January 7, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
State and local officials waiting to read the FCC's forthcoming National Broadband Plan will need to wait at least a month longer than expected. The FCC began developing the plan in April 2009 and had committed to finishing it by Feb. 18, 2010. The National Broadband Plan, which was a campaign promise from President Barack Obama and a mandate of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will serve as a blueprint for deploying broadband in areas of the country that lack it.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is asking Congress for an additional four weeks to read through the mountain of public comments it received advising the agency on how the plan should work. It's questionable, however, whether many state and local CIOs will be terribly disappointed. Given that the first round of broadband stimulus grants awarded in December 2009 went mostly to vendors, a lot of government executives don't expect the federal government to involve them much in its National Broadband Plan anyway, said Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute (PTI).
"Any idealistic hope that we may have had has been evaporated by what they funded," Shark said.
In his observation, government IT officials expect incumbent telecommunications companies to be the primary drivers of whatever plan the FCC eventually proposes.
"I'm not sure we ever felt there was a role for us anyway, but there was enough [application requirement] verbiage that encouraged us," Shark said. "In reality, it's not looking good. Another month doesn't affect us. We have to go about our business."