The National Broadband Plan

from Susan Crawford

In “Why Obama is In the Lead on High-Speed Internet Access Policy,” I implied that things had dramatically changed in national telecommunications policy since the release of the National Broadband Plan in March 2010.

I don’t want to leave the impression that the National Broadband Plan was anything other than extraordinary. It represented the culmination of an extraordinary effort in an extraordinarily compressed period of time carried out by an extraordinary team that was ably led by Blair Levin, the well-known telecommunications expert who is now spearheading the important Gig.U initiative in cities across the U.S.

Blair’s team always said the Plan was in “beta” and that the record they had created would (as the Introduction said) “guide the path forward through the rulemaking process at the FCC, in Congress and across the Executive Branch, as all consider how best to implement the plan’s recommendations.”

There is a great deal in the Plan – it is almost 400 pages long – and it has in fact informed a host of crucial policy efforts at the national level.

It made key recommendations, some of which have not yet been followed. That was not the fault of the Plan, of course.

For example, the Plan recommended that fine-grained, detailed information about pricing and competition for high-speed Internet access be published, that the video set-top box market be opened up (as Section 629 of the Telecommunications Act requires), and that Congress make clear that local public entities may make high-speed Internet access available. None of this has happened.

On the other hand, many of the Plan’s spectrum-related suggestions have been attempted or implemented. It recommended, for example, that 500 additional MHz of spectrum be made available for commercial high-speed data use, that incentive-based auctions for spectrum be considered, and that opportunistic use of spectrum be considered. Since the time of the Plan’s publication, much of this has happened or been tried.

More here.

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