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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The National Broadband Plan

Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Angele A. Gilroy
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Charles B. Goldfarb
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney

On March 16, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan. Mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5), the FCC's National Broadband Plan (NBP) is a 360-page document composed of 17 chapters containing 208 specific recommendations directed to the FCC, to the Executive Branch (both to individual agencies and to Administration as a whole), to Congress, and to nonfederal and nongovernmental entities. The ARRA specified that the NBP should "seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability."

The NBP identified significant gaps in broadband availability and adoption in the United StatesIn order to address these gaps and other challenges, the NBP set six specific goals to be achieved by the year 2020. These six goals are discussed further in this report, and an outline of the NBP is provided at the end of this report.

It is important to note that many aspects of telecommunications policies, regulations, and legal issues would be affected by the NBP. For example:

• The Universal Service Fund (USF) is a fund that was created to provide universal availability and affordability of communications throughout the United States; the issue is whether or how the universal service concept should embrace access to broadband as one of its policy objectives.

• Because wireless broadband can play a key role in the deployment of broadband services, the NBP extensively addresses spectrum policy and the issue of how to make more spectrum available and usable for mobile broadband applications.

• Issues such as intercarrier compensation and set-top boxes are identified by the NBP as having potential significant impact on broadband availability and adoption.

• Broadband will likely play a role in addressing critical national challenges in areas such as health care, education, energy, environment, and public safety; the issue is how, for each national purpose, the existing legislative and regulatory framework and trends in the field might best benefit from better broadband access and services.

• Finally, one potential issue the FCC may face in its attempts to achieve NBP goals is the scope of the agency's authority to regulate broadband Internet access and management.

A major issue for Congress will be how to shape the Plan's various initiatives when and if they go forward, either through oversight, through consideration of specific legislation, or in the context of comprehensive telecommunications reform. A key challenge for Congressional policymakers will be to assess whether an appropriate balance is maintained between the public and private sectors, and the extent to which government intervention in the broadband marketplace would help or hinder private sector investment and competition

Date of Report: July 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R41324
Price: $29.95

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