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In plan to connect the nation to broadband, FCC will be faced with high hurdles

Here's our story on the national broadband plan for the paper today. At the end, I've listed the stand-out proposals:

By Cecilia Kang

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Monday its long-awaited plan to bring broadband Internet connections to every home and business in the United States, part of an ambitious, multibillion-dollar attempt to create a new digital infrastructure for the nation's economy.

The national broadband plan outlines dozens of policy recommendations aimed at raising the portion of people with high-speed Internet connections to 90 percent, from the current 65 percent, over the next decade and significantly increasing the connection speeds of homes with such service.

Mandated by last year's stimulus legislation, the plan will be presented to Congress on Tuesday and is widely expected to set the FCC's agenda for years to come. It would move the FCC squarely into the age of the Internet, creating a federal mandate for installing thousands of miles of new, fiber-optic cable and erecting many cellphone towers.

Many of the FCC's proposals are short on details, and lawmakers and the agency can accept or reject any number of the ideas.

"The real test begins now, and the final grade will depend on the commission's execution of future proceedings that will be required to transform the national broadband plan into reality," said Andrew Schwartzman, president of Media Access Project, a public interest group.

Keep reading here for full story.

Here are some of the proposals as outlined:

- Convert 500 megahertz of spectrum for mobile broadband, 300 megahertz to be used in next five years.

- Of that spectrum, 120 megahertz should come voluntarily from broadcast television band.

- Reform the $8 billion Universal Service Fund to be reallocated for broadband services.

- Expedite proposals on wireless data roaming, allowing customers of regional cellphone carriers to use data networks of national operators.

- A comprehensive review of wholesale competition regulations, including competitive access to local fiber facilities.

- Build and operate an interoperable public safety wireless network, using $12 billion to $18 billion from Congress.

- Bring competition to television set top boxes, which have been largely controlled by cable and satellite service providers. The set top boxes can be a way for television viewers to also access the Internet on their TV sets.

- Collect and analyze data on prices and speeds of broadband offered in different markets -- information that hasn't been collected in small geographies.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 16, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
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