The FCC revealed a preview of the National Broadband Plan it intends to propose to Congress next month. The 56-page proposal outlines some ambitious, yet reasonable, initiatives aimed at expanding and modernizing access to broadband in the United States.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski declared in a statement following the unveiling of the FCC broadband plan “It’s so important because broadband is essential to fostering 21st century jobs, investment and economic growth. It’s also so important because of the vital role broadband must play in advancing key societal goals in areas like education, health care, energy, public safety, democracy, and small business opportunity.”
Genachowski continued “In charging the Commission with creating a National Broadband Plan, Congress took the significant step of instructing us to address not only broadband deployment and adoption, but also to look at how broadband can advance a series of ‘national purposes.’ What was behind that directive, I believe, was a vision of the future that motivates us every day.”
The goals laid out by Genachowski include:
•· Every classroom in every school in America should be connected to broadband capable of online learning and remote tutoring
•· Every kid in America should have a real opportunity in school to become digitally literate
•· Every job seeker in America should have access to online job postings and online job training through a high speed connection at the local public library or other community anchor institution
•· Every hospital, clinic, and first responder in America should be connected to broadband–and have the ability to send and receive MRIs, CT-Scans and other medical records, with doctors able to engage in remote diagnostics
•· Every home in America should be connected to the smart grid and have access to actionable energy data
•· Every citizen can go online and access government data and services
The FCC chairman hinted at increased small business opportunity, but that only tells part of the story. There are some significant benefits for businesses–particularly small and medium businesses–with broader, more universal access to broadband data, especially if broadband speeds are also increased in the process.
Businesses looking to cut communications and travel costs by implementing VoIP (voice over IP) and unified communications solutions are going to need the larger bandwidth. VoIP is much less forgiving of slow or dropped data packets than standard data, and streaming video and video conferencing are even less so.
Expanding high-speed broadband to more U.S. homes also benefits business. The trend for the past five to ten years has been an increase in the number of employees working remotely from home offices, even if it’s only on a temporary or flexible basis. The faster the connection from employee homes to the network resources inside the company network, the more productive the remote worker can be, and the more seamless the work experience will be no matter where the employee is operating from.
The goals of the FCC broadband plan are admirable, and the FCC should be commended for putting forth such an ambitious vision. It remains to be seen how much pushback the FCC might get from existing broadband providers, or if the FCC plan will be enough to convince Congress to back it with funding.