Print 30 comment(s) - last by Lerianis.. on Dec 5 at 11:30 AM

Universal Service fund pays for rural telephone service today

One of the best ways to get broadband service into the homes in rural areas is by using wireless airwaves. The problem for wireless broadband providers is that the airwaves used for wireless services don’t travel as far and are not as strong as those used by TV broadcasters.

The FCC is looking at many different methods of getting wireless broadband into the homes of rural Americans. One of the methods being considered is taking some of the airwaves currently allocated to TV broadcasters and giving them to wireless broadband providers. The term give is too strong, the airwaves are worth billions of dollars, and auctions would be held to sell the airwaves if they were taken from broadcasters and used for wireless broadband services.

The FCC is also looking at reallocating  the federal phone-subsidy program to allow some of the funds in the program to be used to support wireless broadband services in rural areas according to the Wall Street Journal. The fund in question is the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is a federal program funded by consumers though a charge on each phone bill. The funds are currently used to subsidize phone service in rural areas and to provide service to low income homes. Plans to revamp the USF in the past have been met with staunch resistance by broadcasters and their supporters in Washington.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said, "USF is a multibillion dollar annual fund that continues to support yesterday's communications infrastructure. We need to reorient the fund to support broadband communications." The FCC is already working to identify airwaves that could be reclaimed from broadcasters.

If the FCC moved forward with the plan to take airwaves back from broadcasters, estimates peg the cost of buying the airwaves back at $12 billion. The estimated value of the airwaves when auctioned off to wireless providers is estimated to be $64 billion.

Genachowski said, "Much of what we see suggests that mobile broadband can be the pre-eminent platform for innovation in the next decade. To be the global leader in innovation 10 years from now, we need to lead the world in wireless broadband. We will need to find ways to free up new spectrum to mobile broadband. This will require examining old allocation decisions."

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RE: Why not re-allocate all of the funds?
By invidious on 12/2/2009 11:47:03 AM , Rating: 5
Internet should not be a right. Phone service is not even a right. Please keep your wild political ideas to yourself.

And considering your economic ideas, it will cost a lot more to cover internet, TV, and digital phone service than it currently does so simply cover analog phone service. So if we authorize the FCC to cover more services they are going to need to increase the USF fee on all of our bills to do it.

So no, I don't want my taxes to increase so that people who live in the middle of nowhere can get cheaper wifi. It is not their right to have it, and it is not my responsibility to give it to them. If they want to be part of civilization they can move closer to it.

RE: Why not re-allocate all of the funds?
By HJK768 on 12/2/2009 12:15:05 PM , Rating: 4
Sir, please keep you taxes. The last thing I want you to do is support the common good for all Americans. If there is anything we can do for you and your family however, please feel free to ask. Some Medicare for your mom or maybe some Social Security for you perhaps?

The more we refuse to help our fellow citizens, the sooner we can create that third-world country we strive to be.

Oh, and please stop driving on my roads that I cheerfully pay for with my taxes.

By AntiM on 12/2/2009 12:52:55 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't have a problem with the USF being used to help those that are disadvantaged. However, very little of that money actually goes toward the purpose for which it was created. "Rual" doesn't necessarily mean "poor". Some very affluent neighborhoods have used USF money. Plus, most of it goes into the telcos pockets. There's very little accountability, therefore it is easily abused.

RE: Why not re-allocate all of the funds?
By CosmoJoe on 12/2/2009 1:06:47 PM , Rating: 1
Great, so where does it end? Internet is a right? Wouldn't that make computers a right too, because after all what good is it if the Gov't gives you subsidized Internet but you have no way of using the service? And how about electricity? Don't we need cars to get to work? Can someone have a job without transportation if they don't live near a bus route?

Are we seriously in that much of a race to become a nanny state?

By freezervv on 12/2/2009 1:47:43 PM , Rating: 3
You forgot to mention Hitler.

By danrien on 12/2/2009 2:41:14 PM , Rating: 2
I think you misunderstood what he meant. Internet access is a right, just as access to broadcast television or phone service is a right. Not only is it a right, but it is quickly becoming the fastest way for emergency information to be relayed, and so is useful for local governments' to inform citizens of weather and the like. The fact that the digital TV transition opened up a bunch of this spectrum merely helps the argument that the said spectrum should be used for this instead of something else (what that could possibly be is beyond me).

Also, faster internet to rural households could help internet businesses substantially - rural customers are a perfect target for them, since those people often have to drive an hour or two to get things they want anyways, and you could suppose they would be more likely to order over the internet if it was more convenient for them.

By wempa on 12/2/2009 2:51:07 PM , Rating: 3
Ah yes, Social Security. Do you mean the one that the government has managed so well that it will be out of funds by the time most of us retire ? Yes, I can clearly see how I am going to experience that "common good" that this program is supposed to deliver. </sarcasm>

By KCjoker on 12/2/2009 8:06:58 PM , Rating: 2
Please don't compare internet access to Medicare or SS it's not even close.

By FITCamaro on 12/3/2009 12:39:04 AM , Rating: 3
Ah so refusing to pay out endless taxes to give people sh*t for free that the rest of us have to pay for will drive us into being a 3rd world country but printing money endlessly to do it won't right?

Ever hear of Zimbabwe. We're on a fast track to becoming them with your ideas.

By delphinus100 on 12/3/2009 9:42:25 AM , Rating: 2
"The last thing I want you to do is support the common good for all Americans."

But does this constitute that? Is it up there with electricity, water and sewage service? (which we don't pretend can go everywhere, either)

By Motoman on 12/2/2009 12:17:24 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Somehow people manage to live without internet, TV, radio, cell phones, so on and so forth. Calling any such things a "necessity" is silly at best.

RE: Why not re-allocate all of the funds?
By guffwd13 on 12/2/2009 1:20:37 PM , Rating: 1
Very nice invidious. Tell someone to keep their wild political ideas to himself (on a very site where blog discussions are common) only to preach your own. Try harder not to contradict yourself next time - it makes you look belligerent stupid and ignorant.

I myself have no issue with wild political ideas. No phone service isn't a right. But the interent should be. There are major cities and major airports who currently broadcast wifi for free within range of downtown areas. This is extremely convenient and beats Starbucks charging whatever it is these days. Internet should be free. Period. Will it? Probably not, but try we will nonetheless.

As far as taxes go. Grow up. You live in a country that has a very good central government. Its not detached and corrupt like the Russian government, and its not nearly as socialist as European systems; it is simply comfortably in the middle.

With this system comes certain responsibility - ie providing services that are necessary for survival (you're either too old or just delusional if you think the internet isn't necessary at this point). Ironically enough I am more of an elitist than anything else and harbor the viewpoint much like that of Brave New World, that certain people are just better for certain tasks. Certain people, even groups are expendable. But only if necessary because like it or not they are necessary too.

And now for the shocker. This world isn't for you. It isn't for me either. If you or I die tomorrow, the world moves on. Nothing much changes. Sure our families will be devastated, but the impact matters little in the grand scheme of things (think beginning of time until now how short your line on a diagram would be). Your existance is so pathetically unimportant and yet you seem to think you and your income matter so much. News for you: the money really isn't yours to begin with. You are simply being compensated for service and skill that could easily be performed by the next guy. You are just a worker bee working towards a small part of a much greater whole.

Just as your work is for the greater whole, so is your compensation. So yes, the burden of supporting those rests upon you - and everyone else. Thats the price you pay for the country you live in.

Deal with it or leave.

RE: Why not re-allocate all of the funds?
By CosmoJoe on 12/2/2009 1:36:48 PM , Rating: 2
After reading your post, this should be an easy question: why is the Internet a necessity for an individual? The Internet is one thing; it is a conduit of communication and information. The thing is, it is not the *only* conduit. You have television, newspaper, telephone etc. You even have access to computers and the Internet via publicly funded sources such as your local library.

Plenty of people in this country get by just fine without Internet access. They mail in checks for bills, buy things in brick and mortar stores, bank in an actual bank, etc. I work in IT and trust me, I would be in a world of hurt myself without Internet access, but my parents and plenty of people I know can get by just fine.

So in essence, the Internet is a wonderful advancement, but it is quite possible to live a very meaningful existence without it.

RE: Why not re-allocate all of the funds?
By guffwd13 on 12/2/2009 2:05:38 PM , Rating: 2
I concede that people can live meaningful lives without the internet and meant no offense to those who can.

But I do have two points. One, the internet is the most major form of communication and the only one (other than a library which is slow and limited at best) that can deliver specific information upon request. With television, if you want to learn something, not only are you limited to whats on, but also whether or not someone has produced anything in the realm of what you seek. The phone can gather specific information, but its limited to simple answers. More and more business and commercial communication is being transferred to the internet. Information upon request (within reason) should be free; ie google and Wikipedia are invaluable resources.

Can people live without them? Of course, we have for 2 million years. But for people who want to interact with the rest of the world that is evolving at the pace of new computer processors, more and more this interaction will become increasingly limited and difficult without the internet. And its not only a function of technology, but a result of user lifestyle. For example, as a child of the computer "revolution," my entire life revolves around the internet. How I keep in touch (fb, email), how I purchase goods (amazon, ebay), how I decide what to eat (recipes) is all governed by the internet. It takes too long to do it the "analog" way. If it takes me more than 10 minutes to pay all my bills for a month (from receiving the bill to processing it and submitting it) I'd have to reschedule my day to account for lost time. I simply expect my day to move at a certain pace.

I don't write holiday or birthday cards - only emails (for both green and time reasons). Most of my free time is planned with people all across the city with an hour or less of notice. I simply would not know how to communicate or relate to those with no internet. And its only going to get worse from this day on out.

Is this because I'm a bad person? Maybe. But is it really my fault that I grew up with this lifestyle and can't slow down or think outside of it?

I may be somewhat of an extreme, but everyone I know my age today - people where I've lived in CT, PA, CA and Europe all operate this way. Is my pool of friends a poor sample set of the world population. Definitely, but I don't see any reason to believe that by the time the generation of people 10 years behind me are 50 that the entire world won't be that way and probably even much more dependent on the internet in ways we have not yet imagined.

The internet is bigger than the fountain of youth, if only because its the first invention that may actually make it possible. I don't think its responsible or ethical to keep something so powerful out of the hands of people who (may) want it just because I wanted an extra pair of shoes this year.

RE: Why not re-allocate all of the funds?
By JediJeb on 12/2/2009 5:38:16 PM , Rating: 2
I use the internet a lot but I hope I am never so attached to it.

To depend on something so much is dangerous. If next week a massive solar flare hits Earth and knocks out the power grids or even some simple human mistake knocks them out for days or longer, what will you do? And before you think it is not possible or probable, Google it and see just how shakey our electronic infrastructure is to such an event. Last I read was that if it happened it could take months to bring everything back online( if from a solar flare that knocks out most of the country). The one in 1965 took a day or more in some cases to recover power the one in 2003 was similar

These were caused by simple human errors, but a natural disaster can make things even worse. The ice storm we had in our area last January knocked out power to several counties for up to 4 weeks for some people. I was without power for 12 days, a friend 21 days and even at work which is in an industrial park we had no power for 8 days. The ice actually collapsed several of the large main transmission lines coming from the power plant. Cell service, electricity, phone service, even water in some places was out during this. I'm just glad I was raised in a rural area so I knew how to survive without such conveniences ( which is what they are, not rights ).

By guffwd13 on 12/2/2009 6:39:07 PM , Rating: 2
"To depend on something so much is dangerous."

I agree with that completely. However, we also depend on our cars and planes, and they all lead to many many deaths. Yet, we'll never shake that necessity. The internet will be likewise.

Yes a catastrophic event could take down our electronic and digital infrastructure. Already we are vastly dependent on it though - particularly in business and commerce. Even the stock market relies on the internet now. All life in developed nations would stall until everything gets back up and running.

I was working at Staples for a summer job back in the Northeast blackout of 2003. It was pretty entertaining actually. On the spot we changed our setup and let people come into the store but only up to the front registers where they had to request what they needed and we the employees ran to get what they wanted. We wrote down the sku's with pad and pencil and exchanged cash or check.

But I digress, the event would be just that, an event that will last for only a little while. And fool us once, you can guarantee it won't happen again.

As far as survival goes - there's a difference between life and lifestyle. My whole lifestyle would change, but I still have all the necessary life skills to go without it. I mean, its not like I'm online while skiing in the rockies or camping in death valley. In other words, just because my lifestyle utilizes the internet so much doesn't mean I can't survive without it.

But information is priceless and yet my generation expects much of it to be free - hence wikipedia, flikr, youtube, nytimes etc. etc. etc. And this is as it should be. If some of us have a right to it (because we pay for it dearly), then so should us all. While I despise affirmative action for many reasons, this is one tool that still needs to be available to all and should be supplied in such a fashion.

Philosophically, he who has the knowledge has all the power. Dictatorships will be impossible in the future (and are failing now - ie China, North Korea) because they cannot exist without the illusion that the grass is greener nowhere else (which of course is an ridiculously impossible notion anyway as it is an innate human trait to covet - hence why its one of the commandments). Some religions are also failing given the ability to see first hand so many different points of views. While this is the extreme, the same argument works at all scales.

This of course is no new concept. There's a reason governments have provided their respective peoples with libraries for millennia. Thus, one could assert that these governments, including our own, believe freedom of information to be a right, not a convenience nor a privilege. And there is no source of information that compares to the internet.

Can one strole down to the nearest library when they need to? Sure if there is one. And even those who live near libraries, when was the last time you took such a trip? (This is not to say I'm opposed to the concept of public libraries or them serving as the internet for those who can't afford even a netbook. If you've ever been to the Seattle public library, its quite impressive how many people jamb those computers. Students, homeless, businessmen on lunch etc. etc.).

Regardless of the best solution to this problem. I cannot see how anyone could argue the internet anything other than an inalienable right. For the world. Two billion down, four to go. Time to get crackin'.

RE: Why not re-allocate all of the funds?
By FITCamaro on 12/3/2009 12:41:38 AM , Rating: 2
My burden for supporting my country rests on the things the Constitution says the government is responsible for. Those do not include free internet, free phones, free food, free health care, free everything.

And even Russia's government is calling our government a piece of crap for going down the same roads it went down and failed at.

By Lerianis on 12/5/2009 11:25:12 AM , Rating: 2
Well, too bad.... the fact is that basic food, basic clothing, basic health care, basic internet, etc. should be available to EVERYONE.... right now, it isn't because of the out of control 'profit motive' going through everything.

It's fine to make a profit off some things, but when it comes to necessities of life.... that should not be allowed.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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