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In an unexpected move destined to gladden the hearts of Jenny Craig, Richard Simmons, Michelle Obama, and anti-obesity advocates everywhere, the FCC has announced that it is “eliminat[ing] from usage in any regulatory context” the term “broadband”.  According to the Commission’s public notice, this change is effective immediately. The Commission is issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at identifying “suitable alternative terminology” to replace the objectionable term. In the meantime, the FCC– and, presumably, anyone doing business with the FCC– will use the ideogram “band” to denote that which, until today, was called “broadband”. 


The move is the result of the final release of what is now referred to as the National band Plan (NP) last month. In the NP, the term band appeared no fewer than 2,500 times. Each of those references was at a minimum approbatory, while many went much farther, ascribing essentially miraculous powers to the concept of band. That was not an accident: the Commission had been singing the praises of band for months in the run-up to the release of the NP. 

But the relentless repetition had a subliminal effect. The accumulation of thousands of overwhelmingly positive, governmentally-backed references to band appeared to place an “emphatic imprimatur” on that which is “broad”, thereby encouraging the perception that, as a matter of official governmental policy, “bigger is better [and] size invariably matters in a positive sense.” That impression runs directly counter to the efforts – of the Commission and the rest of the Federal government – to combat the increasing incidence of obesity nationwide.

Torn between two policies, the Commission has taken a bold step in favor of its anti-obesity campaign, even though doing so creates immense practical problems.

The substitution of band (and whatever alternative to that ideogram the Commission might eventually adopt) involves not only going-forward uses, but past uses as well. That is, the FCC has already commenced the process of “excising” the Word Formerly Spelled “Broadband” from all Commission materials. Evidence of that process is apparent in this screen grab of the Commission’s NP website taken on April 1:

According to the FCC, the effort to excise the now-abandoned term from all digital materials (including, but not limited to, the Commission’s website) is being handled by the NP Task Force, and is expected to be completed “before the third quarter of FY 2011”. After that, the staff will turn its attention to printed copies of the NP and related items, using X-acto® knives to physically remove each reference to the “B-Word”.  No anticipated time frame for completion of that phase of the project was announced.

Commissioners Clyburn and Baker concurred separately in the action, noting that certain “insensitive gender-based usage” could also be associated with the original form of band.