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FCC Seeks 1-Gig Speeds at 'Anchor Institutions'

It appears that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s plan to test 1-Gbit/s speeds did indeed grab the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's attention as it cobbled together a draft of its National Broadband Plan.

The FCC sent the plan to Congress today, and on the list of to-dos is to offer "at least 1 gigabit per second at anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and military installations," and to do so using "affordable access." (See FCC Sends Broadband Plan to Congress.)

That suggestion/goal comes about one month after Google announced plans to partner up with municipalities on experimental, "open" 1-Gig-capable fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks. Google intends to conduct those tests on networks serving as many as 500,000 users. (See Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH, My Town Wants Google 1-Gig! , Google's Gigabit Fiber Fantasy, and Google's Pointy Stick .)

The FCC, which is delivering the National Broadband Plan about a month later than originally expected, is scheduled to present the finer points tomorrow morning during an open session. However, it has already released an outline of that Plan as well as a more detailed executive summary that spells out some competition policies, allocation of government-owned or "influenced" assets (like wireless spectrum and infrastructure), and "incentives" that aim to goose consumer broadband adoption. (See FCC Delays National Broadband Plan and FCC Boots Up National Broadband Plan .)

As expected, the initial broadband "action plan" described today does include a goal to deliver 100-Mbit/s services to 100 million households by 2020 -- something FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called his "100 Squared" initiative last month. However, FCC further clarified today that the speed goal is 100 Mbit/s downstream and 50 Mbit/s upstream.

Also, as expected, the FCC hopes to free up 500MHz of wireless spectrum for licensed and unlicensed use. (See FCC Chair Sets 2020 Broadband Vision .)

Nothing disclosed about the Plan so far refers to any specific, new suggestions on how video devices might help to drive broadband adoption. The executive summary, however, does note that the FCC will look to "change rules to ensure a competitive and innovative video set-top box market," but did not say how it might go about that. Earlier reports suggested that the FCC might recommend the development of a broadband-fueled, cross-industry über gateway device. (See FCC Chair Sets 2020 Broadband Vision , Cable's Seven-Fold Path, Whither the CableCARD?, and The Set-Top Mess .)

The 2020 goals
Including the 100-Meg, wireless spectrum and 1-Gig pledges, here are the seven goals and recommendations (unabridged) that the FCC outlined today and intends to hit by 2020:


  • Connect 100 million households to affordable 100-megabits-per-second service, building the world's largest market of high-speed broadband users and ensuring that new jobs and businesses are created in America.
  • Affordable access in every American community to ultra-high-speed broadband of at least 1 gigabit per second at anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and military installations so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow's ideas and industries.
  • Ensure that the United States is leading the world in mobile innovation by making 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for licensed and unlicensed use.
  • Move our adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and make sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school.
  • Bring affordable broadband to rural communities, schools, libraries, and vulnerable populations by transitioning existing Universal Service Fund support from yesterday’s analog technologies to tomorrow’s digital infrastructure.
  • Promote competition across the broadband ecosystem by ensuring greater transparency, removing barriers to entry, and conducting market-based analysis with quality data on price, speed, and availability.
  • Enhance the safety of the American people by providing every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.


The FCC is presenting the plan amid research indicating that 100 million Americans lack access to broadband at home, while 14 million don't have access to it even if they want it. The FCC noted that info for the Plan was distilled from 75,000 pages of public comments collected via 36 public workshops, nine field hearings, and 31 public notices.

"The plan is in beta, and always will be," the FCC notes in the executive summary, suggesting that everything in it is subject to change.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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