FCC releases national broadband plan
The FCC last night released its much-anticipated broadband plan, which includes recommendations for the buildout of a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety and a funding mechanism to pay for ongoing costs associated with that network.
Despite public-safety officials’ repeated calls for the FCC to recommend reallocation of the 700 MHz D Block for first-responder use, the plan calls for the auction of the 10 MHz of spectrum to commercial operators as part of the agency’s schedule to make 300 MHz of spectrum below 3.7 GHz available during the next five years. The D Block winner would be required to be “technically compatible” with public safety’s broadband initiative using LTE and would have to provide first responders with roaming and priority access on its network.
In terms of funding, the plan calls for Congress to provide as much as $6.5 billion during the next 10 years to cover capital expenditures expected to be necessary to provide 99% population coverage. In addition, the plan estimates that operating costs for the network will be $1.3 billion per year by the network’s tenth year of operation. To address this, the plan calls for Congress to establish an ongoing funding source during the next 18 months in the form of a fee that could be assessed to all broadband users in the United States.
Further details will be unveiled during the commission’s open meeting today. In addition, the FCC will conduct a technical panel regarding the proposed public-safety broadband network at 9:30 a.m. EST tomorrow that will be webcast at www.fcc.gov/live.