Effort to Widen U.S. Internet Access Sets Up Battle
By BRIAN STELTER and JENNA WORTHAM March 12, 2010
The Federal Communications Commission is proposing an ambitious10-year plan that will reimagine the nation's media and technology priorities by establishing high-speed Internet as the country's dominant communication network.
The plan, which will be submitted to Congress on Tuesday, is likely to generate debate in Washington and a lobbying battle among the telecommunication giants, which over time may face new competition for customers. Already, the broadcast television industry is resisting a proposal to give back spectrum the government wants to use for future mobile service.
The blueprint reflects the government's view that broadband Internet is becoming the common medium of the United States, gradually displacing the telephone and broadcast television industries. It also signals a shift at the F.C.C., which under the administration of President George W. Bush gained more attention for policing indecency on the television airwaves than for promoting Internet access.
According to F.C.C. officials briefed on the plan, the commission's recommendations will include a subsidy for Internet providers to wire rural parts of the country now without access, a controversial auction of some broadcast spectrum to free up space for wireless devices, and the development of a new universal set-top box that connects to the Internet and cable service.
The effort will influence billions of dollars in federal spending, although the F.C.C. will argue that the plan should pay for itself through the spectrum auctions. Some recommendations will require Congressional action and industry support, and will affect users only years from now.