FCC Broadband Plan Submitted to Congress

March 22, 2010

Plan Intended to Transform Energy, Healthcare, Homeland Security, Education Sectors

In 2009, Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to submit a “National Broadband Plan” (the Plan) to ensure that every American has “access to broadband capability.” Congress required the Plan to have a detailed strategy for achieving affordability and maximizing use of broadband to advance “consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, healthcare delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, employee training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.”

On March 16, 2010, the FCC submitted its comprehensive Plan to Congress, with six goals:

  1. 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.
  2. The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.
  3. Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
  4. Every American community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.
  5. To ensure the safety of the American people, every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.
  6. 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 Plan calls on Congress, the Executive Branch, the FCC, and state and local governments to take dozens of actions to:

  • Design policies to ensure robust competition and maximize consumer welfare, innovation and investment.
  • Ensure efficient allocation and management of assets that the government controls or influences, such as spectrum, poles, and rights-of-way, to encourage network upgrades and competitive entry.
  • Reform current payment mechanisms to support deployment of broadband and voice in high-cost areas; ensure that low-income Americans can afford broadband; and support efforts to boost adoption and utilization.
  • Reform laws, policies, standards and incentives to maximize the benefits of broadband in sectors that the government influences significantly, such as public education, healthcare and government operations.

The FCC National Broadband Plan, an executive summary, and thumbnails of how it intends to affect education, energy, healthcare, and other industry sectors can be found at broadband.gov.

The Plan will significantly affect telecom and media companies of all kinds with its sweeping proposals on competition policy, and spectrum use and allocation. Companies in healthcare, energy, education, and homeland security/first responders – and state and local governments – should consider becoming involved in the debate over the Plan’s implementation, because the FCC has proposed many major policy changes intended to drastically affect these sectors in the short and medium term.

McGuireWoods Consulting is closely involved with the National Broadband Plan and its implementation, and looks forward to assisting existing and new clients as the Plan moves forward in Congress, the Administration, the FCC, and state and local governments.