The Federal Communications Commission unveiled its nearly 400-page "national broadband plan" to Congress today. The proposal includes plans to subsidize broadband access to rural areas, develop a new universal set-top box that would connect to Internet and cable service, and form a "digital literacy corps" to provide skills training.
KPCC's Patt Morrison spoke last week with FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who stressed the potential of this project.
"We haven't had a commitment of long-standing to get this important infrastructure of the 21st Century built out. For the last eight years, we kind of doodled on the happy assumption that the private sector would automatically get all of this built out to all corners of America—even where there were no business plans that would encourage that happy result. So, we didn't think we needed a plan," Copps told Morrison.
"We were probably the only industrial country on the face of God's green Earth that didn't have some kind of a plan to get Broadband out,” Copps pointed out. The FCC's plan would catapult the U.S. into a competitive position in the international market.
In addition to expanding the broadband reach, the FCC plan would vastly increase internet speed, by equipping 100 million households with 100-megabit-a-second access by 2020. According to comScore, the average subscriber now receives speeds of three to four megabits a second.
Public interest groups such as the New America Foundation have already suggested the plan does not go far enough in promoting competition for Internet access and have questioned the time line of the project, which is expected to span at least 10 years.
But for Copps, the proposal is a major step forward. "I have been jumping up and down and screaming and hollering for this for nine years now. When new government came to town last year and Congress passed the America Reinvestment and Recovery Act, they said 'we need to do this and we need a plan, and we want the Federal Communications Commission to draw up a strategy and plan for the country.' That's what we have spent the bulk of the last year doing."
Some of the plan's proposals will likely face push-back from telecommunication giants such as AT&T and Comcast as they encounter competition for customers and obstacles to improving their networks.
To hear Patt's complete interview with FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, visit the Patt Morrison page.