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Planning to Plan

Jeff Baumgartner

5:20 PM -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) served up a report today to outlining how it will help the U.S. develop a rural broadband strategy for areas deemed underserved and unserved.

For all the nitty-gritty detail, you can check out the 80-plus page report here, but boiled down, and to the surprise of no one, the Commission emphasized network "openness" and an agnostic technology approach. That simply means this massive, collaborative effort promises to look at all comers, whether of the wired or wireless persuasion.

"I view this report as a prelude to, and building block for, the national broadband plan, which will address in greater detail and a vastly more complete record the input of all stakeholders and the steps the nation must take to achieve its broadband goals," acting FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps said in a statement released today. (See Copps Touts Rural Broadband Report.)

There's been $7.2 billion set aside for broadband grants, loans, and loan guarantees to be administered by the Agriculture and Commerce Departments. Those funds will be used to ensure that unserved and underserved rural regions have access to glorious broadband.

The FCC, meanwhile, is charged with developing the actual plan itself. It's on the hook to deliver that to Congress by Feb. 17, 2010. Although the decisions aim to be "technology-neutral," the FCC said it will give special consideration to elements such as latency, scalability, security, speeds, pricing, and the technology's ability to stand up to bad weather.

The FCC acknowledged that defining the "state" of rural broadband still needs some work, because it doesn’t have all the reliable data required to truly boil it down.

Congress has adopted legislation to get to the bottom of that. In the meantime, the FCC offers some ballpark figures, pointing to a 2008 Pew Broadband Adoption Study that found that 57 percent to 60 percent of urban and suburban folks had broadband at home, while only 38 percent of them had it in rural areas.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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