Monday, March 22, 2010

FCC Broadband Plan - Will Mobile Save Us?

Last week I was off on vacation relaxing and pretty much shut down. While I was away, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) released the National Broadband Plan, a 376-page document summarized in the six goals listed below:

Goal 1: At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.
Goal 2: The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.
Goal 3: Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
Goal 4: Every community should have affordable access to at least 1 Gbps broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.
Goal 5: To ensure the safety of Americans, every first responder should have access to a nationwide public safety wireless network.
Goal 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

Good stuff - but - can it happen? Here's an interesting quote from an interview Ars Technica did with FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin. The interview was done a few weeks before the national plan was released. Levin's commenting on regulator/industry relationships and the reaction to policy, comparing the U.S. to more broadband-successful countries (like South Korea):

You.... have a different relationship between.... regulators and the industry. In those countries, when a regulator says to do something, what happens is that within a very reasonable, short timeframe, those things are done. What happens in the United States is that, when a regulator says something—I'm not complaining about it; I'm just pointing out reality—it's challenged in the courts and you have a time lag. So that, I think, is an important consideration.

Like Blair Levin, I see the potential for significant land-line connectivity progress in our country getting buried in legal black holes. There may be some hope though - Goal 2 and mobile connectivity may end up saving us in a couple of ways:

First - we're looking at the roll-out of fourth generation technologies (LTE and WiMax) by the major wireless providers over the next couple of years. Wireless broadband will soon become a competitive option to land-line services and available in areas where there is currently not a land-line service available.
Second - and maybe more significant - wireless broadband competition may discourage land-line provider court challenges, removing those time lags Levin refers to.

You can download the full FCC National Broadband Plan here and you can watch progress at

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