FCC’s eagerly awaited Broadband Plan unveiled today — here’s why it matters

Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is delivering its Broadband Plan to Congress. Most of us in the tech community are anticipating the plan and are eager to read it in its entirety when released.

Within this plan, the FCC has the unenviable task of encapsulating the complexities of the markets, technologies and other countries’ use of broadband as a competitive advantage. It also must look at possible use-cases for broadband (e.g., telemedicine, distance learning), demand for rural use (a market segment seen as horrifically expensive to build out with wired broadband) and determine the possibilities for broadband in total, whether wired or wireless. Ensuring the public good — and that the Internet remains a conduit for innovation and entrepreneurialism — is a vital part of its mission.

In conferences I’ve been to, discussions I’ve had with broadband experts, and interviews I’ve held with Internet-centric startups and entrepreneurs, all are adamant that nothing is more important to Internet innovation and entrepreneurial efforts than ubiquitous and fast broadband (except for startup funding, of course).

But moving from a plan to congressional action in the way of law is another matter entirely.

If you think the health care debate has been heated and lobbying by the insurance industry vitriolic, just wait until the FCC Broadband Plan is released and the telecom and cable companies accelerate efforts to influence Congress and you and me. (I’m certain we’ll hear lots of talking points like “the government is socializing broadband,” “government takeover of the Internet” and cries that spending on broadband infrastructure isn’t warranted since “we have the best broadband in the world.”)

BusinessWeek expects a long haul on the Broadband Plan turning into law:

“…[T]he FCC may face resistance from lawmakers unwilling to approve additional funding and from parts of the communications industry, such as satellite providers, largely left out of the plan. “If it were easy, [this reform] would have been done a long time ago,” said Blair Levin, the Federal Communications Commission official who’s spearheading the National Broadband Plan.”

“Besides asking broadcasters to give up some airwaves, the plan will also propose a nationwide wireless broadband network for use by public safety agencies and urge an overhaul of a federal program that supplies funding for telecommunications carriers which provide phone service in rural areas, FCC officials have said in recent weeks. The plan is also expected to push for the broader adoption of electronic health records and so-called smart grid technologies designed to help consumers and utilities better monitor energy use.”

In his own words, let FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski tell you why broadband matters as he’s grilled by the “Fast Money” folks on CNBC, a group typically focused on short-term quarterly profits and opportunities for incumbent companies vs. having a strategic eye on America’s global competitiveness, the public good or the sorts of infrastructure that creates openings for innovators or entrepreneurs. It will give you a taste of the stakes in this game and why the battles have only just begun:

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