monday they believe they can revamp USF without approval from Congress.

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