Cable and telephone companies are gearing up for a fight as regulators begin work Wednesday on a national broadband strategy that could bring major changes to how Internet services are delivered to American homes.
The $787 billion government stimulus package requires the Federal Communications Commission to provide a road map for how potentially billions of future taxpayer dollars should be spent to build or upgrade Internet lines across the U.S.
The agency will map out how the U.S. can ensure that every American not only has access to broadband, but has service that runs much faster than what's available today. It will also look at how to update policies that haven't kept pace with the way Americans get phone, cable-TV and Internet services in their homes.
Implicit in the review is that the federal government plans to invest more money in broadband infrastructure than the $7.2 billion promised through the economic-stimulus plan. Rules for how companies can apply for those stimulus funds are expected in the next month or so.
The broader infrastructure plan is "the biggest responsibility given to the FCC since the Telecom Act of 1996," acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps, said in an interview. "The market has done a lot, but it hasn't done enough to keep us competitive in the world."