FCC's broadband plan critiqued as overly broad, unfeasible

Some analysts wonder whether Congress will even deal with the issue

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Seybold said the upcoming National Broadband Plan needs to focus on only a few top priorities instead of being so broad. One priority, he said, should be faster Internet connections to rural areas. "Giving 100 Mbit/sec connections to Google customers is irrelevant," he said, referring to Google's plans to test fiber optic connections with ultra-fast speeds. "Why are we talking about 100 Mbit/sec service to 100 million people when some people would kill for 700 Kbit/sec?"

Seybold wants five tiers of service for Internet speeds available to all Americans, with those currently without Internet connections to get at least the lowest tier of service, ranging from 500 Kbit/sec to 1 Mbit/sec. The top tier would be for 50 Mbit/sec and greater connections.

Because no carrier is going to bear the cost of rural connections everywhere, Seybold suggested that the FCC urge Congress to take proceeds from any auction of unused TV spectrum and apply it toward rural broadband construction. Currently, the FCC's spectrum money must go toward retiring the national debt. Seybold noted that $50 billion raised from a TV spectrum auction would only pay off the amount of national debt incurred in two weeks. "Let's forget paying off the national debt with the auctions," he said.

Seybold said any focus on universal broadband access needs to be on rural areas. Some urban areas, while underserved, do not qualify for federal subsidies since there are at least 10 private ISPs nationwide who are attacking the urban digital divide with affordable plans.

Seybold and other analysts said that many of the broadband issues the FCC has addressed might not require congressional action, although one area in need of legislation stands out. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration oversees much of the nation's electromagnetic spectrum -- even more than the FCC does, Seybold noted.

The FCC, an independent commission, would need Congress to tell the NTIA to reallocate some spectrum, he explained.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed @matthamblen or subscribe to . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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