The FCC's much ballyhooed National Broadband Plan (NBP) was finally announced on March 16 after weeks of titillating leaks from the Commissioners and staff about what was in the plan. By any measure, the NBP is an ambitious and far-reaching initiative which places the advent of broadband somewhere between the invention of fire and the Second Coming on the scale of human historical importance. With the postings immediately below, we start a series of blogs on various aspects of American life which the FCC expects will be improved by broadband access. (Check back for additional such posts in the future.) With Commissioner Tate's departure from the Commission, there is, sadly, no analysis of how broadband can fight obesity, but that is about the only facet of life that is not potentially touched by broadband. We address the various thematic elements of the Plan with a view toward assessing where there may be risks and opportunities for the constituencies involved.
To be sure, the NBP was an enormous undertaking, and the FCC is justly to be commended for completing it in record time – to the extent it has not already repeatedly commended itself. The NBP makes findings and bold recommendations in such areas as jobs, telemedicine, healthcare, energy, public policy, and other areas of commerce that will be affected by broadband – with telecommunications being a means to those ends. While this was all part of the FCC's broad commission from Congress, we and the Commission are now left to sort out how these worthy goals are to be accomplished.
The NBP is not a proposal per se. It is not even a blueprint. It is more of a "things to do" list. Scores of actual notices of proposed rulemaking are in the works to implement certain aspects of the plan are that are within the Commission's jurisdiction. But many important aspects of the plan require new legislation to change existing law, action by other independent states or federal agencies, or even new treaties with foreign countries. The FCC can only advise as to those actions. In this respect, it would have been very useful for the Commission to explicitly identify those elements which it plans to implement on its own authority and those which require action by others. An undertaking of this magnitude requires a clear division of labor, with all parties having clear marching orders. If the NBP is to have as dramatic an impact as it could, there must be buy-in to the Plan by a broad range of regulators and legislators. Unfortunately, the Plan is a stirring call to action on pages 1-7, but by page 338, the reader is less likely to be aroused than to be asleep.
None of this is to disparage the Plan. It is full of useful insights and information, and we recommend it to everyone. We also recommend that interested readers review the topical treatments posted below.
[Blogmeister note: This is one in a series of posts describing the range of regulatory and societal areas in which the National Broadband Plan could, and likely will, affect us all. Click here to find other posts in this series.]