FCC Proposes Turning Federal Buildings into Broadband Anchor Institutions

The FCC said Feb. 18 that it would propose using federal
buildings as anchor institutions for broadband service, saying federal assets
have "not [been] used effectively to spur local adoption and deployment of

That was one in a series of proposals the FCC signaled will be part of a
national broadband deployment and adoption plan due to Congress March 17.

At its public meeting Thursday, the commission's broadband team outlined a
series of those proposals to further so-called national purposes, which include
healthcare, education, energy, environmental issues, government services and
access, public safety, homeland security, job training, and small business
development. That list suggests just how big and all-encompassing the FCC's
task is.

"[Government] policies have often inhibited or failed to provide
incentives for investment in and innovative use of broadband," said the
FCC. In addition to using government buildings to drive broadband adoption, the
FCC suggested the government could better coordinate its broadband grants,
release more government information online, "enable citizen-centric online
services," and encourage more use of social media.

If the government is going to put more of its services online, broadband
deployment will be a key goal so citizens have equal access to those services.
For example, some state governments are discounting online renewals of car
registrations, which could translate into a tax, or at least an additional
burden, on those without ready access to online registration. Those tend to be
rural and poorer communities.

Among the other plan proposals will be: 1) to launch a public-private
partnership to boost technology training for small and disadvantaged
businesses, which would include female- and minority-owned businesses; 2) to
use the Rural Health Care Program to subsidize broadband deployment and ongoing
costs while expanding the pool of eligible providers; and 3) to boost digital
educational content and "promote digital literacy for students and

The cable industry has proposed a 50% price break on broadband service to homes
with middle-schoolers qualifying for government-subsidized school lunches, but
only if the government steps up to fund digital literacy.

On the energy front, the commission is recommending "promoting and
improving commercial broadband networks as a way to modernize the energy

"As the author of the requirement in the Recovery Act tasking the FCC
to develop a National Broadband Plan for our country, I am heartened by today's
preview," said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). "The outline announced today
suggests that the Commission is on track to fulfill the mandate that I wrote by
producing a bold, future-focused, strategy for broadband deployment and
adoption in our country."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.