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Live Blogging The National Broadband Plan Presentation

March 16th, 2010 by George Krebs

Read Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan. Today’s meeting is being live streamed. We’ll be live blogging the meeting below. During the meeting we will be releasing a distilled version of the plan on Twitter. Join the conversation about The Plan, and all the activity accompanying today’s release, by including #BBplan.

10:36am ET
 
It is a proud day in America. Today we lay out our vision for a connected future. Today we announce that America has a National Broadband Plan. Technological achievement and national progress go hand in hand. President Lincoln’s vision for a transcontinental railroad united a vast nation. Edison’s ability to harness electricity transformed innovation. President Eisenhower’s National Highway System unlocked America to all those who inhabit it. With this report the Broadband Team has set in motion the next great engine of America’s global leadership. This is a day where, with high speed Internet as our guide, we mark our way forward into the twenty-first century.
 
From spectrum to public safety, goals to implementation, these recommendations contain a common thread. Each proposal will lead to instrumental change in the public landscape, connecting America.
 
This morning’s meeting will not go through the document cover to cover. We will not recite all the recommendations in exhaustive detail. There’s no need. It’s all there in The Plan. We encourage you to read the plan itself. If there is a particular area that interests you – such as availability or health care – read that chapter. If you’re up for it, peruse the whole thing. There are engaging anecdotes and informative diagrams along the way.
 
We will discuss, broadly, what we have done and how we will pursue implementation. Of all the recommendations we can provide, action is the most important.
 
10:42am ET
 
Chairman Genachowski opens. “Good morning on this big day… Our own version of March Madness. Everyone is eager to get to the plan. So let’s do it.”
 
There is only one item on the agenda, “A presentation of a national broadband plan for our future.”
 
As a preface the chairman cites many of the transparency and openness measures taken by The Team and how these have affected the process of the plan.
 
10:48am ET
 
Broadband Plan Executive Director Blair Levin begins. “In every era, America connects itself anew… If successful we will transform our country, and as America does when it transforms itself, transform the world.”
 
Mr. Levin puts the plan in historical perspective. “This document, in many ways, speaks for itself,” he says, and notes that it can be found online.
 
 
10:51am ET
 
Carlos Krijner discusses the levers of government that will be used to foster the broadband ecosystem. “A real broadband plan has to consider networks, devices and applications,” he says. The government is an important player for this ecosystem.
 
“Now the hard work starts. The work of implementing the recommendations. To create jobs, drive productivity and increase the standard of living."
 
10:55am ET
 
Erik Garr says about broadband, “Much of the value comes down to how we use this technology.” His primary interest is in the National Purposes portion. Healthcare, using broadband in clinics; education, using online content in the classroom; “public safety may benefit the most,” with recommendations for a long overdue, much needed public safety interoperable wireless broadband network to facilitate communication.
 
He notes that it is being tweeted in real time so you can gather the essence of the plan.
 
“In closing, we should all recognize that this plan is America’s plan. We should consider where we are and move forward.”
 
11:00am ET
 
Phoebe Yang talks about “how we get there.” More than half of The Plan’s recommendations are aimed at the FCC. Though we’ve taken steps to implement many of these (expanding school and library E-rate, wireless tower-citing regulations), there is still much more to be done.
 
Consumer tools were launched last week to allow a gathering of data. In first five days the public has run almost 300,000 tests. This enables the Commission to use new data to embed in the National Broadband Map, due out next year.
 
Tomorrow we will launch a “beta release” of the Spectrum Dashboard. The  public can use the dashboard to browse spectrum bands, search licenses and export data.
 
The other half is aimed at the Executive Branch and their agencies. There is a host of work to be done throughout government to put The Plan in motion. The FCC should serve as a resource to these agencies as we integrate the recommendations into their work. “Finally, we have kept our requests to congress limited,” she says. “The Plan should be revenue neutral. Spectrum auctions are expected to generate billions.”
 
11:03 am ET
 
Almost as soon is it began, Blair closes the presentation. “This band of brothers took on a plan with extraordinary challenges. They have exceeded expectations.” He commends each of The Team leaders at the table.
 
“This is my eighth and last appearance at this table… My final thoughts are not to suggest that you adopt them all without change. Precisely the opposite. This plan is in beta and always will be. Like the Internet itself, this plan should change.
 
“The value of this plan should be judged by what comes of it. You have a Plan. Now is your time to act.”
 
 
11:08am ET
 
Each of the Commissioners will now give a statement, speaking to their thoughts on the plan.
 
11:09am ET
 
Commissioner Copps begins. It is a great time for the Commission he says. After many years of a government that “looked the other way,” this plan is a bold step forward. Digital inclusion is of great import to the commissioner. The levels of non-adoption among the low-income community, minorities, those with disabilities, and others, is unacceptable. “We’ve made some progress. There is so much still to do.”
 
“America’s future town square will be paved with broadband bricks. It must be accessible to all.” He bemoans the decline of the journalism industry. We’re on “a starvation diet when it comes to nourishing our democratic dialogue.” If we don’t tread carefully we will have fat filled chatter but not as much of the protein of fact. “I’m pleased The National Broadband Plan has chosen to address [these issues]. It is an area where public policy needs to be proactive.”
 
The commissioner is enthusiastic about The Plan, ticking off his praise of the many areas it addresses.
 
11:40am ET
 
Commissioner McDowell is next. “If you hear nothing else I say this morning,” he says, “hear this: ‘Thank you all.’” He uses a March Madness allegory to convey his opinion about The Plan. “Today marks the beginning of a long process.” Taking a different tact than Commissioner Copps, Commissioner McDowell cites the progress America has made in getting the country connected. In many ways we’re leading the way, he says. “Today the Net operates in a marketplace where innovation and investment is thriving…As the Commission and Congress consider the recommendations offered up we should first ‘do no harm.’” In addition to our attempt to release more spectrum, we should try to use more efficiently the spectrum already available.
 
Ideas that give him some concern: The Plan portrays the current Internet as being outmoded when it's not. The focus should be on assisting the private sector and preventing scaring away private investment. Ending on an upbeat note he says, “Now it is time to get to work on this important endeavor.”
 
11:52am ET
 
Commissioner Clyburn, keynote speaker at last week’s Digital Inclusion Summit and constant champion of the initiative since the beginning, says “now is the time to be bold and seize the moment before us. It is impressive work and is the impressive result of unprecedented openness and transparency.”
 
Initiatives that require immediate attention: we need to focus on non-adoptors; "change the Universal Service Fund, where we can bring broadband to people no matter where they live, how much money they make, and no matter what language they speak.” We need to expand the base of contribution, to acquire fees from broadband services.
 
The Plan provides “concrete steps,” she says. The Public Safety recommendations in particular are crucial. “We can no longer delay and risk the lives of our public safety first responders.” As for spectrum: “The demands for spectrum are, and will continue to be, great.” We should facilitate uses of licensed and unlicensed spectrum. She wants to develop a “long term solution” for media.
 
Clyburn emphasizes competition as the ultimate driver for innovation. We should be very concerned about the competitive aspect of broadband providers. With rigorous competition we will have lower prices, expanded application uses, and empowered consumers.
 
12:06pm ET
 
Commissioner Baker begins with a “heartfelt thanks” for “inspiring public service.” We should continue a “light touch regulatory regime” begun during the Clinton and Bush administrations, she argues. We have worked in a bipartisan fashion, going from dial-up to high speed broadband.
 
Like the other commissioners, she is an active proponent of increased spectrum for mobile use. She cites Europe and Asia’s initiatives to provide expanded spectrum. The U.S. “must act similarly to lay the foundation for the next generation of mobile.” The U.S. should remain a global leader in mobile and broadband.
 
While funding to subsidize broadband service for communities that lack connectivity is important, “Our efforts to modernize the Universal Service Fund should not overgrow the size of this fund, should not overburden the market, or break the bank.” On regulation, Baker clarifies, “Government should not be in the business of predicting technologies or mandating how consumers use those technologies."
 
 
12:22pm ET
 
Chairman Genachowski rounds out the group. Beginning boldly he says, “Today we deliver on one of the most important directives congress and the president has ever given the FCC. This is important for three reasons: because “broadband is essential to our global competitiveness”; it is essential for our communities; and “essential for solving so many of the challenges facing our nation.”
 
“Congress was right, we need a national broadband plan,” he says. “If we don’t act” we put many national interests at risk. “The stakes are high. We must act, and we will act, with an urgency that meets the moment.” This is our moon-shot. The goals: “increasing speed to 100 mbps, adoption from 65% to 90% on our way to 100% in a third of the time it took telephone,” among others.
 
“The Plan is idealistic but not ideological. I appreciate it for the tough decisions The Team made for what to put in The Plan and not.” He lauds the process of The Plan, the collective staff across the agency that have contributed and notes the widespread praise The Plan has received. “The group has been an all-star team,” he says, while expressing his admiration for each set of staff members, especially its leader, Blair Levin. He asks each team member to stand while all applause.
 
12:27pm ET
 
Sharon Gillett, Wireline Competition Bureau Chief, reads the “Joint Statement on Broadband” to be adopted by the Commission. Excerpted below, read it in full here:
 
Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan is delivered in response to this statutory requirement. The Plan provides recommendations on a variety of issues, which the Commission will actively consider through proceedings that provide notice and ample opportunity for comment, allowing the agency to generate robust records. Although each of us may have differing opinions on some of the specific recommendations set forth in the Plan, we all share the following common beliefs:
 
· Every American should have a meaningful opportunity to benefit from the broadband communications era—regardless of geography, race, economic status, disability, residence on tribal land, or degree of digital literacy.
 
· Continuous private sector investment in wired and wireless networks and technologies, and competition among providers, are critical to ensure vitality and innovation in the broadband ecosystem and to encourage new products and services that benefit American consumers and businesses of every size.
 
· Strategic and prudent policies toward public resources like spectrum will benefit all Americans, by meeting current and future needs and by promoting continued innovation, investment, and competition.
 
· The nearly $9 billion Universal Service Fund (USF) and the intercarrier compensation (ICC) system should be comprehensively reformed to increase accountability and efficiency, encourage targeted investment in broadband infrastructure, and emphasize the importance of broadband to the future of these programs.
 
· Our Nation should harness the tools of modern communications technology to protect all Americans, including by enabling the development of a nation-wide, wireless, interoperable broadband network for the Nation’s first responders.
 
· Ubiquitous and affordable broadband can unlock vast new opportunities for Americans, in communities large and small, with respect to consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purpose
 
The Chairman takes a vote and with all commissioners saying “aye” the mission statement is adopted. The meeting is adjourned. This portion of America’s Broadband Plan is in the books. The work of seeing the recommendations through begins.

5 Responses to “Live Blogging The National Broadband Plan Presentation”

  1. arclight says:

    I am puzzled about how this is to be paid for, when the GAO is already reporting that the long-term debt of the nation due to SS and Medicare alone will be another $43 trillion. I know that the FCC isn't the Congress, and it's appropriate to be thankful to reach the goal of delivering a plan; however, we are nowhere near solvent enough to really execute this, unless someone can show me where the cash is coming from.

    Additionally, if the cash is coming from spectrum auctions, why is the Government ceding title of spectrum to private interests? Why isn't the Government leasing the spectrum instead of auctioning it? I've seen the parts about "spectrum fees", but we haven't done that in many years. Where's the statutory and regulatory framework for leasing?

    Finally, if this results in the RBOCs and a handful of other players being able to stifle free expression, either through technology, finance, or both, then this plan will be an unmitigated disaster. I'm not convinced, in this day of regulatory capture, that there are sufficient safeguards to really keep this from being an issue. I'd feel much better about it all if transport and content were kept rigorously separate; however, I suspect that that will never happen again. Too bad, too.

  2. Jim Tobias says:

    I'm very impressed with the comprehensiveness and coherence of the recommendations regarding disability and accessibility. The Commission took a lot of time to listen the the many voices of the disability communities, as well as industry and other stakeholders, and carefully crafted an efficient set of interventions. I look forward to seeing this Plan come to fruition -- there will be big payoffs in educational attainment, employment, quality of life, civic participation, and commerce.

  3. Guest says:

    I agree completely... the need to separate content from transport is the single biggest danger in this plan. It gives the government far too sweeping content management control, and inhibits innovation on both content and transport in meaningful and harmful ways.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, I agree wholeheartedly.

  4. Guest says:

    This will be paid for in part by a new "minimal" fee on everyone's internet bill. After awhile, these so called minimal fees begin to add up and are no longer minimal. I'd be curious to see more on the numbers and estimates that the FCC bases its findings on.

    Oh, and the code you have to enter to submit the comment is "about trotsky". Thought that was pretty funny.

  5. SaveCompetition says:

    Hefty plan! Spent the day reading it. I am deeply troubled by the comments about copper loop replacement. The bottom line is no matter what happens most of America today and most of America in 10 years will still access phone or DSL services via the same twisted pair technology that has been available for more than 100 years. Why ease up on the RBOCs by allowing them to stop replacing and repairing these loops? Think about small business owners who have say 10 people making outbound calls all day. Why would they ever want wireless or data-centric calling for those positions? Shouldn't POTS--plain old telephone service--be available for those companies that will always want it? Why assume POTS is going to go away? The PSTN--the public switched telecommunications network--comprised of networks of hundreds of carriers across the country--is reliable. Small business owners want what is the the most economical and what does the job. You don't need broadband for all applications. You don't need wireless for all applications. Don't push wireline to the sidelines. We've relied on it for decades and it serves its purpose. And don't let the Bells off the hook. Their pockets are deep enough without giving them handouts.

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