FCC broadband roadmap hoping to quell stimulus chaos

Just recently, the Federal Communications Commission (or the FCC) published a .pdf timeline, detailing all the broadband-related projects it hopes to have completed by February 17 of next year. On that date, the FCC must send Congress its 'National Broadband Plan', which are a set of guidelines that help ensure everybody in the United States has access to broadband. We'll go through the stages below, as according to Ars Technica.

July 21: Last day for input

Well, kind of. You see, July 21 of this year is the last day the FCC will accept public comments, which can be submitted at this link. After this date, the Commission is not actually required to check any new comments, but it's been hinted that they will still check them for a while.

July 14 - November 7: Stimulus packages

When the Recovery Act ordered the FCC to come up with a report on how to tackle the things, it also authorized $7.2 billion dollars to go towards broadband projects, as part of a stimulus package. $4 billion of this must be given away by September 10, next year, but apparently round one of awards will begin November 7.

August 10 - September 2: Meetings

Throughout the summer, the FCC will hold a series of meetings that will be streamed to the web. It was said that, "Traditionally we have multiple meetings with multiple parties, often redundant, talking about the various issues raised by a proceeding. They are behind closed doors.. we are going to take part of that process, and put it in this room, open to the public, on the Web, open to a variety of different questions from a variety of different sources." The issue here is that the parties participating tend to wish to keep the discussions behind closed doors, whereas they are planned to be public.

December: The commissioners speak up

In December, five commissioners will weigh in with their decision on whether or not to take the plan. The FCC has three lined up; Genachowski, Copps, and Republican Robert M. McDowell, and the two others (Democrat Mignon Clyburn of South Carolina and former Department of Commerce Republican Meredith Attwell Baker, according to Ars Technica) are awaiting Senate confirmation hearings. All going well, the agency will be run by Democrats, but the minority will apparently be quite formidable. According to Ars, "McDowell is extremely smart and knows a lot about telecom and law. Baker appears to bring much more knowledge about the Internet, spectrum, and network management to the table than did her predecessor, Deborah Taylor Tate."

To finish it all off, through December 8 to February 3, the FCC has to complete its Sixth Report to Congress Examining the Availability of Advanced Telecommunications, the next report being due on the end date mentioned. The report will include "international connections", and will keep track of 25 other countries, to compare them in terms of broadband progress. Once February 17 hit, the plan will be submitted to Congress, as we said. However, don't expect Congress to listen; this is just a chance for the FCC to tell the higher powers their thoughts on the main issues with this topic.


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