The FCC is in overdrive selling Congress, industry providers, and American citizens on the need to address the growing crisis faced by the United States. Today, the FCC unveiled more details of its National Broadband Plan, which will be officially presented to Congress next week.
Businesses and business professionals rely increasingly on access to high-speed broadband connections. Broadband is essential for small and medium businesses to operate effectively and efficiently and remain competitive into the future. Broadband, and wireless broadband are crucial to leveraging information access anywhere, and any time.
Speaking today at America's Digital Inclusion Summit at the Newseum, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski explained that he believes the United States can achieve the ambitious goal of delivering high-speed broadband connectivity to 90 percent of American homes by 2020--an increase of 25 percent over broadband availability today.
"In order to ensure long term American competitiveness and prosperity, we must not leave one-third of the nation behind," Genachowski said. "The National Broadband Plan provides a vision for federal, state and local leadership and partnerships with the private and non-profit communities that will bridge the digital divide and transform America into a nation where broadband expands opportunities for all."
Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps described the urgency for a National Broadband Plan. "Broadband is important not for technology's sake but because it can be our Great Enabler. This is technology that intersects with every great challenge confronting our nation--whether it's jobs, education, energy, climate change and the environment, international competitiveness, health care, equal opportunity or overcoming disabilities. There's no solution for any of these challenges that does not have a broadband component to it."
Copps also illustrated the need for net neutrality. "We can all go to our homes or offices and send wonderful messages into the ether. How--or if--those messages ever get heard--how we keep them from evaporating into the ether--is an entirely different matter. What a lost opportunity it would be--what a tragic irony of history--if this liberating new technology ended, through no inherent fault of its own, by failing those who have struggled so long and hard for access to the tools of opportunity that they need to be full participants in society. "
To ensure that Internet access does not become a matter of privilege, the FCC has proposed setting aside some broadband spectrum to be used to provide free, or low-cost access for those who cannot afford the cost of subscribing to standard Internet service plans.
The FCC National Broadband Plan also includes a request for government funding for digital literacy training and national awareness campaigns, and initiatives to increase Internet capacity and knowledge in libraries and community centers. In addition, the FCC plans to create an Online Skills Portal delivering free lessons from education and technology sectors which users can use to learn at their own pace.
The FCC has a bumpy road ahead still. Extremists on one side challenge the authority of the FCC to fund or implement any of the plan, while the other end of the spectrum finds fault with the FCC for not going far enough, soon enough to deliver real change.
In order to succeed, the FCC needs to play the roles of uniter and mediator--working to gain the support and cooperation of parties from both the public and private sector to develop a win-win-win solution that modernizes our national infrastructure without becoming a money pit for tax dollars, or nationalizing Internet access.