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FCC Unveils Broadband Plan ‘Working Recommendations’

So far, the plan is a whole lot of big wishes and broad policy goals, identifying the areas where technology could transform the economy and society.

Touting a sunny future of better living through universal broadband access, the FCC released “working recommendations” on how to make the best of broadband to transform healthcare, education, energy and the environment, government, public safety and homeland security, job training and small business.

FCC Commissioners released the recommendations at their monthly meeting Thursday (Feb. 18). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “Stimulus Bill”) has called for a Broadband Plan from the commission by March 17.

So far, the plan is a whole lot of big wishes and broad policy goals, identifying the areas where technology could transform the economy and society.

“Broadband can help the country achieve better results in important areas by facilitating the flow of information; removing barriers of time and space; and making data accessible for research, applications, and decision-making, all while protecting privacy,” the commission said in a statement accompanying the recommendations.

Here is the initial outline of the recommendations, with more detail to be released later:

Challenge: The current job training system is fragmented and difficult to expand or contract to accommodate changing demands for service.
Solutions: Accelerate efforts to deliver employment assistance, including job training and placement services, on a scalable online platform.
 Challenge: Small businesses are less likely to use broadband to increase productivity.
Solutions: Launch public-private partnership to expand efforts to provide technology training for small and disadvantaged businesses.?

Challenge: Remote monitoring of vital signs and electronic health records could save $700 billion over 15-25 years, but the U.S. lags in health IT adoption.
Solutions: Create conditions for broader adoption and innovation in e-care technologies; reduce regulatory barriers to increase access to care.
Challenge: Many healthcare providers lack broadband connections or pay high prices.
Solutions: Ensure all providers have access to affordable broadband by transforming the Rural Health Care Program to subsidize both ongoing costs and network deployment, while expanding the definition of eligible providers.

Challenge: While 97 percent of public elementary and secondary schools have Internet access, speeds are insufficient.
Solution: Upgrade E-rate program to provide additional connectivity, flexibility and efficiency.
Challenge: Online learning can reduce time required to learn by half and increase course completion rates, but there are barriers to wider adoption.
Solutions: Remove regulatory barriers to online learning; increase supply of digital content and online learning systems; promote digital literacy for students and teachers.?

Challenge: The intermittency of renewable power and the increased loads from electric vehicles will strain the current electric grid, unless we modernize the grid with broadband and advanced communications.
Solutions: Ensure that broadband is integrated into the smart grid by promoting and improving commercial broadband networks, better coordinating and standardizing private utility networks, and enabling partnerships with public safety networks. A smart grid can reduce greenhouse gasses from electricity generation by up to 12 percent by 2030.
Challenge: Consumers lack access to and control of their own digital energy data to understand and manage their energy use, which limits the innovation potential and energy savings of smarter homes and smarter buildings.
Solutions: Ensure consumers have access to and privacy of real-time and historical digital energy information through changes to state and federal policies.?

Challenge: The government lags in adoption of Internet technologies, hindering quality of service and civic engagement.
Solutions: Release more government data on digital platforms; enable citizen-centric online services; encourage greater use of social media.
Challenge: Federal assets not used effectively to spur local adoption and deployment of broadband.
Solutions: Have federal buildings serve as anchor tenants for unserved and underserved communities; encourage greater coordination in broadband grants; open federal NETWORX contract to state and local governments.

Challenge: First responders lack a nationwide interoperable broadband wireless network dedicated to the provision of public safety services.
Solutions: Enable the construction and operation of an interoperable nationwide broadband wireless public safety network with appropriate capacity and resiliency, leveraging commercial technology; creation of an Emergency Response Interoperability Center to ensure nationwide interoperability; and appropriation of grant funding for network construction, operation and evolution.
 Challenge: Transition to Next Generation 9-1-1 networks and emergency alerting is hampered by a lack of intergovernmental coordination, as well as jurisdictional, legal and funding issues.
Solutions: Promote innovation in the development and deployment of the Next Generation of 9-1-1 networks and emergency alerting systems by fully embracing broadband technologies and ensuring that coordination, jurisdictional, legal and funding impediments are avoided.

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