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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  Chairman Genachoski complains that the USF is becoming outdated and needs the changes.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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By Mathos on 2/9/2011 10:00:37 AM , Rating: 2
If only I could ever read a post about the government trying to do something without someone bringing entitlement into it in the comments.

Since Water and electricity aren't a right, then lets cut off all public water to those who live in cities, as well as, if they want electricity they have to pay for lines to be run to their homes. If they want water, they can pay to have a personal well drilled, or go to the local water well and wait in line. Let's forget about the increase in disease and parasite spreading that would happen from lack of running water for health and sanitation purposes. Granted this wouldn't be a problem out in rural area's since most people who live in those area's have paid to have water wells drilled, and pay the utilities to provide electricity to operate the pumps on those wells.

I've lived out in the country myself, currently do, and I've also lived in town or in cities before. I've known quite a few farmers, in fact there are even a few in the family. Do they absolutely need basic broadband as a right, no. But if they at least had the option to get access to dependable broadband, would they? Yes. It can be a very invaluable tool for doing business, keeping track of crop yields, keeping up info about new crop demands, or types of seed, cooperating with other nearby farmers to determine which crops to grow without stepping on each others feet, etc.

The problem isn't that people think its their right, since none of the people I know feel that way. It's the fact that the option simply isn't available in the first place. And the only reason it's not available is due to Greedy Telcoms/cable companies not wanting to invest in the infrastructure to make it possible. Which means either the local, state, or federal government is forced to step in to make it happen. We've seen what happens almost every time the local government tries to set up a local broadband service. They end up getting sued by the telco/cable companies for doing so, or those same companies try and push legislation through on a state or higher level to keep it from happening.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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