[JURIST] The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] on Tuesday sent [press release, PDF] to Congress its National Broadband Plan [materials], which seeks to enact regulations to update the communications infrastructure in the US and to make broadband service available to millions of Americans. The plan is mandated by provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) [materials]. Notable goals of the plan include providing 100 million households with affordable 100-megabits-per-second Internet service, making 500 megahertz of wireless spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed use by mobile applications, and ensuring that all children are literate in digital technology by the time they leave high school. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski [official profile] commented [statement, PDF] on why the project is so important:
First, because broadband is essential to our global competitiveness - essential to job creation in a digital economy, to ongoing investment in vital 21st century infrastructure, and to our ability to lead the world in innovation.The broadband plan calls for action on all branches of the federal government, state and local governments, and private and nonprofit business sectors.
Second, because broadband is essential for opportunity in America - for all Americans, from all communities and backgrounds, living in rural towns, inner cities, or in between.
And, third, because broadband is essential to solving so many of the challenges facing our nation - including education, health care, energy and public safety, each of which is specifically mentioned in the Congressional directive.
Going forward the plan will be the subject of a number of Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which allow for public comment on the proposed regulations. The plan follows the FCC's vote [JURIST report] in October to approve the formation of rules [notice, PDF] mandating so-called "net neutrality" [Google backgrounder; JURIST news archive], promising openness commensurate with the ideals of the Internet itself. The idea of net neutrality, supported unanimously by the FCC commissioners, is to allow an open flow of information over the Internet, regardless of the amount of revenue generated by the information. The implementation of the new rules has been vigorously opposed by telecommunications giants Verizon and AT&T [corporate websites], among others, which argue that such rules would inhibit their ability to effectively manage Internet traffic.