FCC Seeks To Improve U.S. Broadband Access

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is working on a plan to solve the problem of nationwide access to high-speed Internet service.

The three main issues the agency is tackling first are, figuring out how to improve availability, quality and affordability, according to the Washington Post. Acting FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps held a meeting this week where he asked the public to comment on the national broadband plan, which Congress has demanded be done by February.

The public has 60 days to submit comments; the agency and members of the public will be able to reply to comments for an additional 30 days after that.

Copps said that, beyond debates on technologies, the FCC would look at coming up with standards for speed and guidelines for what places are most in need of high-speed Internet service. The agency would also focus on demand issues, such as why more than three times as many people in urban areas are not connecting to high-speed Internet service compared with those in rural areas.

The answer to the latter may have been answered, at least in part, in a survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Price accounts for a lot of the people not connecting to high-speed Internet. And there are a not insignificant number of people who claim they don't want to get on the Internet at all, whether they can get high-speed access or not.

The telecommunications lobby and public interest groups already are chiming in, with some saying a planned "$7 billion federal phone subsidy program for rural areas should instead be used for broadband." Another $7.2 billion is in the stimulus package for broadband development, primarily in rural areas.  Copps may be in the driver's seat for the moment, but President Obama's nominee for FCC chief is Julius Genachowski, who once served as chief counsel to the FCC chairman before moving into the private sector.

To find out how to comment on the plan, read page 41 of the FCC's PDF document, which you can download by clicking here. (It's on page 42 of the Microsoft Word document, which you can download here.)