The FCC's much-heralded release of its National Broadband Plan a month ago triggered an avalanche of commentary and Washington spin. We've heard from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Blair Levin, the agency official who led the team that developed the massive technology blueprint, along with powerful lawmakers, expert analysts, watchdogs and corporate suits.
But there's one voice that hasn't been raised -- until now.
I sat down recently with the National Broadband Plan (stay with me now) for an exclusive interview about the roller-coaster ride it's been on so far -- and about its potential for making Internet access as common throughout America as dial tones and television.
Here are the highlights:
CongressDaily: Thanks for allowing me to speak with you, Mr. Plan. It's truly an honor to interview such a distinguished regulatory blueprint.
Broadband Plan: Thanks for having me, and if I may say so, I'm an avid fan of your Web alerts.
CD: A federal appeals court issued a decision last week that makes it tougher for the FCC to regulate high-speed Internet service. What does this mean for you?
Plan: It's not good. The FCC's general counsel already has acknowledged that some of my key recommendations could be adversely affected by the ruling. A major debate is brewing over whether the agency has the authority to fully implement me -- and whether Congress should intervene. I'm concerned, and I've been sweating bullet points.
CD: What else keeps you up at night?
Plan: I worry about obsolescence. About not hitting my 10th birthday in 2020, even though I was crafted to be relevant for at least the next decade. There's a real chance I'll never see puberty. I was born famous, but who knows if it will last. I don't want to end up bankrupt and derelict like many child stars.
CD: You seem genuinely worried.
Plan: It's nerve-wracking. Technology moves so fast you never know what innovation is around the corner. Plus, there are the political unknowns. A change at the helm in Congress, the FCC or White House could leave me shelved and collecting dust forever. And then there's the court decision -- it has thrown my future in limbo.
CD: You've only existed for one month. What has life been like?
Plan: Hectic doesn't begin to describe it. The Senate Commerce Committee plans to devote an entire hearing to me today after a similar session in the House last month. In my tactile form, as a 360-page document in a thick three-ring binder, I'm often carted before the cameras as a prop to showcase my girth. I'm constantly pushed, poked and prodded. After my debut went reasonably well, everyone claimed me as their parent.
CD: Let's talk briefly about your family. Who is your father?
Plan: Oh, that's Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the former House Communications Subcommittee honcho. He's responsible for my conception; I wouldn't be here if he hadn't thought of me as part of last year's economic stimulus bill. But I've grown attached to Blair and Julius, who've nurtured me for months.
CD: I understand you have several relatives overseas.
Plan: Yes, I have cousins in South Korea, Japan, Sweden, Australia and Finland, among other far-flung places. They're all broadband plans that have been, or are, being successfully implemented or updated. I look forward to following in their footsteps, and perhaps meeting them someday.
CD: Do you see the irony in the fact that the FCC initially released you as a print document?
Plan: It's very ironic. One would have assumed I'd been born as a flash drive, Facebook page or Twitter alert. But I'm quite proud to be available electronically as a single PDF file.
CD: Reveal something surprising about your life.
Plan: I sometimes encounter difficulties getting online. Even though I'm a 10-year strategic plan for improving high-speed connectivity, I don't have any special privileges when it comes to avoiding Internet congestion.
CD: What are your favorite movies?
Plan: "The Matrix" and "The Net."
CD: Your favorite magazine?
CD: What kind of food do you like?
Plan: I consume only megahertz and bandwidth -- and can't get enough of either these days.
CD: What about your personal life? Are you dating?
Plan: I've started seeing the draft of Universal Service Fund legislation authored by Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va. We met online, and quickly discovered we share common goals. We enjoy long conversations about intercarrier compensation, tariffs filings and traffic pumping, and we're talking about building a life together.
CD: Do you have a parting message for the American people?
Plan: Please give me a chance and don't dismiss me as another bureaucratic boondoggle out of Washington. I am not a doorstop, paperweight or abs builder -- even though I can be used effectively for those purposes. I am a living, breathing document for extending the Internet where it's never gone before. I am your friend, teacher and gateway to a digital universe. I am your first, and only, National Broadband Plan.