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Thursday, March 28, 2013

The National Broadband Plan Goals: Where Do We Stand?

Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

On March 16, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan. The National Broadband Plan (NBP) identified significant gaps in broadband availability and adoption in the United States, and in order to address those gaps and other challenges, the NBP set specific goals to be achieved by the year 2020. Goals were set for next generation broadband service; universal broadband service; mobile wireless broadband innovation and coverage; broadband access of Community Anchor Institutions; a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network; and broadband for tracking energy consumption.

Three years after the rollout of the NBP, available data indicate that there has been progress towards reaching the 2020 goals. The following observations can be made:

  • the United States is much closer to reaching broadband availability goals than broadband adoption goals, which remain a major challenge; 
  • the United States is much closer to achieving broadband download speed goals than upload speed goals; 
  • while the next generation broadband goal of 100 million households with 100 Mbps speeds seems within reach (at least for download speeds), the price remains high—affordability could improve in the future depending on technological advances and consumer demand for ultra-high speed next generation performance; 
  • recent rollouts of next generation wireless technologies have led the FCC to state that the United States leads the world in mobile innovation; on the other hand, the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data indicate that the United States remains in the middle of the pack with respect to wireless broadband subscriptions per 100 of the population; 
  • while broadband data are incomplete for Community Anchor Institutions, available information indicate that the number of CAIs with 1 gigabit connections remains relatively low; and 
  • two major initiatives—FirstNet and Smart Grid—are currently underway in order to help reach the goals for a public safety wireless network and for broadband monitoring of energy consumption. 

Many of the key telecommunications issues that are currently being considered by the 113th Congress are focused on improving broadband deployment and thus are intended to have a positive impact on the nation’s progress towards reaching one (or in many cases, several) of the NBP goals. As the 113th Congress considers contentious telecommunications issues such as universal service reform, wireless technology and spectrum policy, and telecommunications regulatory reform, the ongoing progress towards meeting the NBP goals is likely to be part of that debate.

Date of Report: March 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R43016
Price: $29.95

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