ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Observations

Observations


Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Observations HomeAboutContact

FCC reveals additional details of its plan to blanket the country with broadband


Email   PrintPrint



FCC, National Broadband PlanAbout a third of all Americans still lack broadband access to the Internet. At its Digital Inclusion Summit, held Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provided a preview of its upcoming National Broadband Plan (NBP) to provide high-speed Internet access to the estimated 93 million people in the U.S. without it. The plan, mandated by Congress last year as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aims to increase home broadband use to 90 percent of the population by 2020.

The NBP—set to be delivered to Congress on March 17—will recommend a three-part National Digital Literacy Program that includes a Digital Literacy Corps, a one-time investment to bolster the Internet-access capacity of libraries and community centers, and an online skills portal for free, basic digital skills training.

The proposed Digital Literacy Corps is expected to operate much like volunteer civil-service groups AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, mobilizing hundreds of digital ambassadors in local communities across the country, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said at Tuesday’s event. "This is about neighbors helping neighbors get online," she said. "The Corps can target vulnerable communities with below-average adoption rates like low-income housing developments, rural towns, tribal lands, and areas populated primarily by racial and ethnic minorities."

Broadband adoption rates are much lower among people with low incomes, those with disabilities, Hispanics, those living in rural areas, African-Americans and the elderly, according to the FCC’s Broadband Service Capability Survey published in December. The survey, which sampled more than 5,000 U.S. adults, indicated that none of these populations had more than 65 percent of people using broadband. The survey also found that, among the 13 million children between the ages of five and 17 who do not have broadband at home, six million are either Hispanic or African American.

"The number one reason people cite for being offline is cost," Clyburn said. "Some might be in the position of having to choose between paying for basic necessities or paying for broadband, while others might not see the value of broadband relative to other things they could pay for like cable TV." Other significant barriers to broadband adoption include lack of online skills, and lack of understanding about the relevance of broadband applications, with issues for people with disabilities cutting across and beyond those barriers.

A key component of offering cheaper broadband Internet access will be increasing consumers’ options for getting the service. Google has been very active in this area, boasting last month that it’s planning to build and test its own ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the U.S. that will deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than any services offered by cable or phone companies to date. Google will be providing competitive services in those locations, which the company will announce later this year.

During a February meeting about the NBP, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski listed a number of goals for the plan, including the need to equip "every classroom in every school in America" with a broadband connection capable of online learning and remote tutoring. Genachowski said the plan should also provide "every job seeker in America" with access to online job postings and online job training through a high-speed connection at the local public library or other community institution. Other goals of the NBP should include a strategy for giving "every hospital, clinic, and first responder in America" a broadband connection that medical staff can use to send and receive images and records, ensuring every home in U.S. has access to the smart grid, and offering government data and services online, the chairman said.

The FCC will hold an open commission meeting on March 16 during which it will present the formal NBP, one day before it’s sent to Congress.

Image ©iStockphoto.com/ muratsen

Tags: ,





Rights & Permissions

Comments 11 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. hotblack 3:47 pm 03/10/2010

    Great, more junk to rip up the countryside with. What is this, 1949?

    Satellite and ground array!

    Link to this
  2. 2. JamesDavis 4:02 pm 03/10/2010

    This is great! West Virginia is one of the states in the US that does not have broadband of any kind. The Governor, Joe Manchin, and Verizon telephone service will not allow it to come into the state. They said, behind their "closed door" meeting that leaked out to the media, "We can build DSL up a little bit at a time over a couple of decades and save the state and your phone service a lot of money. These people do not know how to use the Internet any how…they can’t tell DSL from dial-up if it hit them right in the face. They probably think "broadband" is the width of their pant’s belt."

    Link to this
  3. 3. jtdwyer 6:22 pm 03/10/2010

    JamesDavis – Wow! What a story! Sounds like as story from 100 years ago. Sounds like your governor & others need to be investigated for dirty deals. You might want to check with the FCC or your Congressional rep. (if they’re not in on it)…

    Link to this
  4. 4. jtdwyer 6:52 pm 03/10/2010

    Let’s not be confused: the government will not be paying for the underprivileged to receive broadband – it will be paid for by the taxpayers.

    Link to this
  5. 5. CArthurLane 3:27 am 03/11/2010

    Just to be in some sense inciting of certain facts that seem to go widely overlooked… is that the internet is a gold mine of commerce waiting to be utilized and distributed with our new nuance of ‘digital revenue’. Why wouldn’t we want more broadband when it could pay itself off in no time? And how will this benefit our government if it was able to recreate the Tennessee Valley Association in the ‘other’ great depression? With resources like these waiting to explode in the market, I really with a sincere heart believe that if we take on the same political direction as FDR did, and allow for an equal economy that there will be wonders waiting at the end of the road for us.

    Link to this
  6. 6. JamesDavis 7:34 am 03/11/2010

    jtdwyer: West Virginia is farther back-dated than a 100 years. They have been kept in the dark so long that some believe it is 1810. The government and the media, whom both are bought and paid for by big coal and natural gas do not want anything interfering or competing with the dollars these fossil fuel companys are stuffing in their pockets. Massey Energy, the coal company, stuffed two million dollars in (D)Governor Joe Manchin’s pocket for his 2008 campaign and almost the same amount in (R)Senator Shelly More Capito’s pocket for her campaign. Both of these people are pro coal and campaigning against the health care bill because if the bill passes, these fossil fuel companys may be investigated for causing the greatest majority of disease and illnesses in the state. Most of the people in the state know that the government takes bribes from businesses and is dealing in underhanded activities, but there is no one outside the state interested enough in a poor, dirty little state like West Virginia to do anything about it. That movie, "Wrong Turn 2"; our streams are actually that polluted by big coal and natural gas. People cry out for help to battle this corrupt government but the feds don’t hear them or want to hear them. In the state, coal and natural gas are running commericals saying that the Obama administration is on their side like Bush was. Most of the people do not believe that is true, but that is as far as they can get. Some day this state may move into the 21st Century.

    Link to this
  7. 7. jtdwyer 10:02 am 03/11/2010

    JamesDavis – Of course – regional/local special interests. It’s about the same all over, just different. Good luck with it!

    Link to this
  8. 8. Soccerdad 10:11 am 03/11/2010

    No broadband access available in West Virginia? I think Mr. Davis is blowing a bit of coal fired smoke here. I know people in WV who have broadband access at home. Perhaps access has not yet reached his flattened mountain top area.

    Anyway, why is it the government’s role to provide broadband access to those who don’t currently have it? It seems most have the opportunity, but chose not to because of cost. What’s next, do we need to provide newer, safer cars to those who cannot afford them? Give me a break.

    Link to this
  9. 9. jtdwyer 10:27 am 03/11/2010

    Soccerdad – I know you know this: the government will not be paying for the underprivileged to receive broadband – it will be paid for by us taxpayers.

    Aside from those who do not pay for broadband (like cable) due to cost, in many areas it may not offered by regional telecomm because of issues with terrain/cost of land lines vs. potential revenue, but I think it’s available everywhere via VSAT service providers.

    I wonder if we, the taxpayers, will be paying for every last mile of terrestrial telecomm to every campground in the nation? Just to be fair & all. Lots of cabins in Alaska.

    Link to this
  10. 10. sethdayal 11:48 am 03/11/2010

    The simple answer for the FCC is to reregulate the telecom Pirates or move the business to a public utility. It costs Big Telecom at tiny fraction of your bill to deliver bandwidth.

    Using public power infrastucture, a dirt cheap fiber to the block network could be installed in every city, town and village with wireless N 2/5 Ghz access points at each block node. From that block node, signal can be distributed via 1 GigE copper to most subscribers and fiber to the rare more distant ones.

    As a bonus for public power, the small incremental cost of the high speed network over the low speed smart meter net power companies are planning, pays for the whole network for a extra few dollars a month per subscriber.

    Television and telephone are now available via the internet.

    Portable users or folks who can’t afford a wired connection can connect at 100+ Mbps with WiFi.

    With few economies of scale, small and large networks are cheap. The cost would be trivial for a public power utility planning smart meters.

    Big Telecom makes 3000% profits on broadband with their ancient antiquated equipment. They could cut their fees to 3%of current level – $1 a month ADSL – and still make money Lots of room for a nonprofit to provide a service at for a few bucks a month. Google wired time warner cab for more.

    Unfortunately politicians love those Big Telecom campaign donations. I wish for once could they could put their oath to serve the voter ahead of big money.

    Link to this
  11. 11. Steve D 3:15 pm 03/11/2010

    I’m all for public broadband, but what we urgently need is public servers. Store meritorious material so that if the creator dies or retires the material isn’t lost.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American MIND iPad

Give a Gift & Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now >>

X

Email this Article

X