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Thursday, April 9, 2009

FCC National Broadband Plan: A "Transformative" Process Launched with NOI Release

StimulatingBroadband.com 04/09/09 The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today released its formal Notice of Inquiry (NOI) which legally opens the public comment period for its effort to frame a National Broadband Plan. The release today by Commission staff of the 59 page NOI follows by one day the meeting of the Commission itself during which the 3 current Commissioners unanimously voted to launch the Plan process.

Drafting, promulgation, and delivery to two Committees of Congress of the Plan by the FCC is mandated by the broadband stimulus section of the federal stimulus bill signed by President Obama on February 17, 2009. Since passage of the bill,
formally called the American Recovery and Renewal Act of 2009 (ARRA), most info tech analysts and reporters have focused on the bill's total $7.2 Billion appropriations for broadband stimulus grant and loan programs.

Analysts and the telecom industry as whole however should note that FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps characterized the FCC's National Broadband Plan as potentially "..the most formative - indeed transformative - proceeding ever in the Commission's history." For a public agency that set the rules for the massive "transformations" in the telecom industry over the past 25 years since Divestiture was mandated by the federal courts in 1984, that is a tall order indeed. For those of us that have preached the economic benefits of broadband over almost as many years, a true governmental and regulatory transformation that finally captures the economic promise of ubiquitous broadband can't happen soon enough.

All three sitting Commissioners yesterday continuously referenced the "cross cutting" and multidisciplinary vision for FCC work slated for the Plan. The NOI reflects that vision as it calls for public input on "Specific Policy Goals" of the Plan as mandated by the ARRA, and touching on: consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, and job creation and economic growth. All of this is outlined over 41 paragraphs of the NOI, before the document begins to solicit input on "Other National Purposes" including global competitiveness, "...online child predators, cyberbullying.." and "..novel issues unique to the Internet, like the potential privacy, economic, homeland security, and other issues associated with cloud computing."

The NOI launches a 60 day public comment period, closing off on June 8, 2009, and a follow-on reply comment period with a deadline of July 7, 2009. The National Broadband Plan proceeding will be conducted under GN Docket No. 09-51.

The FCC NOI is available as a free download (.PDF) here. Statements by Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, and McDowell are available here.

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