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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  Chairman Genachoski complains that the USF is becoming outdated and needs the changes.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 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.

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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