Grant Gross at PC World:
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will seek to take back 120MHz of spectrum from U.S. television stations in the next five years and reallocate it to wireless broadband providers in a voluntary program that would allow the stations to share or keep spectrum auction revenues, under a national broadband plan that will be officially released Tuesday.
The FCC would seek approval from Congress to conduct “incentive auctions” of unused spectrum, including TV spectrum, and the agency could either act as a third-party auctioneer of the spectrum or share the auction proceeds with the sellers, according to the broadband plan, which the FCC released to reporters Monday.
The TV spectrum auctions are part of a goal to free up 500MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband over the next decade, one of the major goals of the 400-page broadband plan. If, however, the FCC doesn’t get enough volunteers to free up spectrum, it will look for other ways to take back the spectrum, but FCC officials said Monday they expect to get enough TV stations to give up their extra spectrum in exchange for auction proceeds.
Ryan Singel at Wired:
The FCC is set to share the nation’s first official broadband plan with Congress Tuesday, a sort of Declaration of the Internet which seeks to ensure that a fast broadband connection is just as much an unalienable right as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That’s pretty ambitious, but the FCC is as unambiguous about its intentions as the Colonists were about throwing off the yoke another form of oppression. For example, goal number three states that “Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.”
Still the plan, put together by the FCC after months of hearings and public comment periods, turns out, in details, to be pragmatic and reformist, rather than revolutionary. That is, at least according to a summary (.pdf) released Monday.
The FCC is calling for more competition among broadband providers, more spectrum for wireless data services, subsidies for rural and poor citizens, and education for the digitally challenged. There’s a little bit for every constituency, from those who worry most about the digital divide to those who see a future where all health records are digital and networked.
There’s not much for those who dreamed of a drastic call for an all-fiber network to be built and subsidized by the government. There is, in fact, no government building of public networks at all. Nor is there much in the way of support for municipalities and states.
And for those itching for a confrontation between users and the big telecoms, the plan will disappoint since it steers clear of controversial topics such whether the wireless industry has to follow the same open requirements now applied to DSL and cable companies, and whether those who own the infrastructure connecting people to the net have to rent their lines to competing services at a fair price.
Though we don’t have full details of the plan yet, the insight we gain from the executive summary shows that Washington may have finally reached a “we get it” moment when it comes to technology. Broadband access isn’t just about rural America checking out YouTube videos. This is also about creating the broadband infrastructure that can drive future innovation on the homefront, update public safety, education, health care and energy to improve efficiency and grow jobs by fueling competition.
And it’s also not a policy that can be set in stone. Ten years seems like an eternity in Internet years, but it’s smart for the government to look at a long-term plan. There’s no way such ambitious goals can be rolled out in a year or two, There are a lot of moving parts and if the timeline – which we should see next – is a good one, hopefully some short-term advancements will offer a peek of what’s still to come.
Nancy Scola at Tapped:
The absence of creative thinking in this new plan is particularly worrisome because the small crew within the FCC that produced it had the chance to stir passions about what our broadband future might look like. The National Broadband Plan isn’t a set of regulations. It’s not a piece of legislation. It was meant to be an aspirational plan, but it’s not that aspirational. Blair Levin, the seemingly autonomous point-person appointed by Chairman Genachowski, talks about the FCC like Alaskans talk about the United States. It’s not clear if recommendations in the plan made to the FCC will actually be regulations made by the FCC. In other words, is the FCC prepared to actually enact the policies, like form new public-private partnerships or re-purpose the Universal Service Fund from telephones to broadband? I was told the FCC commissioners — the people with the power to turn the plan into action — had seen the report as early as a full month ago and had access to the broadband team’s staff.
Nicholas Deleon at Crunch Gear:
Up until a moment ago, this was going to be a standard “newsy” post: the FCC will announce its National Broadband Plan on Tuesday, here’s what it’s all about. Then I read the comments of a PC World article discussing that very same plan—many people are outraged that the government would muscle its way into the free market! If Americans wanted fast broadband then the market would provide it on its own terms. That, of course, is complete nonsense: plenty of Americans live in one-ISP towns, and if said ISP provides terrible service, well, though cookies, chico. This is America! Love it or leave it~!
And really, the FCC isn’t doing anything particularly controversial, at least I don’t think it’s controversial. All it’s doing is saying, by 2020, we’d like to see 100 million homes (out of an estimated 130 million homes come 2020) have access to broadband with speeds of up to 100 mbps. Some people already have access to that type of Internet connection, myself included. Other ISPs, including universally loathed Comcast, plans to roll out 100 mbps service in the coming months. So it’s not like the FCC is making some sort of unreasonable demand: the market has already decided that it’s worth its while to deploy 100 mbps service all over the country. A cynic might say that the FCC knows this, that 100 mbps service is closer than you might otherwise think, and is merely latching itself onto the ISPs so that it can be all, “See, FCC = leadership.” But don’t be cynical, don’t hold grudges: while you’re holding a grudge, the other guy is dancing.
I don’t know, I suppose it makes sense to get into this a bit more when the FCC actually makes the Plan public on Tuesday. But for now, all I have to say is: chill out. Not everything the government announces is tantamount to quartering British soldiers in your house without permission. I suppose I’m talking to people right now who actually believe, and understand, that a wired country is truly in the best interests of everyone.
So on Tuesday, Grant Gross at PC World:
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission officially released the country’s first national broadband plan Tuesday, and one of its major goals is to bring broadband service to all U.S. residents.
The FCC meeting Tuesday was a bit anticlimactic, because commission officials had conducted briefings on the major proposals in the 360-page plan in recent weeks. The FCC on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a two-page joint statement on broadband, but did not vote on the broadband plan in its entirety.
The approximately 200 recommendations in the broadband plan will need to be approved separately, FCC officials said. The agency is planning a series of about 40 notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) in coming months, and some recommendations in the plan will need action from the U.S. Congress. The FCC also makes a series of recommendations to other U.S. government agencies.
Jared Newman at PC World:
The actual implementation of the plan could change lawmakers get their hands on it, but here’s an early look at who gains and who loses from the national broadband plan:
Winner: 100 Million Patient Homes, Plus Communities
One major long-term goal of the plan is to provide 100 million homes with 100 Mbps broadband, and to install 1 Gbps broadband at community sites such as schools and government buildings, all by 2020. That’s an eternity in Internet time, but it’ll ultimately mean that most homes and communities could have blazing-fast connections.
Winner: People Who Can’t Afford or Access the Internet
Another major goal is the availability of free or cheap wireless broadband, coming from wireless spectrum that the FCC will identify for auction. The point is to provide basic Internet nationwide for people who otherwise can’t afford it.
Winner: Wireless Carriers
Companies like Verizon Wireless and AT&T are dying for more wireless spectrum to feed a growing number of data-hungry smartphones. The FCC plans to throw them a bone with 500 MHz of spectrum. Wireless industry group CTIA is thrilled.
Loser: Broadcast Television
The government is largely relying on broadcasters to voluntarily give up some of their spectrum so it can be used for broadband. Broadcasters like having the choice, but worry that the government might force them to give up spectrum if they don’t play along. Things could get ugly if broadcasters have to start sharing spectrum or use low-power cellular transmitters to broadcast. People who rely on broadcast TV may find that service is merely surviving, rather than improving.
Members of Congress were the ones who mandated a national broadband plan, but now they’ve got the unenviable task of figuring out what to do with it. The total cost of the plan could range from $12 billion to $25 billion, and though the FCC hopes those costs can be recouped by auctioning spectrum, it might be a hard sell to taxpayers.
Unknown: Internet Service Providers
Companies such as Comcast are getting a hand from the FCC to build their infrastructure and offer better service to more people. But government help raises questions of how much regulation those companies will face, and whether they should continue to rely on private investment. Service providers seem happy about the proposal for now, but things could change as lawmakers and the FCC delve deeper into the issue of national broadband.
UPDATE: Farhad Manjoo in Slate