Tomorrow, the F.C.C. is putting forth to Congress a 10-year plan focused on developing high-speed Internet access as the dominant communications network. Up for debate includes a recommendation for a subsidy for Internet providers to wire rural parts of the country, an auction of broadcast spectrum for wireless spectrum (the goal is to free up roughly 500 megahertz of spectrum, much of which would come from TV broadcasters, for future mobile broadband uses), and the development of a new universal set-top box that connects to the Internet and cable service.
The proposal includes reforms to the Universal Service Fund to focus on broadband access and affordability. It also call for a "digital literacy corps" to help unwired Americans learn online skills, and a recommendation for $12 billion to $16 billion for a nationwide public safety network that would connect police, fire departments and other first responders.
It strives to put a stake in the ground for standard broadband speeds, with the promise that the F.C.C. will begin assessing the speeds and costs of consumer broadband service. In conjunction, consumers will be encouraged to test the speed of their home Internet access through a new suite of online and mobile phone applications that will be released by the F.C.C. to see if they are getting the promised speeds for which they are paying.
This move by the F.C.C. comes on the heels of Google, who announced they would offer ultrahigh-speed Internet access in a few communities to showcase what's possible with faster broadband networks. This move by Google was seen as a prod in the direction now being taken by the F.C.C. to make sure that high-speed networks are truly available nationwide.
What this will do to the industry of network providers who are currently trying to carve out their place and create business models that will enable them justify the investments that need to be made to create this high-speed network reality is yet to be determined. But it is clear, this move by the F.C.C. will have an affect on public policy for years to come and definitely puts pressure on the network offerings of existing providers. Stay tuned. It is going to be an interesting journey; one that has the potential to bring the best platform we have for sustainable progress, change and action to us all.