In Washington today, someone got something done. If that was not shocking enough, it was the FCC. We can wait while you compose yourself. The FCC voted unanimously today to re-purpose the universal service program, which was used to get phone service to rural Americans. The fun will now be used to deliver broadband internet access to the most remote areas of the nation.
The new rules will expand broadband by shifting the $4.5 billion dollar fund from subsidizing phone service to pay for the deployment and service costs associated with rural broadband. The FCC has also mandated changes to the way the newly renamed America Connect Fund will be collected, meaning a savings of over $2 billion that will hopefully be passed on to consumers by way of lower bills.
It is important to note that the old universal service program still exist, but in a much smaller form. Companies now receiving phone subsidies will have early access to the new broadband fund if they wish. The FCC is moving ahead with the rollout of high-speed internet because past efforts have been unable to encourage ISPs to deploy service in remote, lightly-populated areas. Is this the right call?