On Day 100, A New Tool To Track The National Broadband Plan

"Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work."
-- Peter Drucker

It has been 100 days since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delivered "Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan" to Congress. To mark this early milestone for the Plan, the Benton Foundation, a longtime advocate for a comprehensive broadband strategy for the U.S., has launched a new tracker to make it easier to follow implementation of the Plan -- and to hold policymakers accountable for reaching the Plan's goals. Fueled by Benton's daily Communications-related headlines service, the tracker provides updates for each individual recommendation as well as a timeline of progress made so far.

The Plan, the result of many months of hard work by FCC staff, is a ten-year blueprint including six long-term national goals for broadband deployment, adoption and meaningful use in the U.S. and some 220 recommendations to reach these goals. The promise of the Plan is affordable access to broadband for all Americans and maximum use of broadband-enabled services and applications to improve consumer welfare; health care delivery; education; energy independence and efficiency; job creation and economic growth including worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity and community development; civic engagement and government performance; and public safety and homeland security.

Rightfully, the FCC has focused more than half the recommendations to itself -- to launch and complete new or existing rulemakings that advance broadband deployment. About half of the recommendations also need leadership from agencies and departments in the Administration. More than a quarter of the recommendations call on Congress to enact new laws. But the promise of the Plan depends on the performance of all responsible bodies highlighted by the recommendations. Benton's tracker includes a full list of the bodies, agencies and departments the recommendations are directed to and the tracker allows you to view each recommendation linked to one or more policymaking bodies.

Much of the implementation of the Plan will come through FCC rulemakings. Benton's tracker includes links to summaries and updates of open FCC dockets -- like the proceeding on Commercial Availability of Navigation Devices. Benton's page for each docket includes links to all filings in the proceeding.

Implementation of the Plan also includes legislation -- like the Broadband Service Consumer Protection Act (S. 3110), introduced by Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Benton's tracker links to updates on this bill and others to be introduced as they move through Congress.

The Plan concludes:

"There has long been talk of the widespread and affordable use of broadband. This plan is a transition from simple chatter to the difficult but achievable reality of implementation. It is a call to action for governments, businesses and non-profits to replace rhetoric with targeted, challenging actions. It is time again to reduce talk to practical results."

The National Broadband Plan offers great promise. However, consistent follow up and follow through by government, industry and the public is required to transform these good intentions into new, effective policy. We all have a role to play -- especially those outside of government and broadband-related industries -- in tracking the implementation of the Plan and holding policymakers accountable for reaching the Plan's goals. Obviously, the Plan, like a new Administration, cannot be fairly judged after just 100 days, nor can we expect the Plan to be fully realized without public input and action. At Benton we hope this new tool will make it easier for every interested person to get informed and get involved. By tracking and engaging where necessary all of us can help move forward the Plan and ultimately deliver truly universal, affordable access and spur meaningful use of broadband -- a powerful and essential communications tool for the 21st century.

-- Kevin Taglang and Amina Fazlullah

By Kevin Taglang.