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National Broadband Plan: Forever in Beta is a good thing

Treating the National Broadband Plan as one that stays in beta is a smart move by Washington.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

In the FCC's Executive Summary of the National Broadband Plan, which is scheduled to be presented to Congress tomorrow, the agency notes that the 10-year plan is in beta - and will stay in beta.

Good call.

This, of course, isn't the Old School beta where techies and early adopters went in first to put it through a test run. This is Google-style Beta, one where the improvements, updates and other minor tweaks are just rolled out without much fanfare.

Also see: The "beta" label: A testing ground for techies or a welcome mat for the mainstream?

Though we don't have full details of the plan yet, the insight we gain from the executive summary shows that Washington may have finally reached a "we get it" moment when it comes to technology. Broadband access isn't just about rural America checking out YouTube videos. This is also about creating the broadband infrastructure that can drive future innovation on the homefront, update public safety, education, health care and energy to improve efficiency and grow jobs by fueling competition.

And it's also not a policy that can be set in stone. Ten years seems like an eternity in Internet years, but it's smart for the government to look at a long-term plan. There's no way such ambitious goals can be rolled out in a year or two, There are a lot of moving parts and if the timeline - which we should see next - is a good one, hopefully some short-term advancements will offer a peek of what's still to come.

With all things government, of course, there's potential for red-tape to slow things down or create roadblocks - but the tail end of the summary offers some hope that government won't be as much of a participant as it will a facilitator, or even better, a bystander. In fact, the government's role is so limited that the heading "Budget Impact of Plan" is limited to a single paragraph:

Given the plan's goal of freeing 500 megahertz of spectrum, future wireless auctions mean the overall plan will be revenue neutral, if not revenue positive. The vast majority of recommendations do not require new government funding; rather, they seek to drive improvements in government efficiency, streamline processes and encourage private activity to promote consumer welfare and national priorities. The funding requests relate to public safety, deployment to unserved areas and adoption efforts. If the spectrum auction recommendations are implemented, the plan is likely to offset the potential costs.

Closing out the summary, the FCC's Implementation plan is where the beta word appears:

The plan is in beta, and always will be. Like the Internet itself, the plan will always be changing - adjusting to new developments in technologies and markets, reflecting new realities, and evolving to realize the unforeseen opportunities of a particular time.  As such, implementation requires a long-term commitment to measuring progress and adjusting programs and policies to improve performance.

Previous coverage: FCC takes first step toward National Broadband plan

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