The FCC and the National Broadband Plan
Already, the kickoff of this national broadband plan proceeding is receiving so much coverage. Where did this strange bird come from, and where is it going? Well, in the Recovery Act, the FCC was directed to come up with a national broadband plan that addresses a number of public policy goals including deployment, utilization and availability. Today’s notice of inquiry opens all these major issues for comment from the public. More about the structure and substance of the notice of inquiry, including comment dates and deadlines after the jump.
The Recovery Act provision that mandates this plan, section 6001(k), is as follows:
(k)(1) Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of
this section, the Commission shall submit to the Committee on
Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives and the
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the
Senate, a report containing a national broadband plan.
(2) The national broadband plan required by this section
shall seek to ensure that all people of the United States have
access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks
for meeting that goal. The plan shall also include:
(A) an analysis of the most effective and efficient
mechanisms for ensuring broadband access by all people
of the United States;
(B) a detailed strategy for achieving affordability of
such service and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure
and service by the public;
(C) an evaluation of the status of deployment of
broadband service, including progress of projects supported
by the grants made pursuant to this section; and
(D) a plan for use of broadband infrastructure and
services in advancing 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 purposes.
(3) In developing the plan, the Commission shall have
access to data provided to other Government agencies under
the Broadband Data Improvement Act (47 U.S.C. 1301 note).
The plan is due February 17, 2010, and must seek to ensure ubiquitous broadband deployment. Beyond that, the statute gives the FCC highlights of what the plan should include, but no guidance on the conclusions it should draw. As a result, the FCC is opening this up to the public for comment.
The document is structured much like the statute, and ranges from questions as broad as how to define broadband to as narrow as how it should work with specific government agencies to achieve specific goals. It also addresses how broadband relates to various public goals like security, education, healthcare and the like. With appendix and signing statements it is well over 50 pages consisting largely of open-ended questions.
Since the analysis in the plan will only be as good as the data and ideas the FCC gets, the document is up for an extended comment period. Initial written comments are due on June 8, and reply comments are due July 7. The docket for this proceeding is 09-51, and the link to comment filing is here. If you have something good, please share.
Full Disclosure: I was one of the drafters of this document and can’t comment on anything beyond its contents, since it is now an open proceeding.