FCC Delivers National Broadband Plan to Congress

The Federal Communications Commission formally submitted its ambitious National Broadband Plan to Congress on Tuesday, a proposal it clams it will move Americans into the 21st century of connectivity.

Under the plan, the FCC aims to deliver beefed up and inexpensive Internet connections to every community in America, and to make broadband available to every home.

"It's an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the challenges of global competitiveness, and harness the power of broadband to help address so many vital national issues," Julius Genachowski, FCC chairman, said in a statement.

In announcing its plan, the FCC noted that approximately 100 million Americans lack broadband in their homes and that 14 million Americans would not be able to access the service even if they desired it.

Among other specific goals, by 2020, the plan calls for:

  • Connecting 100 million households to an affordable broadband service of 100 megabits per second.

  • Ensuring every American household that wants broadband the ability to subscribe to it.

  • Providing 1 gigabit per second service to institutions, such as schools, hospitals and military installations, a goal which is intended to foster new ideas and innovation.

  • Offering 500 megahertz of spectrum for both licensed and unlicensed use, in a move to drive mobile innovation.

  • Raising national broadband adoption rates to 90% from 65%.

  • Ensuring every American student is digitally literate before he or she leaves high school.

  • Delivering broadband service to rural communities, schools and libraries by transferring revenues from the Universal Service Fund, which has subsidized analog service, to support digital technology.

  • Providing fire, police and other first-responders with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.

However, concerns exist about the plan: When it was unveiled on Monday, industry players questioned the government's ability to execute on the FCC proposal.

The National Association of Broadcasters, for example, expressed concerns about the potential cost to their members, despite assurances by the FCC that broadcasters would receive financial incentives to give up part of their coveted spectrum.

And should the government begin offering a subsidized or free broadband service to the nation's under-served communities, there are concerns that it could cut into existing business for the established operators. Comcast (CMCSA), Dish Network (DISH) and DirecTV (DTV) stocks were all down slightly in early afternoon trading Tuesday, while the broader markets advanced.