FCC details hurdles to national broadband plan

The FCC met yesterday to debate the hurdles involved with enacting a national broadband policy that seeks to bring affordable broadband access to every U.S. citizen.

The national broadband plan is the responsibility of the FCC and must be presented to Congress by Feb. 17. FCC broadband czar Blair Levin is heading a task force studying the best way to achieve the plan, and he and his staff appeared before the FCC to talk about recommendations and policy changes.

Levin stressed that policy makers must not only take into account the needs of citizens but also the needs of the industry, which will likely pay for the majority of the estimated $20 million to $350 billion needed to build systems and develop new programs. As such, Levin identified obstacles to providing broadband to all Americans.

One obstacle involves the Universal Service Fund, that extra fee on consumers' phone bills that historically has subsidized voice service in rural areas. The task force believes more of that money should be diverted to help subsidize the cost of deploying broadband in rural areas.

Lack of spectrum was another issue raised. The pace of mobile broadband adoption will create a spectrum shortage as early as 2013 if nothing is done now, the task force said. CTIA is urging the FCC to look at TV broadcast spectrum as an option for more spectrum, a move opposed by the broadcast TV industry. The task force, however, noted that as demand for broadband spectrum grows, the need for broadcast TV spectrum is decreasing.

Specifically, smartphone subscriptions have increased by 690 percent since 1998, while over-the-air TV viewership decreased by 56 percent.

For more:
- see this Cnet article

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