updated 02:30 pm EDT, Mon March 15, 2010
FCC National Broadband Plan details expansion
Hinted at this weekend, the FCC today outlined its National Broadband Plan (PDF). The initiative plans to increase both the reach and speed of Internet access across the US by 2020 and would center on 100 Squared, a plan to get at least 100 million homes on "affordable" 100Mbps access. However, it would also promise at least 1Gbps to "anchor institutions" like hospitals and schools.
The plan would also give out 500MHz of extra spectrum for both cellular carriers and unlicensed use, create a wireless public safety network for fire, medical and police crews.
The expansion would aim to fill in the gaps of accessibility in the country. About 100 million Americans don't have access at all, and about 14 million of those simply have no choice, the FCC said. By 2020, the agency hopes to have 90 percent of homes using broadband and to ensure that all children are "digitally literate" before they graduate from high school.
At least some of the cost would be offset by gradually changing the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes analog phone lines, into a pool for subsidizing Internet access.
How the plan will be received isn't known. Carriers have often resisted any attempt to make them service rural or otherwise less profitable markets. However, some like AT&T have embraced the 100Mbps plan as it gives them a goal as well as a way to reach more subscribers. It and other cell providers have also urged the FCC to provide more wireless spectrum and thus to avoid oversaturation from devices like the iPhone.