I would define the goal of a national plan not simply as the construction of a series of networks, but ultimately as the robust use of broadband. You could build an unbelievably great network and if nobody signed up for it, it doesn't really get you very much. The plan is quite good in recognizing that, and in addressing issues beyond the physical network.
It turns out that the reason why we're behind some other nations in broadband is adoption rates, not network deployment. We have the highest rate of cable deployment in the world, for example, but we have relatively low rates of computer ownership, and if you don't have a computer, you aren't likely to subscribe to broadband.
We held a debate about a month ago about whether the U.S. was behind on broadband, and if so, was it because of a failure of our policies. (We argued that it was not due a failure of regulation).
One of the things we calculated is that if we had the same computer ownership as the top six OECD nations (assuming that the same ratio of computer ownership to broadband adoption), we'd be fifth in the overall broadband rankings, not 15th. So addressing issues of digital adoption and use are equally important as making policies directed to the network itself.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE MONEY
I think the plan was very, very good. The best thing in the plan is its proposal to take much of the largely wasted TV spectrum and put it into wireless broadband. We can get by with much less TV spectrum (and still have very good TV broadcasting) and doing so will enable the next wave of the mobile broadband revolution. But this will be a tough fight as the broadcasters want to keep the spectrum they never paid for.
If I have to have any criticism of the plan, it's two-fold. First, it was three or four years late. We were quite late to developing a national plan. Many other countries had put their strategies in place in the early part of the last decade. But better late than never.
Second, the biggest limitation of the plan is that it doesn't have much money behind it. The plan can talk all it wants about wanting to get high speeds to a large number of people -- 10 megabyte download speeds for 100 million people, say -- and that's all well and good, but what's the real mechanism by which you do that?
If you want to accelerate that, you have to put some public investment behind it, either in grants and/or tax incentives. The Swedes had a stimulus package for the last recession (early 2000s) and invested a lot more than us in grants and tax incentives for broadband. If you adjust for the size of the countries' populations, the U.S. would have had to invest $32 billion to match the Swedish spend. We did $7.2 billion in the stimulus package. That's better than zero, but nowhere near what it should have been.