I have been following with interest the FCC Broadband Plan, funded by the government stimulus program. Yesterday FFC chairman, Julius Genachowski, proposed converting the Universal Service Fund (USF) from subsidizing rural telephone service into one which helps to bring broadband service to under-served rural areas. He observed that the communications landscape has fundamentally changed since the USF “helped connect virtually every American to the communications grid,” and brought basic telephone service to places where there was no economic case for service. Currently, although broadband is vital for our economic future and global competitiveness, roughly one-third of Americans still aren’t online, and up to 24 million can’t get broadband due to lack of infrastructure. Genachowski states the USF transition would be gradual, shifting funding to the Connect America Fund.
According to New York Times on 2-7-2011, USF is paid for by telecommunications companies which are required to contribute a percentage of their long distance revenues to the fund. These costs are passed along to customers. Congress has made attempts to overhaul the program, and some want to eliminate it altogether. Genachowski, however, sees this as an opportunity to help millions of Americans not be bypassed by the broadband revolution.
Related statements are availbable on the FFC website.