Since April 2009, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has been working on a plan to provide every U.S. resident high-speed Internet access. Today, it ships the 376-page National Broadband Plan to Congress.
Through a series of blog posts (and comments), tweets on Twitter and other public feedback, the plan sought response from the American public. In fact, in the preface, the plan thanks contributors:
“This is America’s plan, written by and for Americans. It’s now time to act and invest in our nation’s future by bringing the power and promise of broadband to us all.”
But what is the plan? Here are some key points:
- 100 million Americans don’t have broadband at home. Nearly 200 million do.
- To make sure everyone does have affordable access, the government should consider offering broadband for free or at a very low cost.
- At minimum, every American should have Internet service of at least 4 Mbps download speeds and 1 Mbps up.
- By 2015, 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of 50 Mbps and actual upload speeds of 20 Mbps.
- The government can use its power to:
- Design policies to ensure competition.
- Make sure the infrastructure is available, such as spectrum, poles and rights-of-ways. This would encourage network upgrades and competition.
- Reform current universal service mechanisms to support deployment of broadband and voice in high-cost areas.
- Reform laws, policies, standards and incentives to maximize the benefits of broadband in sectors government influences significantly, such as public education, health care and government operations.
- Speaking of spectrum, which is controlled by the government and doled out to wireless companies to use for Internet or other communication, the plan proposes freeing up 500 megahertz more for broadband use within 10 years. Currently, the FCC only has 50 mhz available in its inventory.
- Create a uniform label for consumers to understand the speed of broadband Internet. The FCC expample:
- Create the Connect America Fund to support broadband by shifting $15.5 billion from the existing Universal Service Fund, which currently provides low-cost telephone service throughout the U.S.
- Create a Mobility Fund to help out states that lag in 3G wireless coverage.
- Ultimately, a long-term goal is affordable access to Internet with download speeds of 100 mbps, upload speeds of 50 mbps. Schools, hospitals and other institutions should have access to 1 gigabit per second broadband speeds.
Sound expensive for taxpayers? The FCC believes freeing up new spectrum will be “revenue neutral, if not revenue positive.” Most of plan’s recommendations don’t require new government funding since it proposes streamlining processes and increasing government efficiency.
The report goes in depth about every point mentioned above, and more. It’s a good read for consumers who are interested in what’s next when it comes to Internet service from their own provider — be it Verizon Wireless and its 4G efforts with LTE or Time Warner Cable’s DOCSIS 3.0 rollout. There’s even a section about updating TV service by making over-the-air broadcasts more efficient (page 88).
I just skimmed the report but I’m sure readers out there will discover many more important details. If you do, please share. Thanks.
What are others saying about it?
- The mobile phone industry, represented by the CTIA organization, is “extremely pleased” especially with the proposed 500 mhz spectrum. Read statement.
- Verizon, which offers wireless and fiber-optic TV and Internet, supports it. Read statement.
- Google supports it but doesn’t want to rely on public policies. Read statement
- Sprint likes it, especially the pro-competitive recommendations. Read statement
- Dish Network seems to like the plan but only because it points out satellite broadband may be a more economical choice for those in rural areas. Read statement
- Time Warner Cable, which recently said Internet has overtaken cable TV as its core product, applauds the new plan. Read statement