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FCC Plan for Broadband: 100Mbps for 100M Homes

March 16, 2010

Broadband in many parts of America is undeniably bad.  Hardly a healthy market, typically only one or two big players compete on a local level, and the result of the low level of competition is high prices.  Unfortunately, the cost of entry for small service providers is quite high and ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner, and Embarq have made market entry even harder by successfully lobbying many state and local governments to ban municipal Wi-Fi and/or enact measures that make it harder to financesuch new deployments.

When Barack Obama was elected U.S. President, one of his promises was to deliver affordable Wi-Fi to Americans.  His plan for that, courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission, has finally aired and it's ambitious to say the least.

The proposal calls for a federal broadband offering that would cover at least 100 million U.S. homes.  The deployment would take place over the "next decade" and would provide Americans with "robust broadband services" -- a 100MBps down / 50Mbps up connection, to be more precise.

The plan would offer 1 Gbps connections on a community level, which could give small businesses a boost.  And first responders would get "access to a nationwide, wireless interoperable broadband public safety network."

The plan also calls for citizens being able to use broadband to "track and manage real-time [home]energy consumption," likely referring to smart meter services such as Google's Powermeter.

How much will the plan cost?  The FCC is confident that it can deliver the national service at almost no cost to taxpayers.  The funding would come largely from the planned sale of 500 MHz of spectrum that is currently lying vacant.

The plan, in its entirety can be found here (PDF).

Ambitious and potentially overreaching, the plan is drawing strong reactions across America.  On Engadget, one of the first to post details, the debate became so ugly that they threatened to start banning people and removed the comments section from the article.

If that's a taste of what's to come, it appears that national broadband may get a similar treatment to national healthcare; a hearty helping of partisan bickering and the majority of Americans left scratching there heads while an important problem goes unsolved.

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