FCC's broadband plan calls for higher broadband speeds, USF reform

The FCC's long-awaited national broadband plan--which will finally be released today to Congress with a focus on expanding broadband network speeds, redirecting the Universal Fund (USF) and Intercarrier Compensation--has taken center stage at this week's Comptel trade show in Nashville, Tn.

On the broadband front, the FCC wants to ensure that residential customers can get access to an average of 4 Mbps speeds and that anchor institutions (schools, libraries and hospitals) can get 1 Gbps speeds. This initial broadband action plan also incorporates Julius Genachowski's "100 Squared Initiative" to deliver 100 Mbps to 100 million homes. A newly modified goal will set an asymmetric speed of 100 Mbps/50 Mbps.  

To achieve its broadband speed goals, Sharon Gillett, Wireline Competition bureau chief for the FCC, told Comptel attendees yesterday that the FCC is calling for a phased migration of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is currently slated to provide subsidies to smaller carriers for voice services, to focus on broadband services. According to a report in Light Reading, Gillett said the plan would redirect the amount of USF money distributed "based on the gap between revenues and costs in areas that don't have broadband, or areas that need ongoing support to keep the broadband they have."

Gillett added that the FCC's long-term plan would be to "shift about $16 billion over 10 years into explicit support for broadband, and by the end of 10 years, we are supporting only broadband networks."

Intercarrier compensation will also be subject to a phased migration. The broadband plan has put in place a three-phased blueprint to redirect intercarrier compensation over 10 years from per-minute rates toward a lower flat-rate. This three-phased blueprint will not only include cost-recovery for smaller independent service providers that rely on intercarrier compensation, but it would also redirect compensation away from long-distance voice services.

For more:
- Connected Planet has this article
- Reuters also has this coverage
- Light Reading also has this analysis

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FCC to release broadband plan Tuesday
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