The FCC recently announced its National Broadband Plan to bring broadband Internet connections more homes and businesses in the United States. Mandated by the 2009 stimulus legislation, the plan outlines policy recommendations to increase the portion of people with high-speed Internet connections from 65 percent to 90 percent over the next decade, while increasing the connection speeds of homes with such service. A proposal to create a free wireless network for lower-income users to access the Internet is included.
The plan recommends the following six goals over the next decade.
Goal No. 1: At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.
Goal No. 2: The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.
Goal No. 3: Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
Goal No. 4: Every American community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.
Goal No. 5: To ensure the safety of the American people, every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.
Goal No. 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.
Virginia’s Lenowisco Planning District Commission and Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission are cited in the document for their successful incorporation of broadband deployment in economic development projects.
Planning commissions in rural southwest Virginia accelerated job growth by combining broadband deployment with new economic development projects to take full advantage of broadband’s benefits. These commissions deployed fiber efficiently by coordinating its deployment with trenching for water or sewer lines, forming the groundwork for a regional broadband network in an area previously unserved due to the high cost of deployment. In addition, localities supported broadband infrastructure by upgrading other key economic development infrastructure assets. For example, the town of Lebanon converted an old strip mall to serve as a job-training center to deliver high school equivalency courses and train workers for IT-related jobs. These efforts helped the community attract new employers and create new jobs. The Lenowisco Planning District Commission reported 1,200 new jobs, $55 million in new private investments and $35 million in new payroll as a result of the region’s broadband network. Its sister planning organization, the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission, reported 1,100 new jobs, $60 million in private investments and $40 million in new payrolls. The regional networks, which were designed to serve schools, incubators and health care providers, helped attract new employers, such as Northrop Grumman and CGI, to rural southern Virginia, enabling job opportunities that did not exist in the area before.