As the Federal Communications Commission prepares to present its National Broadband Plan to Congress March 17, the agency released details of its plans, including a promise to find 500MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband and a request for Congress to cough up $16 billion.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been on a media tour recently, making comments about the forthcoming National Broadband Plan, which the FCC has been charged with since early 2009.

The FCC's previous plan for a public-service network was to auction off 20MHz of 700MHz spectrum (paired into two 10MHz channels, and named D-Block) with the provison that the buyer had to build a network for first responders, including police and other emergency services.

The plan failed because no-one wanted the burden, so the spectrum didn't get sold and the US still lacks a nationwide emergency network.

“The private sector simply is not going to build a nationwide, state-of-the-art, interoperable broadband network for public safety on its own dime,” Genachowski said.

“Local municipalities and states can certainly contribute some amount to sustaining any network that is built. But the bottom line is that if we want to deliver on what our first responders need to protect our communities and loved ones, public money will need to be put toward tackling this national priority.”

The plan is designed to address the lack of broadband availability not only throughout the United States but in under-served and economically depressed areas.

Genachowski advised the commission needs to develop a long-term plan because public safety could require even more spectrum in the future. The FCC is also recommending a competitive environment to build the network.

“To that end, our approach does not limit the public safety community to one potential partner. Instead, public safety can select any commercial operator it determines it is appropriate or, if it prefers, a systems integrator to partner with.”