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FCC Launches Effort to Form National Broadband Rollout Plan

Filed at 8:23 p.m. on Apr. 8, 2009

It continues to be rush hour for broadband policymaking in Washington.

The FCC Wednesday launched its effort to come up with a national broadband rollout plan (in the form of a notice of inquiry).

That is not to be confused with the national broadband rollout grants the FCC is helping shepherd, or the rural broadband rollout plan it must come up with by next month.

The rollout plan is part of the economic stimulus package that set aside money for broadband grants.

The FCC, which has until Feb. 17, 2010 to report back to Congress with the plan, Wednesday asked for comment from the public and industry on what that plan should constitute, including the most "effective and efficient" ways to get broadband service to everyone in the country; the most affordable deployment that makes the best use of existing infrastructure/services; how to evaluate the current status of deployment; how broadband can advance a host of issues, including health care, energy, education, job creation, public safety and much more.

The FCC wants to know how it should define broadband, how it should define access to broadband, including whether price or marketplace competition should be factored in, and how "openness" should be defined.

"We have long recognized that broadband is not an end in itself, but a means to help address a host of fundamental challenges our nation faces, including job creation, health care, energy, the environment, public safety, and education." said AT&T's Senior VP Robert Quinn responding to the inquiry. "That is why we support this initiative to develop a national broadband strategy that is comprehensive, forward-looking and inclusive."

"The FCC this morning took a long overdue step to improving our nation's economy," said Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge. "Despite the widespread recognition that high-speed Internet services are necessary, this is the first time a government agency will take a comprehensive look at the situation and recommend a course of action to remedy our rapidly declining broadband ranking."

"We applaud the FCC for finally taking time and energy to craft a comprehensive broadband strategy -- something that should have been done years ago," said S. Derek Turner, research director for Free Press. "This plan, if done right, could serve as the foundation for telecommunications policymaking in the 21st century.

"Any new strategy must take into account how past policies failed to deliver the open, competitive broadband marketplace Congress intended. The blind deregulatory regime that we have today is a blueprint for what to avoid in the future."