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FCC's national broadband plan now online; getting the rest of the country to follow is the next challenge

March 16, 2010 |  8:47 am

The Federal Communications Commission officially released its 356-page national broadband plan Tuesday morning as the agency prepared to send it to Congress and start the hard work of implementing its roughly 200 recommendations.

At a packed meeting -- FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski dubbed it the agency's own version of March Madness -- staff who drafted the plan presented it to commission members.

"In every era America must confront the challenge of connecting the nation anew," said Blair Levin, executive director of the FCC's broadband initiative. "If successful, we will transform our country and as America does when it transforms itself, transform the world."

Unveiled to reporters Monday, the FCC's plan calls for a dramatic expansion of affordable, high-speed Internet. (Although it was somewhat strange that the plan was only available in paper form until the public unveiling today.)

In drafting the plan over the last year, the FCC touted its extensive outreach to the public and use of new media tools.

The FCC, which had been criticized for years for its difficult-to-navigate website, updated its online presence. Led by Genachowski, a former high-tech executive appointed as chairman by President Obama last year, it launched a blog and included comments to it in the large public record of the plan's proceedings. The FCC started tweeting on Twitter and now has 330,000 followers.

And last week it launched a new tool on its broadband website to allow consumers to test the speed of their Internet connections, with 300,000 people taking the test since then.

"At last, we begin to walk the broadband walk," said FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who has been pushing for a national plan since joining the agency nearly a decade ago.

-- Jim Puzzanghera