Sunday, March 14, 2010

FCC Delivers it National Broadband Plan

James E. Carroll

The FCC delivered its National Broadband Plan to Congress, setting in motion the most significant reforms to the nation's telecommunications market in the broadband era. The plan was mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009 and produced by an FCC task force. The full plan will be released to the public on Tuesday.

The National Broadband Plan seeks to influence the broadband ecosystem in four ways: establish new competition policies, promote more efficient management of resources that the government already regulates (spectrum, poles, rights-of-way), reform current universal service mechanisms, and encourage government use of broadband in public education, health care and its own operations.

Major components include a review of wholesale competition rules for fixed and mobile broadband, freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for licensed broadband mobile services, freeing up additional spectrum for unlicensed use, updating rules for wireless backhaul spectrum, and setting new rules to ensure a competitive video set-top box market.

The FCC will seek to establish a "Connect America Fund" (CAF) to support the provision of broadband with at least 4 Mbps actual download speeds and shift up to $15.5 billion over the next decade from the existing Universal Service Fund (USF). While the transition to CAF is underway, the USF contribution base would have to be broadened to ensure that it is sustainable over time. Reforms to intercarrier compensation rules would eliminate per-minute charges over the next 10 years while enabling cost recovery through the CAF.

Furthermore, the plan recommends that the United States adopt six goals for the next decade:

1. At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 Mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 50 Mbps.

2. The U.S. should lead in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.

3. Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.

4. Every American community should have affordable access to at least 1 Gbps service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.

5. To ensure the safety of the American people, every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.

6. To ensure America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

Money raised from future auctions of the 500 MHz in new spectrum would make the plan revenue neutral for the government's budget. Improvements in government efficiency would also drive cost savings.

"The National Broadband Plan is a 21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and
investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy,"
said Chairman Julius Genachowski. "It's an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the
challenges of global competitiveness, and harness the power of broadband to help address so
many vital national issues."

See also