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US National Broadband plan goes to Congress

Bigger, better, faster than anyone else, in theory

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All Americans will be entitled to 4Mb/sec broadband, and America will have the fastest mobile network in the world, under the FCC's plan for the future of internet access.

The Federal Communications Commission today presented the plan to Congress. The rest of us will have to wait until tomorrow to get the details, though a summary posted by the FCC (pdf) reveals much that was expected and a few surprises.

We already knew that the FCC intends to find 500MHz of spectrum for auction to existing and aspiring network operators, and that the money raised will pay for the whole plan. We now know that 300MHz of that will become available over the next five years, though we're still not clear where it's all going to come from (though TV broadcasters will be in the firing line), or how the operators will raise the money to pay for it.

But the plan contains a commitment to ensuring America has the "fastest and most extensive wireless network of any nation", which will apparently come to exist thanks to the enormous amount of radio spectrum and some governmental investment in using it more efficiently.

Fixed broadband is going to be important too, with the FCC taking on the role of guaranteeing providers advertise their speeds accurately, and setting the pace by extending the Universal Service Fund to pay for every American to have 4Mb/sec "actual download speeds". The FCC reckons that will take a decade, but invites Congress to chuck in "a few billion dollars" to speed things up.

By 2020 the FCC wants to see 100 million US homes connected at a real speed of 50Mb/sec, every school, hospital and government building sporting 1Gb/sec of connectivity, and squads of Digital Literacy Corps (modelled on AmeriCorps) training everyone how to best make use of the internet.

Ideals are much easier to present than details, but we'll have to wait until tomorrow to get the latter. ®

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