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FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski  (Source: LA Times)
Funding redirection could bring high-speed access to new areas of the country

The Universal Services Fund (USF) was an initiative put in place by former U.S. President Bill Clinton's Federal Communication Commission in 1997.  The USF takes a large cut out of consumer phone bills -- approximately 15 percent out of a long-distance bill, for example -- and redirects that money to funding landline telephone service to low-income rural areas, and providing broadband at public institutions.

Over time the usefulness of landline phones has faded, but the FCC continues to pour money into that aspect of the effort.  In his bid to beef up our nation's broadband, U.S. President Barack Obama's appointed FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, is looking to scrap that funding and redirect it to promoting broadband in rural areas.

He proposed the change during a speech [PDF] at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.  He stated:

In the 21st century, high-speed Internet, not telephone, is our essential communications platform, and Americans are using wired and wireless networks to access it. But while the world has changed around it, USF -- in too many ways -- has stood still, and even moved backwards.

Currently the landline fund eats up $4.3B USD a year, while the broadband fund only gets a chunk of the remaining money.  Chairman Genachowski suggests a gradual fadeout of the telephone funding, transitioning that money to a new broadband deployment and support fund designed to push broadband into rural areas.

The new fund, formally titled the Connect America Fund, would aim to cover 24 million Americans with broadband.  Chairman Genachoski complains that the USF is becoming outdated and needs the changes.  He states, "The fund pays almost $2,000 per month -- more than $20,000 a year -- for some households to have phone service. And in many places, the existing system funds four or more phone companies to serve the same area."

The speech came with the filing of a "Notice For Proposed Rule-Making" (NFPRM).  This is the FCC's way of giving the public chance to comment.

Wireless service providers like Verizon and rural broadband providers have expressed enthusiasm about the shift.  Thus far rural landline operators have kept quiet, but they're unlikely to appreciate the measure.

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RE: another option
By DanNeely on 2/8/2011 1:21:42 PM , Rating: 5
You don't have a right to be provided with meat, or fruits, or vegetables, much less grains. Those are the luxiries of an agrarian economy.

If you choose to live in the middle of an area incapable of supporting agriculture (cities, towns, suburbs with HOAs), that's your choice. You have to accept the consequences of the decision. Why should the rest of us have to work for minimum wage to feed you to exercise your choice to live in there?

We're not talking about small towns. We're talking about enormous cities of millions of people who can't begin to feed even 1% of their population.


RE: another option
By mcnabney on 2/8/2011 1:47:55 PM , Rating: 1
You do understand that there is very little local variety in agriculture outside of California and Florida.

Go up to Iowa and Nebraska. Agricultural powerhouses. Nothing but miles and miles of corn and soybeans. Probably not the best diet available. The folks that live there get their produce from California, cheese from Wisconsin, and beef from Texas just like everyone else.

Food is a portable commodity.
Broadband is a service.

RE: another option
By swampthing1117 on 2/8/2011 2:07:42 PM , Rating: 4
ok i live in iowa, you have no clue of what you speak. Corn and soybeans are major crops here, yes. Now think what that corn and soy is used for, the multitude of products you wouldn't have without especially soy. You really think the rest of the country doesn't depend on that soy heavily?

We don't get beef from texas in iowa, are you nuts? Iowa corn fed beef is some of the best in the US. Pork is also a HUGE export and industry in iowa, i mean HUGE. Iowa is biggest pork producing state in the country.

Cheese from wisconsin? are you serious? Not much cheese here is from wisconsin. There's some but it's not like wisconsin is the only place that makes cheese, there's actually tons of cheese plants in iowa.

For that matter, agriculture is not even iowa's biggest industry. Manufacturing is, it's 23% of the economy here. Agriculture which includes, fishing and hunting and forestry is only 3.5% of the economy. Retail actually doubles agriculture here.

next time actually know what you speak of as you seemingly know nothing at all about iowa. All you did was list a bunch of regional stereotypes, almost none of which are true. Iowa an agricultural powerhouse?

No, not even close, more like a manufacturing powerhouse.

RE: another option
By FITCamaro on 2/8/2011 1:46:41 PM , Rating: 3
You don't have a right to be provided with meat, or fruits, or vegetables, much less grains. Those are the luxiries of an agrarian economy.

Absolutely right.

No one has the right to anything anyone else does. You have food, water, electricity, etc because people chose to start a business to provide you with it. And if you want the fruits of their businesses, you are supposed to earn a living in order to purchase those things. You're not just given them.

And internet is even less of a necessity. No one dies from not having the internet. It is not a right. It is a luxury. If you want to live in the country, you have to accept that you're not going to have all the luxuries of someone living in a big city. And you accept that life for your children as well.

RE: another option
By silverblue on 2/8/2011 1:57:48 PM , Rating: 1
If you want to live in the city, you have to accept that you're not going to have all the luxuries of someone living in the country. Fresh air springs to mind.

I reckon, to balance this out, rural homeowners should pay less for their food as it costs less to transport it to them. People living near refineries should pay less to fill their cars. Can you imagine the outcry that would result if absolutely everything was charged this way?

Telecomms companies wouldn't fall down overnight if they provided a basic broadband service to a rural town or two.

RE: another option
By Jaybus on 2/8/2011 4:16:50 PM , Rating: 2
It has nothing to do with rights, civil or otherwise. Do the inner-city poor have a right to free money? Are subsidies for inner-city business development a necessity? Electric vehicles are completely useless in rural areas, yet they are subsidized. I the government is going to subsidize things that are only useful in the cities, then it is certainly fair to subsidize a fiber build out in rural areas.

RE: another option
By FITCamaro on 2/9/2011 10:26:19 AM , Rating: 2
Do the inner-city poor have a right to free money?


Are subsidies for inner-city business development a necessity?


Electric vehicles are completely useless in rural areas, yet they are subsidized.

And they shouldn't be.

A bunch of wrongs don't make a right.

RE: another option
By theapparition on 2/8/2011 1:56:43 PM , Rating: 3
While I somewhat disagree with the OPs view, your reply was beyond stupidity.

Those who farm for a living only make money by selling thier harvest. Without those ridiculous city people, the famers wouldn't have enough money to continue farming.

With that said, Internet access is not a right for anyone. The US is blessed with lots of land mass, so a comparison to a tiny European or Asian country is ridiculous. About the only fair comparison would be to Australia. And ask some there what they pay for internet access?

My concern is that the government has been taking my telecom tax money and "giving" it right back to the same companies whom then aren't using it towards the intended goal. Much better that the government then either loan that money, and collects interest (which lowers tax burdens) or creates the infrastructure themselves and sells it to the free market. But that last idea is somewhat hard to swallow as some will say that's the beginning of state run utilites. I'm not quite that cynical, but I do have a hard time believing that the government can manage anything efficiently.

RE: another option
By monitorjbl on 2/8/2011 3:16:36 PM , Rating: 2
Those who farm for a living only make money by selling thier harvest. Without those ridiculous city people, the famers wouldn't have enough money to continue farming.

The rest of your post is opinion and that's fine with me even if I happen to disagree with it, but this is just flat-out wrong and for one reason or another it irks me. Maybe it's because I know a few farmers, and I bet it would outright piss them off. Cities DO depend on farmers, not the other way around; farmers have been farming for thousands of years, before big cities even existed. They sold and ate their crop just the same in smaller communities, its just that their farms were correspondingly smaller since there were less people. Cities on the other hand can't grow their own food in quantities large enough to support their populations, they absolutely depend on farms outside their borders to supply their citizens with food.

RE: another option
By theapparition on 2/8/2011 4:31:55 PM , Rating: 2
But you hit the nail on the head. Most "farms" have become big scale operations that are unsustainable without massive sales of thier harvest.

The smaller ones might grow enough to sustain themselves. But the roadside stand doesn't pay the mortgage, taxes, farm equipment, feed, fertilizer, etc. Not to mention electricity, gas, diesel, and of course the most important thing.....internet access.

Again, I'm not dismissing farming. It's a nobel occupation, one where people work very hard. But today's farming is not like 2000 years ago. Cities do depend on farming, and farming just as much on cities. And trust me, not one farmer wants to go back to the old days of struggling to pull a plow behind an ox.

It's utterly stupid to argue that it's anything but a benificial symbiotic relationship.

RE: another option
By monitorjbl on 2/8/2011 5:27:23 PM , Rating: 2
It's symbiotic now, but it's only necessary for the farms to be this way because of how important the relationship between cities and farms is today. They essentially depend on each other in their current states but if you took the farms right now, the cities would starve, crumble, and die. If you were to do the opposite and take away the city, the farms would just shrink until they could sustain themselves. It's a symbiotic relationship, but the cities can't live on their own while the farms can.

Of course, I'm disregarding any kind of economic factors, since there's really no telling what would happen if cities suddenly went away and the population stayed the same. Anyway, what is happening now is extremely beneficial to both parties and I think we both agree on that. So, why do the people that grow the food to sustain urban life get passed over for services that most other people have? I live in a city so I'm not arguing for myself, I just don't really see the fairness in keeping these people out in the technological equivalent of the mid-90's. The government spends money on far sillier things, this one doesn't seem so bad to me.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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