Policy Watch: Drafting a Broadband Plan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) roughs out its big broadband plan, Seattle dreams of Googly 1-Gigabit/s connections, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) 's top dog gives his view of the search giant's fiberlicious experiment, and the government shells out a few more broadband bucks. Here's a roundup of recent news making it through the policy mill:

  • The FCC still has about another month to present its National Broadband Plan to Congress, but on Thursday the Commission served up a draft of sorts that outlines the plan's "key national priorities." (See FCC Delays National Broadband Plan.)

    The "working recommendations" report is really more of a slideshow that goes on for 56 pages, but it identifies several areas that the FCC thinks can use the "innovative force of broadband": healthcare, education, energy and the environment, government, public safety and homeland security, job training, and small businesses.

    The plan also proposes the use of federal buildings as anchors for broadband services.

    Missing so far are the competitive aspects of the plan, or some hard numbers such as those that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recently offered with the so-called "100 Squared" initiative, which looks to deliver 100-Mbit/s services to 100 million households as part of a grander "2020 vision" for broadband. (See FCC Chair Sets 2020 Broadband Vision .)

  • On Thursday, the FCC also voted in favor of several procedural changes, including a tightening of ex parte rules that aim to provide much more transparency.

    Among the changes, ex parte filings must describe in more detail what happened during meetings between third parties and the Commission, going as far as providing access to any presentations or reference materials used during those hook-ups.

    Presentations? Like what? This recent filing by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) related to the FCC's request on how it can help with video device "innovation" offers a good example -- it attaches a seven-page slideshow that covers the FiOS TV infrastructure.

  • The city of Seattle wants in on the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) fiber experiment, a move that will certainly grab the attention of incumbents such as Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), and Broadstripe . (See Google Jumps Into Gigabit FTTH.)

    Seattle Mayor McGinn said the city will "actively seek to partner with Google," which plans to put experimental fiber-fed networks in front of as many as 500,000 homes.

    Google told The Seattle Times that more than a dozen cities have already applied to join the fiber fun.

  • NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow weighed in on Google's coming 1-Gbit/s project, calling it a "great experiment" during an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series.

    He also replayed the original NCTA position that the experiment doesn't pose much of a threat to cable, questioning whether Google will follow through on anything for the long term, pointing specifically at Google's decision not to bid on 700MHz spectrum.

    The full interview with McSlarrow is available here.

  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) greenlighted several more projects linked to the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program.

    The USDA announced Wednesday that it is doling out $277 million to fund 11 more projects. The NTIA awarded $357 million more to help fund 10 other broadband projects.

    And cable even got a little taste of the USDA batch. Allen's TV Cable Service Inc. got a $3.5 million loan and a $3.5 million grant to fund a fiber-to-the-premises extension in three South Louisiana parishes.

    Also this week, both government agencies opened up the second filing window for broadband project applications.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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