FCC's Job One: Defining Broadband

Would determine how to proceed with the plan to congress on universal deployment

The key message from FCC broadband plan staffers to the FCC commissioners at the FCC's open meeting Tuesday appeared to be that their decision about defining broadband would determine how to proceed with the plan to congress on universal deployment.

For one thing, the staffers said in their mid-term report to the commissioners, the cost would vary from $20 billion for simple Web browsing and e-mail funcionality to $350 billion for the kind of service that supports HD video, telemedicine and two-way video conferencing. Even more if the plan assumed that even more bandwidth-hungry applications would be built.

And while the broadband task force members suggested they were simply providing a view of the current landscape, rather than policy recommendations, the message seemed to be that speed was critical to handle the applications that would be necessary for a practical version of universal service, and that the speed should be judged by a median calculation at heavy usage times, rather than an advertised speed.

Top broadband advisor Blair Levin did say that it would not be a one-size-fits-all solution, and that residential service might not have the same speed definition as anchor institutions like libraries or computer learning centers.