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The June 17, 2010 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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The US National Broadband Plan

In March 2010, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued the National Broadband Plan. Most other industrialized nations have adopted such plans and many are ahead of the US in broadband penetration. Over the past decade the FCC has spoken eloquently about the importance of broadband, but squandered its energy picking fights with the incumbent providers and promoting impractical broadband technologies.

The US has a vibrant competitive broadband industry. As the FCC plan points out, broadband (at 4 Mbps or better) is already available to 95% of the US population, with more than 80% in markets with more than one provider. While many other country’s broadband plans were devoted to bringing fixed-line broadband to consumer homes, the FCC’s plan is focused on the future.

Over the next ten years, the FCC plan aims to push actual broadband download speeds for most homes to 100 Mbps, with 50 Mbps as an intermediate goal. The FCC recognizes that the incumbent broadband providers are already rolling out higher-speed facilities, the cable industry with DOCSIS 3.0, the telephone companies with fiber.

The FCC recognizes that mobile broadband has the potential to inspire innovation as great as that from fixed broadband, and that the US will be at a severe competitive disadvantage if it fails to encourage the rapid and widespread deployment of 4G and other mobile broadband services. The plan recommends making 500 MHz of additional spectrum available quickly to support the projected rapid growth of next-generation devices and applications. It also recommends the repurposing of some little-used existing spectrum. To this end, the FCC has created an open spectrum dashboard to make current spectrum allocation far more transparent.

The FCC is concerned about families left out of broadband due to availability or cost. Because "not having access to broadband applications limits an individual’s ability to participate in 21st century American life," the plan aims to provide universal broadband access at a minimum download speed of 4 Mbps by 2020. To extend broadband access to “high-cost areas” not currently served by fixed-line broadband facilities, the FCC proposes to shift funding from the long-standing Universal Access Fund and inter-carrier compensation mechanisms.

The FCC has come up with a comprehensive and well-thought-through plan. While the FCC could be criticized for trying to cover too many bases, and understating the importance of wireline broadband, it is properly trying to make up for lost time.

For More Information

  • The FCC plan can be read online or downloaded at the FCC's Broadband.Gov website.
  • Our "Two Sides to Every Story" column in the current (June 2010) issue of Broadband Library contains our analysis of the pros and cons of the FCC plan (see pages 28-29).

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