Falling Behind Falling Behind

In what some say is akin to "the second wave of electricity" in America, the FCC wants to expand and increase high-speed Internet access nationwide while encouraging competition among service providers.

Set to be unveiled to Congress and the public Tuesday, March 16, the national broadband plan seeks to prioritize high-speed Internet as a "foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life," according to the FCC's summary report. The plan's recommendations could eventually trickle down.

"This is a breath of fresh air from the last eight years, when [the FCC] was chasing after porn," said Public Technology Institute Executive Director Alan Shark. "Finally we're looking at the most important thing for the success of the economy going forward."

Mandated by the 2009 stimulus bill, the FCC's vision over the next decade includes the following goals and recommendations, according to a press release from the FCC:

  • Connecting 100 million households to affordable 100 Mbps service, building the world's largest market of high-speed broadband users and ensuring that new jobs and businesses are created in America.
  • Affordable access in every American community to ultra-high-speed broadband of at least 1 GB per second at "anchor institutions" such as schools, hospitals and military installations so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow's ideas and industries.
  • Ensuring that the U.S. is leading the world in mobile innovation by making 500 MHz of spectrum newly available for licensed and unlicensed use.
  • Moving the nation's broadband adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent, and ensuring that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school.
  • Bringing affordable broadband to rural communities, schools, libraries and vulnerable populations by transitioning existing Universal Service Fund support from analog technologies to digital infrastructure.
  • Promoting competition across the broadband ecosystem by ensuring greater transparency, removing barriers to entry and conducting market-based analysis with quality data on price, speed and availability.
  • Enhancing the safety of the American people by providing every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.

Best Practices Could Trickle Down

The U.S. needs to bring its broadband capabilities up to speed to retain a level of competitiveness. In doing so, "broadband gaps" need to be filled so that all populations, most notably the disabled, Native Americans, students and the unemployed, are connected, the FCC said.

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Karen Wilkinson  | 

Karen is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.