FCC Unveils National Broadband Plan

WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally unveiled its eagerly-anticipated national broadband plan, which aims to overhaul America's Internet infrastructure over the next decade.

In a document released on Tuesday, the FCC outlined its strategy to turn the U.S. from an Internet laggard into a broadband leader. This includes freeing up 500 MHz of the wireless spectrum, ensuring that 100 million U.S. homes have access to 100 Megabit per second Internet speeds and a $6.5 billion funding program to build a new wireless public safety network.
 Julius Genachowski
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski

Officials annouced plans to create a Connect America Fund (CAF) to drive broadband adoption, which will shift about $15.5 billion from the Universal Service Fund (USF) over the next decade. At the moment, the $7 billion-a-year USF is used to extend voice into rural areas, but it will eventually be morphed into a vehicle for broadband.

Over the next two to three years, Congress might also make a few billion dollars of public funds available to speed up broadband deployments, the FCC added.

"The fundamental goal is universally available broadband infrastructure that's affordable and world class," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, during a press conference. "This plan has been an extraordinary accomplishment -- we will really see the results of this over time."

However, Genachowski added that "there's no silver bullet" to transform the country's Internet infrastructure.

Aimed at the 93 million Americans who have fallen through the broadband net, the national broadband plan has already attracted the attention of major telcos such as AT&T ( T) and Verizon ( VZ) , although gearmakers like Corning ( GLW), ADCT ( ADCT) and Adtran ( ADTN) could also be set for a revenue boost.

Telecom industry association CTIA welcomed the plan, specifically the idea of freeing up spectrum for mobile data use.

"CTIA and our member companies are extremely pleased that spectrum is recognized as being pivotal to the national broadband plan," said CTIA president Steve Largent, in a statement. "We appreciate the FCC's and the Broadband team's focus on making '500 MHz of spectrum for broadband within 10 years, of which 300 MHz should be made available for mobile use within five years'."

During a meeting Webcast on Tuesday morning, Phoebe Yang, general counsel at the FCC's Omnibus Broadband Initiative (OBI), said that a spectrum auction is expected to generate billions of dollars, helping fund America's Internet overhaul.

"This will more than cover the plan," Yang said. "The transformation of USF to broadband will require no new funding."

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York

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