Broadband network critical to smart grid in U.S.


Julius Genachowski,
Chairman, FCC
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — March 17, 2010 – A national wide-area broadband network in the United States is crucial to the development of the smart grid with the lack of such a network capable of meeting the requirements of the smart grid threatening to delay its implementation.

This is according to the national broadband plan, “Connecting America,” which was delivered to the U.S. Congress yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The report points out that broadband and advanced communications infrastructure will play an important role in achieving national goals of energy independence and efficiency. Broadband-connected smart homes and businesses will be able to automatically manage lights, thermostats and appliances to simultaneously maximize comfort and minimize customer bills. New companies will emerge to help manage energy use and environmental impact over the internet, creating industries and jobs. Televisions, computers and other devices in the home will consume just a fraction of the power they use today, drawing energy only when needed. Large data centers, built and managed to leading energy efficiency standards, will be located near affordable and clean energy sources. Finally, broadband connectivity in vehicles will power the next generation of navigation, safety, information and efficiency applications while minimizing driver distraction.

In the process, broadband and information and communication technologies (ICT) can collectively prevent more than a billion metric tons of carbon emissions per year by 2020.

For the smart grid the plan proposes that the country should pursue three parallel paths. First, existing commercial mobile networks should be hardened to support mission-critical smart grid applications. Second, utilities should be able to share the public safety mobile broadband network for mission-critical communications. Third, utilities should be empowered to construct and operate their own mission-critical broadband networks. Each approach has significant benefits and tradeoffs, and what works in one geographic area or regulatory regime may not work as well in another.

However, the national broadband plan in 2010 cannot fully anticipate how Americans will use energy in 2050. Perhaps energy generation (and storage) will be much more distributed by then, with the grid functioning mostly as an intelligent broker between net-zero buildings exchanging power. Maybe energy transactions, not just energy management and efficiency, will be the next killer application of the internet. The federal government need not know the answer in 2010; rather, it should use a combination of incentives, rules and standards to foster an open marketplace where the best ideas, technologies and entrepreneurs can compete for investment capital and customers.

“The National Broadband Plan is a 21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. “It’s an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the challenges of global competitiveness, and harness the power of broadband to help address so many vital national issues.”

Among the goals of the national broadband plan are that the U.S. should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation, and that every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.

To begin implementation, the FCC will quickly publish a timetable of proceedings to implement plan recommendations within its authority and it will publish an evaluation of plan progress and effectiveness, as well as create a broadband data depository as a public resource for broadband information.