March 18, 2010

It's about time. Of course, the monopolies will fight it tooth and nail, but I don't think they'll be able to stop this idea for long:

Culminating a year of extensive outreach and study, federal regulators on Tuesday will propose an ambitious, decade-long road map to extend high-speed Internet access to every corner of the country and make the United States home to "the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation."

The plan by the Federal Communications Commission sets a goal of assuring that at least 100 million homes have affordable access to so-called broadband networks that allow them to download data from the Internet at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second -- 20 times or more faster than most people get today. The proposal, which will be sent to Congress, also seeks to put super-fast Internet access of 1 gigabit per second in public facilities such as schools, hospitals and government buildings in every community.

The FCC released the proposal's executive summary Monday.

Another key component of the plan is creating a new wireless network for police, firefighters and other public safety workers so they can communicate and share data and video between departments during major emergencies. Lawmakers and public safety organizations have pushed for such a network since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when first responders at the World Trade Center had trouble communicating. In 2008, the FCC tried to use the lure of cheap access to public airwaves during a major spectrum auction to convince private companies to help build such a network, but the effort failed.

Tapping into the wireless airwaves is a key part of the FCC's plan. It wants to reallocate a huge chunk of radio-frequency spectrum to use for high-speed Internet service, regarded as a much cheaper and quicker way of spreading broadband service than laying wire of fiber cables -- particularly in rural areas. But that spectrum is assigned to TV and radio broadcasters, who are expected to strongly oppose any proposal to take it away.

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