[wsj] The Federal Communications Commission began to lay the groundwork for a bigger federal role in the broadband business Wednesday, outlining the hurdles the U.S. needs to overcome to improve the availability of high-speed Internet access.
The FCC identified a number of issues the government should address, including the high cost of laying new broadband lines in rural areas, a lack of airwaves for wireless Web access and ill-informed consumers.
"This focus on broadband is a reflection of a recognition that the U.S. is lagging behind," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Wednesday at the agency's monthly meeting.
The FCC is drafting a National Broadband Plan, which will lay out ways the government can improve broadband service in the U.S. The plan is scheduled to come out in February, and it's uncertain how many of its suggestions will ultimately be adopted. Already, some big cable and telecommunications companies are concerned the agency wants to impose rules that could undermine their business strategies and profitability.
FCC officials noted Wednesday that because more Americans are relying on smart phones to access the Internet, more airwaves need to be devoted to wireless broadband service. Agency officials have previously floated a plan to take some airwaves from television broadcasters and use them for wireless devices instead. Broadcasters are unhappy about that plan.
The agency took a step toward expanding wireless Web access by passing a new rule Wednesday to help wireless companies speed up local officials' decisions on new cellphone towers. Wireless companies asked the FCC for help, because they have had problems in the past getting state and local land-use regulators to make decisions on siting new cellphone towers.
Bigger U.S. Role in Broadband Is Likely