National Broadband Plan Preview

National Broadband Plan Preview

Well, the day has arrived. The plan is going to be presented tomorrow to the congress. FCC has released highlights and preview of its recommendations today.

The Plan’s call for action over the next decade includes the following goals and

  • Connect 100 million households to affordable 100-megabits-per-second service, building the world’s largest market of high-speed broadband users and ensuring that new jobs and businesses are created in America.
  • Affordable access in every American community to ultra-high-speed broadband of at least 1 gigabit per second at anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and military installations so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow’s ideas and industries.
  • Ensure that the United States is leading the world in mobile innovation by making 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for licensed and unlicensed use.
  • Move our adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and make sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school.
  • Bring affordable broadband to rural communities, schools, libraries, and vulnerable populations by transitioning existing Universal Service Fund support from yesterday’s analog technologies to tomorrow’s digital infrastructure.
  • Promote competition across the broadband ecosystem by ensuring greater transparency, removing barriers to entry, and conducting market-based analysis with quality data on price, speed, and availability.
  • Enhance the safety of the American people by providing every first responder with access
    to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.

I think the commission gets very high marks for engagement. Perhaps the most open and interactive proceedings and exercise in its history. I personally attended over web and in person various proceedings and I think Commission went over above and beyond to be inclusive and transparent. Chairman made himself available at various industry forums for direct Q&A.

Information for the plan was gathered in 36 public workshops, 9 field hearing, and 31public notices that produced 75,000 pages of public comments. The debate went online with 131 blogposts that triggered 1,489 comments; 181 ideas on IdeaScale garnering 6,100 votes; 69,500 views on YouTube; and 335,000 Twitter followers. The task force augmented this voluminous record with independent research and data-gathering.

I also like the fact they have set a 2020 vision and 100 Squared initiative so everybody knows what we are shooting for. As always, the devil is in the details esp. regarding the route to go there. Much has been made of the “spectrum crisis” and the additional 500 MHz spectrum that can be made available. Regular readers know that I am not a big fan of throwing more spectrum at the congestion problem. Of course, more spectrum is better and since it takes time to get it, it is better to start now. However, by doing that we are training the industry to keep coming back for more spectrum whenever there is congestion again, clearly a short-term approach. I would have liked a more holistic approach (and this still might be case .. don’t know since haven’t seen the details) of additional technologies and solutions (in which additional spectrum is just one more tool and not the primary tool).

Last week, I had the opportunity to host and talk to the former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in detail about the proposed plans and he also agreed that by having a deeper roll out of fiber so that the mobile data traffic can be offloaded asap is a plan worth considering more seriously at the national level. That would mean a different kind of network architecture and requirements. Summary of the event here.

One of the challenges we are going to face is the opposition in securing additional spectrum from the broadcasters and public safety as well as on the price tag. Once the politics enters the mix, it will get even more complicated. My hope is that the leaders will have the wisdom to think long term so that we can get on with the plan and not get held up in red tape and bureaucracy and make real progress in the short-term otherwise we will still be debating the same issues in 2020.