If It's Tuesday, It Must Be the National Broadband Plan–If Your Connection Isn't Too Slow, You Can Tune In Online

Published on March 11, 2010
by Kara Swisher

Finally, after much advance leakage, the Federal Communications Commission will unveil its National Broadband Plan on Tuesday, March 16.

The two key questions about the effort to get the United States up to speed, so to speak, with decent digital access: Will it be toothless or not and will there be any money to pay for it, given the cash-strapped federal government?

A possible highlight of the plan concerns whether spectrum should be allocated for a free or inexpensive high-speed wireless service. It was a notion mentioned by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at a meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this week.

This is not an idea that telecom providers have warmed to in the past, of course, since they so enjoy sticking it to consumers with spotty service and high prices.

And if the report proposes the restoration of some regulations lifted in the previous Republican administration, you can be sure the Prada-wearing political lobbyist brigade will be at the ready.

What the FCC opus will surely point out is the obvious: The U.S. needs high-speed access to improve dramatically across the nation, especially for poorer citizens and in rural areas.

As BoomTown and many others have pointed out many times, our high prices and low speed make the U.S. the laughingstock of the digital world.

And the federal government’s lack of attention to the one innovative arena this nation shines in–tech–is appalling.

The plan will be the first big move by Genachowski, the longtime Internet exec who will appear as a speaker at the eighth D: All Things Digital conference in June.

One certainty about the latest plan: It will be a long document of hundreds of pages, so save some trees and get it online here at the aptly named site.

In fact, the FCC open commission meeting, where the plan is being unveiled at 10:30 am ET on March 16, will be streaming live on the Web at the site.

A recent FCC report noted that two-thirds of consumers in the U.S. have some sort of broadband connection. On average, they pay $41 for this sometimes dubious privilege.

Incredibly, six percent of Americans still use dial-up access and four percent have no broadband at home at all.

Not surprisingly, poor people access the Web a lot less, although longtime gaps among races are closing, with African-Americans and Hispanics gaining in access and usage.

So whatever the FCC proposes, at least it will shine a light on this critical issue.

And a new plan is better than none at all–I think–so let’s see what’s what on Tuesday.

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