The details of the FCC’s national broadband plan are trickling out. The actual plan will be unveiled tomorrow at an FCC open meeting and delivered to Congress on March 17th. The creation of the plan was mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which funded the broadband stimulus program.
The plan will call for a ‘Connect America Fund’ (CAF) which is essentially a universal service fund (USF) for broadband. The Connect America Fund will begin the process of shifting USF away from supporting universal voice access to universal broadband access. We have learned that the CAF will call for minimum broadband downstream speeds of 4 Mbps.
This 4 Mbps threshold is certain to create debate. Some will argue the benchmark is way too low. Others, particularly advocates of broadband wireless, may be more enthusiastic. Early indications suggest the CAF will introduce an element of competition into USF – something that has historically not been present. One thing that isn’t quite clear yet is will ‘carrier of last resort’ apply to the CAF, which will impact those competitive implications?