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FCC broadband plan to reach all U.S. homes by 2020 without more money

The Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming national broadband plan won’t require additional funding from Congress to achieve its goal of bringing high-speed Internet access to all U.S. homes by 2020, according to sources familiar with the the agency's proposal.

But if lawmakers want to achieve universal broadband access any sooner than 2020, then the agency is expected to recommend that Congress pour more money into the Universal Service Fund, the sources said.

Those recommendations are expected to be included in a plan aimed at achieving President Obama’s goal of establishing universal broadband access. The FCC’s plan is scheduled to be presented by the agency to Congress in two weeks. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the FCC’s proposal has not yet been made public.

Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he would recommend that lawmakers set aside $12 billion to $16 billion for building, operating and upgrading a wireless public safety network for emergency responders over the next ten years.

During an interview at the Post on Tuesday, Genachowski said that he plans to stay in office for the duration of his five-year term to see through the implementation of some of the policies set forth in the plan. He said he believes the broadband plan will create a roadmap for a new innovation economy built off of the Web.

Reforming the Universal Service Fund for broaband services could begin by 2012. That fund, at around $8 billion a year, would be the main source of funding to support deployment of affordable broadband to the 4 percent of U.S. homes that don't already have access to high-speed Internet.

“It is very important for us to focus on what the big issues really are – that the U.S. seizes this opportunity to be globally competitive in broadband,” he said.

Genachowski said the plan would include measures to increase competition among broadband providers. He declined to say whether that would mean caps on the amount of spectrum that the biggest wireless carriers could buy in auctions. The FCC plans to free about 500 megahertz of spectrum, including over-the-air broadcast airwaves, for mobile broadband.

The plan is expected to include protections for consumers, including the requirement that companies publish a data chart on speeds and prices similar to food nutrition labels. Such labeling would make it easier to hold broadband service providers accountable for what they advertise and help consumers compare services offered by competitors, according to sources.

But sources said the agency won’t follow the suggestion of a Harvard Law School report to include a provision requiring broadband service providers to open their lines to access by other companies offering competitive services.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 3, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Broadband , FCC  
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Isn't the USF fund paid for by a fee on consumers phone bills, not through Congressional appropriations? So the FCC wants to increase the size of USF through higher costs on consumers?

Posted by: thais1 | March 3, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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