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FCC Charged With Drafting Broadband Grand Plan

By: John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

The FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which already have a big job ahead of them dealing with the DTV transition, are getting new broadband marching orders per the economic stimulus package.

The FCC will be charged with coming up with a plan, within a year, for getting broadband to everyone in the country, including benchmarks for reaching that goal. The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) will be charged with handing out billions in grant money, with help from the FCC.

That's according to a copy of the broadband section of the bill obtained by B&C.

As part of the FCC's comprehensive broadband plan, it must provide an analysis of (1) "the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access by all people of the United States"; (2) "a detailed strategy for achieving affordability of such service and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and service by the public"; (3) "an evaluation of the status of deployment of broadband service, including progress of projects supported by the grants made pursuant to this section"; and (4) "a plan for use by homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes."

The bill also says that the head of the NTIA must publish the nondiscrimination and network interconnection obligations, which will be part of the contractual obligation of obtaining the $6.5 billion in grant money for rolling out broadband to un-served and underserved areas.

Those conditions, says the bill, must include, at a minimum, adherence to the principles contained in the Commission's broadband policy statement of August 2005.

That statement, which consists of four basic principles, is as follows: (1) consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice; (2) consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; (3) consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and (4) consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers."

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) has said his committee would work to insure that those conditions do not discourage the industry from applying for grants.



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