Federal Communications Commission

Mid-Term Review

September 28th, 2009 by Blair Levin - Executive Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative

Blair LevinIt's mid-term review time for the broadband team:  on Tuesday, with 141 days left to go before the deadline to deliver a National Broadband Plan to Congress, we're providing the Commission with a major status report on the plan.

We still have a lot of work to do.  But with all of the data we've gathered in our workshops and hearings, in the record, and in our own research, we think we have a pretty good handle on the status of broadband in the U.S.  We'll be laying out some specifics of what we have found out about broadband speeds, spectrum and fiber resources, the increasing cost of digital exclusion, and the benefits to the economy and to individual citizens that broadband can provide.  We'll look at the adequacy of the tools available to promote robust, universal broadband -- tools such as universal service.  We'll be fielding questions about all of this and seeking guidance from the commissioners about whether we're on the right track in our examination as we proceed toward developing recommendations for the plan.  We also want the public to weigh on the facts and analysis we will present so we can make adjustments now, while we are still at a relatively early point in the process, rather than later, after decisions have been made.

We're eager to build upon the work we've done thus far and establish policy recommendations that can result in a high-performance America, fueled by broadband.  Join us in the Commission room Tuesday or online to help us take stock of where we are in our plan to reach that vision.

4 Responses to “Mid-Term Review”

  1. Regina Hopper says:

    We recently produced a new Broadband Now Video on the FCC's work on the National Broadband Plan. You can access it at or read the script below!

    From the halls of Congress…to the White House…to the corridors of the FCC…our nation is looking to the future-and broadband's central role in it. The clock is ticking on Congress' mandate to the Federal Communications Commission to develop a national broadband strategy. How are those efforts going? What conversations are underway? And, how can you participate? …Let's take a closer look in this edition of Broadband Now. The FCC is counting down the days to its deadline to deliver a national broadband plan. Congress asked for the plan as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which authorizes the FCC to develop a strategy "to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability." August is usually a quiet time in Washington. But staff members of the FCC were hard at work conducting a series of workshops to inform the broadband plan. The conversations with various stakeholders are continuing into the fall and can be viewed on the FCC's new website, where you can share your thoughts on a national broadband plan. The workshops range in topic from infrastructure deployment to consumer adoption to how broadband can enhance key national priorities-kick-starting our economy, transforming our health care system and bringing education into the information age. Broadband and the environment, wireless high-speed Internet, cybersecurity and global competition also have been among the many issues explored. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has expressed his commitment to data-driven decision-making. What do the facts tell us today about the state of U.S. broadband? 96% of Americans have access to the high-speed Internet-and more than 4 out of 5 consumers have multiple choices in terms of the companies and technologies we use. In fact, the U.S. is virtually the only country in the world with competing national infrastructure from both cable and telecom companies. And, this is before you even get to the fastest-growing segment of broadband today-wireless broadband. What makes it all possible? Innovation and investment. Here, too, our nation has good news. According to the Tech Policy Institute, the U.S. leads the world in broadband infrastructure investment. The nation's 1,400 high-speed Internet providers invest between $50 and $60 billion annually in these modern networks. Where can we improve? First, we need to connect everyone-and that means deploying to remotes corners of rural America where the private sector alone cannot reach. Only about [5%] of Americans say they don't have broadband because service is unavailable. But the $7.2 billion in federal stimulus funds mark an important down payment on the nation's commitment to reaching all Americans. Of course, this is a relatively modest complement to the $60 billion in annual private sector investment U.S. broadband receives. So innovative solutions to reach the final 5% should build on our overall progress through constructive policies for private companies and government to work together to bring broadband to all corners of our nation. The bigger challenge? Ensuring all consumers take advantage of broadband in their daily lives. As it stands today, 2 out of every 3 U.S. households has broadband. Among those who have yet to make the digital leap, most say they simply have no interest in the Internet, don't own a computer or aren't comfortable with technology. Community-based digital literacy efforts are also among those seeking broadband stimulus funds and will be a critical component of any successful future national broadband plan. Want to hear more about what the various stakeholders are telling the FCC? Visit our sister first-hand testimonials and in-depth coverage of the FCC workshops and other critical milestones to developing our nation's broadband plan. A future where all Americans not only connect to the high-speed Internet, but take full advantage of all that it can bring into our lives? Our nation isn't just betting on it-we're planning for it. That's all for this edition of Broadband Now. Until next time, stay connected and stay informed about the nation's broadband plan-and you.

  2. Brett Glass says:

    I watched the meeting via streaming video -- or, should I say, I watched as much as I could after the broken links to the video were fixed. Two comments.

    Firstly, even though there was a general consensus during the workshops that this issue is extremely important, the presenter skirted the issue of overcharges for "special access" lines. Were the presenters worried that they woud rock the (political) boat if they addressed this key obstacle to broadband deployment? The broadband plan should -- no, must -- include a clear statement that this issue needs to be addressed and recommend ways of doing so.

    Secondly, when spectrum policy was discussed, it was discussed only in terms of the provision of more spectrum to existing cellular carriers -- not to new entrants or other providers (such as WISPs) who are more capable of reaching sparsely populated areas with high speed Internet. And the assumption, throughout, was that the spectrum would be exclusively licensed and auctioned -- even though this could well mean that the spectrum would be warehoused by incumbents and would never be available to newcomers or smaller competitors such as WISPs.

    This was extremely disappointing. As a WISP, I work hard 24x7 to provide broadband via overcrowded bands that are often referred to as "junk bands." If I and my colleagues are to be enabled rather than hindered by FCC policy, a mechanism must be established via which a small company (not just a huge cell phone company) can obtain spectrum to provide broadband to its community.

    --Brett Glass, LARIAT


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