The National Broadband Plan

Posted by Sam Churchill on

“Electricity is a modern necessity of life and ought to be found in every village, every home, and every farm in every part of the United States”.
Franklin Roosevelt, 1938

The FCC has released its full National Broadband Plan (Executive Summary and pdf), a road map for bringing broadband to nearly all Americans.

The National Broadband Plan envisions bringing 100-megabit-per-second access to 100 million homes by 2020, as well as 1 gigabit-per-second connections to libraries and schools. It outlines dozens of policy recommendations aimed at raising broadband penetrations from the current 65 percent to 90 percent, over the next decade.

The FCC’s task force, headed by Blair Levin, has been working on the report for nearly a year, and presented its 360-page report to the FCC commissioners today. It will deliver the report to Congress tomorrow.

The plan could cost as much as $350 billion to implement. Big line items include $9 billion to bring broadband to rural homes and $12 billion to $15 billion to build a national 700 MHz public service network. The joint public/private network would be partially funded by a 700 MHz auction of the 10 MHz, “D Block”. APCO wanted the feds to give them all of that spectrum. Recognizing that Americans will obtain substantial benefits from the creation of this network, imposing a minimal public safety fee on all U.S. broadband users would be a fair, sustainable and reasonable funding mechanism,” the section reads. The final mix of tax dollars versus investment by private industry is not yet known.

The Universal Service Fund would be expanded to include broadband as well as voice service, using the current $8 billion funding. That revenue comes from consumers through long-distance phone fees.

The proposal drew praise from some industry leaders and public interest groups, who said the plan could introduce more competition into the market for broadband services and help bridge a digital divide.

Major providers, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications, would gain broader subscriber bases, but they could be forced to share their wireless and fixed-wire networks with smaller rivals. The plan asks broadcasters to give up current airwaves for wireless broadband.

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, Comcast, CTIA, NAB, APCO, GlobalStar and the Satellite Industry Association have weighed in on the Broadband Plan.

“I truly don’t visualize a scenario where proceeds [from a sale] would exceed lost business opportunities,” said Paul Karpowicz, president of Meredith Broadcasting, in an interview with BusinessWeek. The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association disagreed with the plan’s proposal to end rate of return accounting for small telcos.

Free Press says the National Broadband Plan does little solve the problem of entrenched phone and cable companies. Analysts and telecommunications scholars said carrying out the dozens of recommendations will be difficult, particularly if companies argue that new regulations will hurt investments and jobs.

The plan recommends that the country adopt Six Long-Term Goals over the next decade:

  • 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.
  • The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.
  • Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
  • Every community should have affordable access to at least 1 Gbps broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.
  • To ensure the safety of Americans, every first responder should have access to a nationwide public safety wireless network.
  • 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.

The report recommends the FCC make 300 megahertz available for mobile use within 5 years. Those frequencies would be between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz. The FCC has given itself until October to find the remaining 200MHz, to meet the 500MHz target by 2020.

  • 300MHz of spectrum should become available within the next five years, with 500MHz available within 10 years for licensed and unlicensed use.
  • About 120MHz of spectrum from TV broadcasters. They hope TV broadcasters will voluntarily give up a good portion of the spectrum with financial incentives
  • Make 20 megahertz available in the 2.3 GHz (WCS) band, while protecting neighboring federal, Aeronautical (AMT) and satellite radio operations.
  • Auction 10 megahertz Upper 700 MHz D Block for commercial use that is technically compatible with public safety broadband services.
  • Make up to 60 megahertz available by auctioning Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) bands, including, if possible, 20 megahertz from federal allocations.
  • Accelerate terrestrial deployment in 90 megahertz of Mobile Satellite Spectrum (MSS).

The FCC adopted rules in February 2003 that allow MSS operators to construct and operate Ancillary Terrestrial Components (ATCs) in their licensed spectrum. Although satellites permit nationwide coverage, satellite links are limited without line-of-sight transmission, particularly in urban areas and inside buildings. The ATC rules allow MSS providers to deploy terrestrial networks to enhance coverage in areas where the satellite signal is attenuated or unavailable.

The agency would also seek up to $16 billion from lawmakers to build and operate a dedicated network for public safety responders in the 700 MHz band. The agency said it could raise more money from auctioning the spectrum intended for wireless use.

It recommends the FCC free up a new, contiguous nationwide band for unlicensed use (but it doesn’t say where it should get the spectrum). It should make a sufficient portion available for use exclusively or predominantly by unlicensed devices, as it acquires spectrum.

The FCC, the Obama administration, and Congress will now be tasked with taking action on the recommendations on the National Broadband Plan.

More coverage on the National Broadband Plan is available at; Ars Technica, Connected Planet, Computer World, C-Span, DSL Reports, Network World, Urgent Communications, Washington Post, WSJ and ZD Net.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Free Internet Access Proposed by FCC, National Broadband Plan Previewed, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, FCC “Finds” 500MHz?, FCC Floats “100 Squared” Initiative, FCC to Auction TV Airwaves?, Google: Fiber to the Home?, Smart Grids, Spectrum in Budget, White Spaces Heating Up

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 at 9:19 am .

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