The FCC has released its Congressional mandated Rural Broadband Strategy report. The 2008 Farm Bill required the FCC Chair, in coordination with the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a report “describing a comprehensive rural broadband strategy” for the nation. According to the statute, the report must include recommendations for:
- improving interagency coordination of broadband policies and initiatives;
- assessing broadband needs in rural areas;
- how specific federal agency programs and resources can overcome the obstacles that currently impede rural broadband deployment
Quite a tall order. This action was mandated prior to the arrival of the broadband stimulus program and its respective mandates, which also directs the FCC to develop a National Broadband Plan. Confused? Unfortunately, the very nature of the federal government combined with the enormous task of bringing broadband to all parts of the country brings about a somewhat convoluted process.
The report was just issued today and is eighty-three pages long, so there is a lot to digest. Consequently, due to the timing of this post, we can’t provide a comprehensive synopsis of the plan, but do offer the following insights:
- Chairman Copps alludes to the timing of this mandate relative to the subsequent National Broadband Plan mandate, and appears to be ‘punting’ on a lot of specifics for this current plan. He suggests the more comprehensive national plan will provide more detail.
- In what could be interpreted as a lowering of expectations strategy, Chairman Copps alludes to the broadband stimulus program frequently, suggesting that “Congress recognized that this funding initiative, though substantial, was still just a down payment on the broadband needs of the country, and that even after this money has been invested, many Americans,including those residing in rural areas, will continue to lack access to critical broadband services.”
- Commenting on the technology and networking approaches for rural broadband, the report states that rural networks “should be designed on principles of durability, reliability, openness, scalability, and interoperability so that they can evolve over time to keep pace with the growing array of transformational applications and services that are increasingly available to consumers and businesses in other parts of the country.”
- Chairman Copps outlines his support for universal service playing a role all of these broadband initiatives, stating “I have long held the view that it is time for universal service to meet the communications challenge of the 21st century broadband deployment—just as it did the communications challenge of the 20th century—telephone service.” We’ll have to see if incoming FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski shares this view.
Stay tuned – more to come.