FCC Pushes For Universally Accessible Nationwide Wireless

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News Posted: Wed, Mar 10 2010 4:50 PM
Earlier this week we covered the news that nearly 80 percent of all Internet users worldwide feel that Internet access is a right. In a week, the FCC will present its specific plan for bringing broadband Internet to the estimated 35 percent of Americans who currently either don't have or can't get such service. A new brief discussing the organizations general thoughts is now available and if it's anything to go by, certain provisions the FCC wants to recommend will face stiff opposition from telecommunication companies.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski believes it's essential to extend universal broadband across the US. In order to ensure long term American competitiveness and prosperity, we must not leave one-third of the nation behind," Genachowski said. "The National Broadband Plan provides a vision for federal, state and local leadership and partnerships with the private and nonprofit communities that will bridge the digital divide and transform America into a nation where broadband expands opportunities for all."

The FCC will recommend improving digital literacy for all Americans by publicly funding a "Digital Library Corps" to conduct skill training and outreach in communities with low broadband adoption rates. In addition, it wants to expand existing training and opportunities in the library system and create an online "skill" portfolio that trains students and adults in unspecified concepts (think online college courses, we suppose). None of these proposals are particularly controversial; it's the FCC's ideas for making broadband affordable that will likely come under fire.

The Federal Communications Commission will recommend expanding existing FCC programs that already help indigent residents pay for telephone service and plans to advocate for the creation of a "free or very low cost wireless broadband service." Said broadband service would use a specific band of the spectrum set aside for this purpose. It's assumed that the current owners of this space would 'voluntarily' make it available for use through some sort of partnership with the US government but the details of how to make this happen are glossed over.

Crazy Idea or Business As Usual

There's a certain group of people who will instinctively dismiss the idea that broadband is a "right" that should ever be available for free or at heavily subsidized cost but there's a certain degree of historical precedent. Once upon the 1920s radio was a high-end luxury, a brand new technology and curiosity that only the wealthiest could afford. By 1931 40 percent of US households owned a radio, by 1939, 80 percent of them did. Television adoption followed a similar curve. RCA demonstrated the TV publicly at the World's Fair in 1939. 30 years later, virtually every American family owned a TV (though not all of them were color).

Internet adoption has grown the same way and the financial barriers to entry have dropped even faster than was the case with TV or radio. Granted, we don't speak of television as a right, but the government's distribution of digital set-top box coupons this past summer is just one example of how television is no longer considered a luxury but a basic necessity. Even if Congress doesn't jump on the FCC's current set of recommendations the question of broad government sponsorship and the creation of an overarching system may be less an "if" and more a "when."
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rapid1 replied on Wed, Mar 10 2010 5:35 PM

I personally have been asking why they don't do this for a while. Ever since the internet connectivity nationwide in the US cam into political question. I imagine unless it is at least done in 4G it won't be as fast as a DSL connection, but it will still be there nationwide. It just seems to me to be the best option for the money and universal US connections.

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la_guy_10 replied on Wed, Mar 10 2010 8:19 PM

I thought Intel was working to bring WiMax out and this was to solve this problem for people in urban areas as WiMax has a much broader range.

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realneil replied on Thu, Mar 11 2010 9:18 AM

Opposition from broadband companies will stifle this effort and make it nil.

Uncle Sugar just doesn't have the power to go against 'Big Business' anymore. We all know that they own too many politicians in this day and age. Government is a hobbled joke.

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Drago replied on Thu, Mar 11 2010 10:17 AM

Till the gov does something to make it an incentive to put broadband access available in rural areas, that 35% is going to stay that way. Where i live Verizon owns the phone lines, meaning no one but them can give local phone service. Since there is no cable out here period, DSL is the only way to get broadband speed from the phone company. So instead of spending money to get dsl out here, they can do nothing, charge 25 bucks for a basic phone line, and 15 bucks for dialup. Since most people that do lots of internet usage and still want to receive phone calls since cell phone service is hit or miss by miles out here, they get a second line. So at the very least, Verizon can rake in $50 for 60+ year old phone lines that have long since been paid for, rather than pony up the cost to bring dsl out and then wait to get a return on their investment.

The gov has had grants in place that any company can use to get money to fund rural broadband initiatives, but since Verizon owns the phone lines, a company doing this would have to have an agreement to use Verizon's lines to carry a broadband signal. Rest assured Verizon doesnt want competition and will make the price so high that service will not be any cheaper than satellite internet which basically screws the consumers.

Businesses first and foremost will do whatever it takes to make a profit. What they do after that is their choice since it is their money. If they dont wish to expand into a rural area for broadband, they dont have to since it will effect their bottom line quite a bit. Till a new tech comes out that kicks the crap out of dsl and cable, is cheaper, and can reach anyone, or some gov mandates that something gets done, nothing will change.

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it will never happen, and if it does i bet it will be much like the radio as above. sure its free, but you have to sit through 15min of commercials ever hr or so. So to will the the free internet. you can use it for 45 min then it will give you 15 min of add to sift through or watch... nothing is free.

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Do you guys think that the FCC is pushing this so they can just have control over the internet? It's really the only reason that I could think of them doing this. 

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Joel H replied on Fri, Mar 12 2010 11:17 AM

Marius,

Wait. Seriously, wait a moment. Over the past 150 years both the individual states and the federal government have supported, regulated, and sometimes funded the construction of a number of mass transit / mass communication platforms including:

Railroads

Telegraph wires.

Power lines.

Phone lines

Radio coverage

Highways

TV coverage

And now, possibly, the Internet. (I'm unsure to what degree the federal and state governments have supported cellular buildouts).

Does the government "control" the phone lines, the TV stations, or the highway system?

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Maybe I'm using the word "control" too loosely. I made the connection of how the FCC control what goes on the TV. I figured, that if they provide this wireless internet access to those who currently don't have it, that the FCC will also want to regulate what websites they can visit and the content that they can view.

It probably doesn't matter though, especially if we consider what Drago said in his post.

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Well the government has already given a LOT of money to build out internet access. I honestly wouldn't mind them being in control if it actually got rolled out.

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