Next week sees the release of the Government’s National Broadband Plan, in which it briefly outlines a “broadband for all” idea (something that our U.K. readers might remember from the British Government’s Digital Britain report of 2009.) The FCC is proposing that free or low-cost wireless spectrum be set aside in an attempt to get the 93 million or so Americans who are currently without broadband in their homes. In an effort to keep the costs low, they’re looking to the private, not-for-profit, and philanthropic sectors.
While admirable–and typically forward-thinking from the Obama administration–there’s a small flaw to the plan. No ISP in its right mind would be happy about this, and their lobbyists will kick up a right old stink in D.C.–or squash the functionality of the free service until it’s barely useable.
Given the huge amount of entertainment the Internet now provides, it’s becoming increasingly hard to view broadband as a utility. However, you can’t argue with FCC Chair Julius Genachowski’s warning that, without computer literacy and Internet access, there is a danger of “a new category of second-class citizens.”
Alongside this hot potato, the National Broadband Plan is also proposing measures to combat digital illiteracy, with an Online Skills Portal and a Digital Literacy Corps. Congress gets to hear the plan next Wednesday, March 17.