FCC's national broadband plan: What's in it?

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission plans to release a national broadband plan next week that will lay out an ambitious set of goals for broadband deployment and adoption.

The official version of the plan will be released at a commission meeting Tuesday, but FCC followers have seen the agency unveil several major thrusts of the plan in a series of speeches and briefings in recent weeks. In a mid-February speech, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski kicked off the announcements by saying it was the agency's goal to bring 100M bps (bits per second) broadband service to 100 million U.S. homes by about 2020.

Many members of the U.S. tech community have called for a national broadband policy for years, and Congress, in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in early 2009, required the FCC to develop the plan.

Several tech groups have expressed general support for the announcements so far, but others have questioned how the FCC will accomplish what appears to be a wide-ranging and expensive plan. FCC officials have talked about a cost of $12 billion to $25 billion to implement parts of the plan, with wireless spectrum auction proceeds offsetting the costs, but some critics have suggested the FCC's cost estimates are far too low.

In a time of huge U.S. government budget deficits, there will also be pressure in Congress to use any auction proceeds in other ways.

The broadband plan could meet resistance from incumbent providers as soon as it sees the light of day, said Craig Settles, a community broadband consultant and president of Successful.com.