Tuesday, December 15, 2009

FCC Outlines Framework of National Broadband Plan

Encouragement of competition will be a guiding principle of the FCC's forthcoming National Broadband Plan, which is scheduled for delivery to Congress in February 2010. According to an interim report released this week, the FCC plan may recommend changes in the law in some cases, but those changes are likely to be limited in number.

The interim report focused on policy recommendations in ten key areas: Universal Service, infrastructure access, spectrum, Tribal lands, set-top boxes, consumer information, media, adoption of broadband, accessibility for people with disabilities, and public safety. Other areas that are to be addressed by the plan, including education, energy, health care, civic participation and others, will be addressed further in January.

Some of the proposals being considered for the National Broadband Plan include:

USF -- Cutting inefficient spending in the High-Cost fund to free up funds for broadband while removing barriers to use of E-Rate-funded connections in schools for adoption and community use. Consider a comprehensive overhaul of USF in conjunction with other proceedings, such as intercarrier compensation and special access.

Infrastructure -- Setting uniform and fair rental rate for pole attachments. Adopting rules that reduce costs and increase speed of access to poles, ducts, conduits and rights-of way

Spectrum -- A large, new spectrum allocation is essential to improving broadband competition. Resolve pending proceedings such as Advanced Wireless Services-3 (AWS-3) and Wireless Communications Services (WCS). Apply market forces to all bands while taking into consideration other policy objectives in allocation decisions.

Set-Top Boxes -- Address current shortfalls in implementation of CableCard to help create an open device market. Require video services providers to supply a small, low-cost, network-interface device whose only function is to bridge proprietary network elements with retail navigation devices.