Tuesday, March 16, 2010

National Broadband Plan

Recently, the FCC released the National Broadband Plan which was commissioned by congress in early 2009. While I haven't read through the 376 page document cover to cover yet, it has some ambitious goals and a direct impact on education. If you haven't seen it yet, you can download the entire report at:


The plan website also has a great deal of information and is found at:


Goal #4 of the plan directly relates to education by suggesting, "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."

In the school cooperative I direct, ECMECC, we have a gigabit network connecting 14 member districts, several non-member districts, higher education institutions, public libraries, county and city government and a few other entities. While we share the internet access among all the entities and it doesn't amount to a full gigabit, we enjoy a broadband network that permits us to share a number of services that are often limited to individual entities and we have great access to cloud computing services, video and all that the Internet has to offer.

Having tasted that level of access, it is easy to support that kind of connectivity or greater to every American community. It appears that the FCC is suggesting changes to the Universal Service Fund (E-rate) program to help facilitate this level of access. It will be interesting to watch this take shape. It will be important for all of us in educational technology to follow these developments closely and work together to see that any changes are implemented in a fair and equitable manner. The telecommunications companies will wield their influence to be sure and we will need to be at the table as well.

The final paragraph of the plan's executive summary worries me a bit. It begins with, "The remaining half of the recommendations are offered to the Executive Branch, Congress and state and local governments." I'm not convinced, recently, that these bodies are capable of implementing the recommendations that have been left to them. They continue, " Policymakers alone, though, cannot ensure success. Industry, non-profits, and government together with the American people, must now act and rise to our era’s infrastructure challenge." This I think is true. It will be an interesting decade ahead to be sure.