new fcc plan broadband for everyoneIn 10 short years, the Internet has become a crucial part of our lives, yet many Americans don't have access to it, or, if they do, that access is not good enough for today's graphics-rich content. The FCC today announced an aggressive plan to bring "robust service" to every nook and cranny of the country.

The National Broadband Plan was mandated by the ARRA, aka the stimulus package. The goal? "All Americans should have access to broadband service with sufficient capabilities, all should be able to afford broadband and all should have the opportunity to develop digital literacy skills to take advantage of broadband."

The price? The FCC claims it will be revenue neutral, with revenue from auctioning off some frequencies in the TV broadcast spectrum.
The program has six goals:

  • Assure 100 million households have affordable, 100-megabyte-per-second download service
  • Make the U.S. the world leader in mobile innovation and speed of service
  • Ensure that every American has access to affordable, robust broadband service and education about how to use it
  • Provide 1 gigabyte-per-second or better service to all anchor institutions, such as hospitals and seats of government
  • Create a nationwide integrated first responder network
  • Give everyone the ability to track real-time energy consumption
There are admirable goals in this plan. Those who are Internet-illiterate are at a sharp disadvantage, and education on how to use it will help them. The plan calls for allocating a portion of the spectrum freed up by the move to digital TV for wireless broadband development, and these frequencies, which are longer and therefor propagate better, will make it easier and cheaper to create large, wireless networks.

The first responder network is certainly needed; one need only witness the problems experienced when responders from different areas attempt to combine efforts to see how communications can become a barrier to efficiency.

Some other benefits that the commission claims include:

  • Lowered cost of health care
  • Accelerated online learning
  • Reduced carbon pollution
  • Expanded economic opportunity
  • Streamlined government (is that an oxymoron?)
The proposal is certain to receive criticism. Will it truly foster competition among providers? It lacks the open access rule that activists have promoted. And the promise of more regulatory oversight of the industry is not welcomed.

It seems crucial that our country creates an integrated, comprehensive wireless network to compete in tomorrow's business world, and this looks like a good step toward that goal. I cross my fingers, however, and hope that "revenue neutral" doesn't become too much of a burden on the national budget.

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