FCC's Deadline: Feb 174/11/2009 2:00 AM Eastern
The Federal Communications Commission last Wednesday said it is seeking comment to develop a national broadband plan by next February, part of the agency's mandate from the American Recovery And Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Part of the act includes a $7.2 billion allocation for the creation of broadband initiatives — dubbed the broadband stimulus — to encourage economic development and increased usage and availability of high-speed Internet networks in underserved and unserved areas of the country.
The FCC is seeking input from all stakeholders — consumers, industry, large and small business, nonprofits, the disabilities community, governments at the federal, state, local and tribal levels and all other interested parties.
The agency must deliver the plan to Congress by a Feb. 17, 2010 deadline. That plan is expected to provide a road map toward finding the most effective and efficient ways to ensure broadband access for all Americans; strategies for achieving affordability and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and services; evaluating deployment and the progress of related grant programs; and how to use broadband to advance consumer welfare, public safety and homeland security, economic growth and other national purposes.
The funds will be distributed by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both agencies have already begun hearings on how to do that.
Already, a few businesses with a stake in the outcome of the plan have chimed in.
“Through this plan, the FCC can take a major step toward ensuring that all Americans have access to broadband networks and have the skills and devices necessary to access the economic and social benefits available through broadband connections,” Verizon Communications said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the FCC to achieve this important goal.”
At Free Press, a nonpartisan media reform group, research director S. Derek Turner applauded the FCC for taking the time and energy to craft a broadband strategy, something he argued should have been done years ago.
“This plan, if done right, could serve as the foundation for telecommunications policymaking in the 21st century,” Turner said in a statement.