Sneak peek at FCC’s national broadband plan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently offered a glimpse into its national broadband plan that must be completed by February.

The leading idea is for the government to use the Universal Service Fund (USF) to help further develop the broadband infrastructure in areas that still have underdeveloped infrastructure.  Also, the FCC is interested in helping subsidize broadband Internet connection for people who are unable to pay for their own Internet connections.

The USF — which is one of several surcharges consumers pay each month on phone bills — was originally started to help subsidize phone costs.  Helping develop broadband is a legitimate use of the fund, which is the reason it’s the leading choice at the moment.

“It’s tempting to kick the can further down the road,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a statement.  “But for many reasons it’s important to begin tackling these issues now.  We must make sure that the fund fully supports the technology of today and tomorrow, not just the technology of the past.”

As even more consumers switch to smartphones, another proposed idea involves giving wireless broadband a boost by allocating television broadcaster airwaves — TV broadcasters don’t like the idea,  as they have plans for mobile TV.


If the FCC and TV broadcasters are unable to reach an agreement, it’s possible broadband companies could use white spaces — the companies must then develop new technology to use the spectrum efficiently.

Assuming spectrum allocation does take place per the FCC’s request, it could significantly increase broadband competition, the FCC believes.

There are still more questions than answers that the FCC must attempt to work through, so it will be interesting to see what happens in 2010.