The FCC wants to reform the Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide subsidies for rural broadband services instead of wireline voice. Specifically, the agency wants to create a $4.6 billion Connect America fund to speed deployment of high-speed broadband in poor and remote areas. The fund would replace a current phone and Internet subsidy program within the government’s $8 billion USF.
The FCC also wants to create a new, so-called Mobility Fund to expand 3G access across the country.
“Some states are significantly lagging behind the national average for 3G coverage,” said Rebekah Goodheart, assistant division chief at the FCC’s Industry Analysis Division in a blog post on the FCC’s Web site. “The Mobility Fund would provide a targeted subsidy in such areas to bring those states up to the national average.”
The agency also wants to phase out per-minute charges as part of its intercarrier compensation reform. The Connect America Fund may be used to provide operators with “adequate cost recovery from customers.”
Verizon senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs Kathleen Grillow applauded the FCC’s plans, calling them “bold and practical.”
“The commission appears to want to take these tough problems head-on and provide a rational framework for repairing the broken subsidy systems,” she said in a statement. “It makes sense to focus limited Universal Service Fund resources on broadband, rather than layering new support on top of existing voice subsidies. And it is critical to move forward to promptly reform the intercarrier compensation system.”
The FCC’s formal USF reform proposals will be unveiled in its National Broadband Plan, which is due March 17.
Filed Under: Industry regulations, Infrastructure