FCC Unveils Broadband Plan 'Working Recommendations'

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.