10 Things You Should Know About the National Broadband Plan

In 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began the process of what would come to be known as the National Broadband Plan. Its purpose is to map out the future of America through a strong technological infrastructure, namely broadband communications. The plan essentially is to provide broadband access throughout the United States, thus strengthening the nation’s economy and education system, among other things. In this article, we will address some lesser known aspects of the plan. The following are ten tings you should know about the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

  1. Timeline – The aim of the Plan is to increase the available terrestrial broadband spectrum by an additional 500 Megahertz. This is scheduled to be done incrementally, and ultimately reach that goal by 2020.
  2. Mobile – Of that 500 MHz additional spectrum, 300 MHz will be made available just for mobile use. That portion will be within the 225 MHz to 3.7 GHz range and is expected to be available within 5 years of the Plan’s commencement in 2010.
  3. Cost – Estimates of the price tag on Plan implementation are as much as $350 billion. There is ongoing debate as to how much of this amount will be paid for with tax dollars.
  4. Dig Once Legislation – In an effort to coordinate, and reduce the installation cost, of fiber networks with ongoing construction or roadwork, the FCC has proposed a Dig Once bill. This legislation would require states or municipalities that receive federal Department of Transportation (DOT) funds to notify local fiber operators at least 90 days prior to scheduling any projects involving digging.
  5. Health IT – One of the benefits of the Plan the FCC proposes is for individual health records to be accessible to patients, in digital, machine-readable format online, “and at a reasonable cost”.
  6. Public Safety – Another significant proposal within the Plan is the creation of a nationwide interoperable wireless public safety communications network. To date, this stage of the plan has been virtually stalled at the starting gate.
  7. Spectrum Auctions – As a means of distributing spectrum, the FCC proposed the idea of voluntary auctions, wherein TV broadcasters could raise revenue by selling off unused bandwidth. This has to a significant degree resulted in a twofold problem: 1) Broadcasters are not all willing to sell off valuable bandwidth, and 2) auctions are no guarantee that the bandwidth will go where it is most needed.
  8. Digital Literacy Corps – With 100 million Americans without access to high-speed internet at home and another 18 million living in areas where there is scant, if any, broadband available, the FCC proposed that a publicly funded corps of volunteers be developed who can provide training in digital literacy. An example of this concept was provided by the ongoing success of NetLiteracy.org.
  9. Education – Citing the the music industry and video and book publishing as examples, the FCC recommends the establishment of standards that would make it easier to locate, share and license digital educational content. This proposal was to have taken effect by March 2011.
  10. Mapping Progress – A National Broadband Map is available online, which you can use to locate where broadband is available in your area, and from which carriers.

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