National Broadband Plan: What Is It, Facts & More

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) is a federal government initiative to expand high-speed internet access across the United States. It was established in 2009 when Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all Americans have access to broadband capability. The goal of the NBP is to promote economic growth, spur job creation, and establish the United States as a leader in internet access and digital technology.

The FCC released the final National Broadband Plan in March 2010 after conducting extensive research and holding public hearings. The 360-page plan contains recommendations and benchmarks for bringing affordable, high-speed internet to homes, businesses, schools, libraries and healthcare facilities nationwide. Expanding broadband infrastructure and adoption is seen as vital for improving America’s competitiveness in the global digital economy of the 21st century.

What is the National Broadband Plan?

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) is a comprehensive roadmap for providing universal access to affordable broadband connectivity across the United States. It was introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on March 17, 2010.

The key goals of the National Broadband Plan include:

  • Ensuring all Americans have access to broadband with download speeds of at least 4 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps.
  • Affordable broadband options for 100 million U.S. households.
  • Major advances in education, healthcare delivery, energy efficiency and public safety.
  • Spurring job creation, economic growth, and U.S. competitiveness on the global stage.

The NBP aims to address major national priorities such as education, healthcare, energy, public safety, job creation, and global competitiveness through increased broadband access and adoption. It provides a comprehensive strategy and recommendations for policymakers to help achieve these goals.

Universal Broadband Access

One of the key goals outlined in the National Broadband Plan is to provide universal broadband access to all Americans. The plan aims to ensure that 100 million U.S. homes have affordable access to download speeds of at least 100 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 50 Mbps by 2020.

To achieve this, the plan recommends that the government make available a total of 500 MHz of spectrum over the next 10 years, of which 300 MHz should be made available for mobile use within 5 years. Increasing the amount of spectrum available is critical for supporting the rapid growth in wireless broadband traffic.

The plan also aims to modernize and reform current universal service programs to support broadband. This includes expanding programs like Lifeline and Link-Up to make broadband more affordable for low-income Americans. The FCC estimates that expanding Lifeline could connect an additional 2.5 million households to broadband.[1]

In addition, the plan recommends reforming inter-carrier compensation and the Universal Service Fund to support deployment of broadband infrastructure, especially in high-cost and rural areas. Altogether, the recommended reforms are projected to make broadband available to the 7 million Americans living in areas without access.

Implementing these reforms and recommendations around spectrum, affordability, and infrastructure deployment will be key for the plan to reach its goal of making affordable, high-speed broadband available to every American across the country.

Adoption & Affordability

The National Broadband Plan aims to increase broadband adoption and affordability in several key ways. One of the main goals outlined in the plan is to ensure that 100 million U.S. homes have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 Mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 50 Mbps by 2020. This will require making high-speed broadband more affordable and available nationwide, especially in rural areas.

To help drive adoption, the plan recommends modernizing the Universal Service Fund to support broadband, establishing a new Connect America Fund, and directing funding to support broadband adoption by low-income Americans. It also aims to reform inter-carrier compensation and implement other cost-saving measures to make broadband more affordable for consumers. Additionally, it calls for gathering better data on actual service speeds and pricing to inform policy decisions.

“Improving affordability and increasing adoption of broadband will require efforts by public, private and non-profit sectors,” states the National Broadband Plan. “Some proposals involve increasing competition, others focus on boosting demand through devices, digital literacy training and relevant content.”

Economic Impacts

The National Broadband Plan discusses the economic benefits that increased broadband access and adoption can provide. According to the FCC’s National Broadband Plan – Executive Summary, broadband can enable entrepreneurship and small business growth, education advancement, workforce training, and improvements in areas like healthcare and energy efficiency. Expanding broadband is expected to create jobs, with estimates of hundreds of thousands to millions of jobs created through broadband-related investments.

The National Broadband Plan cites studies showing the positive relationship between broadband expansion and economic growth. Regions with greater broadband expansion have seen faster GDP growth and even higher incomes. The plan aims to maximize broadband’s contributions to US economic growth and job creation. Specific initiatives include grants and tax incentives to encourage private companies to provide broadband in underserved areas. The plan also discusses training programs to increase adoption and access among vulnerable populations. Overall the National Broadband Plan provides a framework to leverage broadband infrastructure for increased innovation, productivity, and economic growth.


The National Broadband Plan aims to improve education through increased broadband access and adoption. As outlined in the plan’s executive summary, expanding high-speed internet access will enable improvements in digital learning and allow students to take advantage of online tools and materials. Goals set by the plan include:

  • Connecting 100% of K-12 students to broadband, enabling digital textbooks, online learning, videoconferencing with experts and virtual tutors.
  • Preparing teachers to use technology through training programs.
  • Developing effective online learning tools measured by their performance.
  • Making affordable 100+ Mbps broadband available to schools, libraries and healthcare facilities.

The plan aims to expand broadband not just in schools but also in students’ homes, as connectivity outside the classroom is key for utilizing online resources. This can help address educational inequalities for disadvantaged students. Overall, increased broadband is intended to improve learning outcomes and prepare students with 21st century technology skills.


The National Broadband Plan recognizes the potential for broadband networks to transform healthcare delivery through advances in remote patient monitoring, medical image transfer, mobile health applications, electronic health records, and telemedicine.

The plan sets a goal of 100 million electronic health records by 2020. It proposes policy reforms and pilot programs to achieve the widespread adoption of broadband-enabled healthcare information technology (Health IT). This includes telemedicine services to improve care coordination, disease management, and care transitions for high-need patients (FCC, 2010).

Specifically, the National Broadband Plan aims to promote the use of broadband for activities like video-conferencing between primary care physicians and specialists, transferring digital imaging and pathology samples, and enabling doctors to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions. It also seeks to expand the accessibility and interoperability of electronic health records.

Public Safety

The National Broadband Plan emphasizes the importance of broadband for improving public safety communications and emergency response. High-speed broadband enables advanced capabilities for first responders like streaming video, real-time monitoring and tracking, and video conferencing in the field.

One key goal outlined in the plan is building a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. This would allow emergency responders to send and receive critical voice, video and data during emergencies, even with increased demand on commercial networks [1]. The plan recommends allocating spectrum and funding to support this network.

Broadband can also enable Next Generation 911 networks with advanced capabilities like text, image and video messaging. Transitioning to an IP-based emergency communications network allows for greater reliability and resiliency. Additionally, broadband networks can facilitate integrated, interoperable communications between different public safety organizations.

Implementing these types of broadband applications for public safety is a key recommendation in the National Broadband Plan. High-speed, wireless broadband has the potential to greatly improve emergency response and save lives during disasters and emergencies.

Energy & Environment

The National Broadband Plan outlines strategies for using broadband to enable a smarter energy grid and support environmental goals. Broadband enables two-way communication between the electric grid and end-use devices, creating opportunities for greater efficiency, reliability, and cost savings.

For example, broadband-enabled smart meters allow consumers to view real-time energy use and pricing information, helping to reduce peak demand and enabling automated energy conservation measures. Smart appliances can also modulate energy use based on dynamic price signals, and electric vehicles can optimize charging times to take advantage of lower-cost off-peak power generation.[1]

On the electric grid side, broadband supports remote monitoring, data analysis, and automated control capabilities. This facilitates integrating renewable energy sources like wind and solar into the grid while maintaining reliability. Overall, the National Broadband Plan sets a goal of realizing $20 billion in annual savings through a modernized, broadband-enabled electric grid by 2020.

In addition, expanded broadband access enables telecommuting, telemedicine, and online commerce which can reduce transportation demands and lower environmental impacts. The National Broadband Plan aims to promote broadband’s role in achieving energy independence and environmental sustainability.



In summary, the National Broadband Plan aims to provide universal broadband access across the United States by 2020. The plan outlines strategies to make high-speed internet available and affordable for all Americans through policy recommendations, reform of existing programs like the Universal Service Fund, and grant programs for broadband infrastructure and adoption.

If successful, the National Broadband Plan is projected to have wide-ranging economic, educational, healthcare, energy, and public safety benefits. Expanding broadband access is expected to create jobs, boost innovation and productivity, reduce energy consumption through smart grid technology, improve healthcare outcomes through telemedicine, and make education more engaging through digital learning. However, realizing these potential impacts will require substantial investment, estimated between $20 to $350 billion over 10 years, as well as cooperation across government, industry, and public stakeholders.

While progress has been made since 2010, there are still rural and low-income areas lacking quality broadband access and adoption today. Ongoing investment, policies, and programs will be needed to fully achieve the plan’s vision of delivering affordable, high-speed internet to every American and realizing the many societal benefits.

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