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FCC Unveils Ambitious National Broadband Plan

FCC Unveils Ambitious National Broadband Plan We knew that, under the Obama administration, the FCC would be undertaking a massive overhaul of our nation's broadband policies and systems. We're in desperate need of it, too. Recent studies have shown that most of Europe and Asia have drastically faster connections than the U.S. Even Latvia averages more than twice the download speed of the typical American "broadband" connection. To make matters worse, a mind-boggling 40-percent of U.S. citizens don't even have access to what passes for broadband in this country.

It goes without saying that competing in a 21st-century global economy, reigning in energy costs, and ensuring equal access and opportunity to all Americans is going to take serious effort and investment. To that end, the FCC has unveiled its ambitious plan to reinvent the American broadband scene. The proposal attacks the issue from all ends: reforming telecommunications laws, increasing transparency in the industry, regulating access, increasing competition, offering steep incentives, and freeing up significant swaths of the wireless spectrum.

The National Broadband Plan (PDF) has six major long term goals, beginning with the optimistic milestone of 100 Mbps download speeds in 100 million homes by 2020. The plan is to make 1 Gbps lines available to every hospital, school, and government office within that time frame. The plan will also work to make broadband connections (defined as having 4 Mbps actual download speeds) available to every American, with the help of the new $15.5 billion Connect America Fund. In addition, the FCC plans to work with cellular providers to develop the fastest and most extensive 3G wireless network on the globe. This will be aided by freeing up of 500 Mhz worth of wireless spectrum -- the auctioning off of which is expected to pay for much of the plan's provisions. Some of that newly liberated spectrum will be set aside to build a nationwide first responder network, the fifth goal on the list. Lastly, the FCC wants to expand the reach of broadband to develop a proper smart grid that will allow consumers to monitor, in real-time, their energy consumption.

All of this comes alongside promises of increased transparency and efficiency by both the government and the industry. Those parties, too, are ironing out new rules that will try to make the broadband market more competitive -- partially by using a publicly available Broadband Data Depository, which would provide consumers with information about services and companies.

The FCC did take great care to state in the summary that "this plan is in beta, and always will be," because it needs to maintain flexibility in the face of an ever-evolving landscape. We just think that caveat was tacked onto the end to make it seem cool, though. It worked for Gmail all those years.

Update: The full text, all 359 pages, of the National Broadband Report from the FCC is now available in searchable, digital format here (.PDF) for all you policy nerds.

[From: FCC (.PDF), via: Hillicon Valley]

Tags: broadband, fcc, government, infrastructure, law, national broadband plan, NationalBroadbandPlan, top