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 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'.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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