Originally published: May 2, 2011
Last updated: May 2, 2011 - 3:07pm
[Commentary] On February 8 the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRN) relating to broadband access and the use of the Universal Service Fund.
The NPRM states that “while most Americans have access to broadband, as many as 24 million Americans, one in thirteen of us, live in areas where there is no access to any broadband network, fixed (e.g., DSL or cable Internet service) or mobile.” In Northwest Minnesota, almost 3,700 households fall into this category. This is the primary reason that the IMPACT 20/20 Taskforce for Broadband is urging changes to the Universal Service Fund (USF) that would include support for high-speed broadband. It is safe to say that the current process is not working and that we need change in the USF to bring Broadband to every American household. The differences in opinion occur when the discussion turns to the funding of USF and how it will be used to provide maximum benefit to the country. Currently, USF does not underwrite the cost of high-speed broadband – it is only used to underwrite the cost of telephone service. The February 8 NPRM proposes to change the use of the USF to include support for high-speed broadband. The NPRM is long (289 pages) and complex. The process of change will be lengthy and the end result may be significantly different from the current contents of the NPRM. However, the FCC Commissioners appear to be ready to deal with the tough issues.
[Vyskocil is president of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation and a member of the IMPACT 20/20 Taskforce for Broadband.]
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