Up next for FCC's broadband plan: scrutiny and waiting

The FCC unveiled its national broadband plan yesterday, laying out broad priorities for expanding both wireless and wired broadband access--but the plan's recommendations will now face scrutiny from Congress and must be transformed into concrete policy proposals by the commission.

More than a year's worth of work went into developing the broadband plan, and many more years of work are likely ahead, particularly for some of the wireless aspects of the 360-page proposal. For instance, one of the central elements of the FCC's plan to expand mobile broadband is to free up 300 MHz of spectrum for auction over the next five years. While the plan projects that orders for some of the auctions could be completed this year, many--including for the WCS and AWS bands--will not be held until 2011.

The plan to auction off up to 120 MHz of spectrum from TV broadcasters (who would cash in on the auction proceeds) is dependent upon Congressional authorization as well as cooperation from broadcasters--which have already expressed their opposition to potentially being forced to give up spectrum. The plan calls for that auction to happen in either 2012 or 2013, with band transitioning and clearing happening in 2015.

The FCC is expected to enact dozens of new rulemakings in response to the plan's recommendations. However, Congress is also going to have its say over some aspects of the plan, and the relevant committees will be holding hearings on it next week. Among the issues likely to be thrashed out are the broadcast spectrum plan and data roaming for wireless networks.

And while the plan received wide praise from the wireless and telecom industries, some analysts worried its breadth could hinder actual implementation. "The risk is that the plan's very scope will limit its real-world impact," Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett told the New York Times.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this NYT article
- see this Washington Post article

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