The Federal Communication Commission officially unveiled its ambitious National Broadband Plan on March 16, which calls for massive overhaul of the United States' Internet infrastructure during the next decade and opening up the country's wireless spectrum to accommodate new devices.
The FCC proposal, which is officially called "Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan," looks to invest billions of dollars to give more Americans access to high-speed broadband service. One of the plans most ambitious goals is to connect 100 million U.S. households to 100 megabits-per-second broadband service by 2020.
In addition, the FCC proposal looks to create "anchor institutions," such as schools, hospitals and military bases, which can offer the public broadband services of 1G bps. There are also plans to free up to 500 megahertz of spectrum for people to use new types of wireless Internet devices.
Overall, the FCC broadband plan looks to replace traditional means of communications with high-speed Internet access. However, the plan goes beyond simply offering a proposal for wiring households with broadband service. Instead, the FCC sees its 10-year plan as a way to spur job growth, better protect the United States and educate scores of school children.
"The National Broadband Plan is a 21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wrote in a statement. "It's an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the challenges of global competitiveness, and harness the power of broadband to help address so many vital national issues."
The FCC has now sent its Broadband Plan to Congress and it's expected to take years to implement the recommendations if the proposals are approved at all. Offering high-speed broadband access to more Americans and bringing these services to parts of the country that could not access the Internet were major themes of President Barrack Obama's campaign in 2008.
The actual broadband plan, which runs more than 300 pages, does not offer a great deal of specifics on how much the recommendations will cost in the long run. However, there are some areas the FCC did recommend specific dollar amounts. For example, the plan calls for a 10-year investment of up to $6.5 billion for homeland security and public safety, which includes the development of a next-generation 911 system and fighting cyber-crime.
The FCC also believes that it can either make money or offset the cost of creating 500 megahertz of wireless spectrum through the auctioning of that spectrum to businesses. Just before the FCC released the plans, Reuters reported that Genachowski said that broadcasters are willing to auction off their spectrum in exchange for a slice of the revenue.
The FCC Broadband Plan also looks to keep America competitive and part of that means improving the country's Internet infrastructure. The FCC recommendations specifically pointed to efforts by Japan, South Korea and Germany to offer their citizens high-speed Internet access.
In a paper released the same day as the FCC plan, Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, offered a blueprint of how technology will change in the next 10 years. Kay believes that computers will surround everyone but people will be less aware of them. In order to fulfill that vision of a more wired world, the United States needs a better infrastructure and the federal government should take some role in this development.
"As part of that integration, our broadband infrastructure will be complete, both wired and wireless, with federal involvement as necessary," Kay wrote in his paper called "The Future: Unknowable Mystery or Mere Evolution."
Part of that will require 100 million households having access to better broadband service. The FCC plan calls for a goal of 100 million U.S. homes with actual download speeds of 50M bps and actual upload speeds of 20M bps by 2015.