FCC Sets Preliminary Topics for Upcoming Broadband Workshops

Civic engagement, new media, definition of "unserved" and "underserved" areas to be discussed

The FCC has released a list of preliminary topics for 18 upcoming broadband plan public workshops.

According to the listing on the FCC's broadband.gov Web site, the commission has proposed well over 100 topics, often broken down into subtopics, with more being solicited from Web surfers.

For example, the first workshop, on Aug. 6, deals with e-government and civic engagement. E-government is a key topic since as governments begin to discount Web services like driver's license applications and paying fees, that will arguably become a targeted tax, either in money or time and effort, for those without ready access to broadband.

Among the preliminary topics for that workshop are "how do new media, including social networking tools, advance civic participation and are there limitations or concerns associated
with such use?" Another is "How can broadband infrastructure and services improve citizen access to local and national news."

Another workshop likely of high interest to industry is the one on the terms unserved and underserved. The FCC says it will explore just what each of those means and what the government should do about it.

That definition could be crucial to spurring the private investment that will be necessary to leverage the government's economic stimulus package investment in broadband deployment, which is currently $7.2 billion in loans and grants. Too generous a definition of either could discourage that investment.

The FCC has until Feb. 17, 2010 to produce a national broadband rollout plan to Congress.

Other workshops, which have packed the FCC's historically more laid back August calendar and spill over into September, include mobile broadband (Aug. 19), consumer welfare (Aug. 20),
and "Best Practices/Big Ideas" (Sept. 3).

FCC broadband czar Blair Levin has literally begged the public and industry to weigh in with concrete suggestions rather than aspirational advice or self-serving rather than nation-serving proposals.