I just listened to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski speaking on the Universal Service Fund (USF) and other issues. It is a very large effort to straighten out the mess that is 20th century telecommunications technologies, rules and laws, and to make those laws, rules, public funding and attitudes, change and update for the 21st century technologies that are upon us as well as address the needs of the people of not only America, but the world.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Speaking on Net NeutralityWhen you can spend more money to call a friend a few towns over, but its far cheaper or free, to call someone on the other side of the world; when a high school student has to park at a local library to hit its "hot spot" to get internet because they do not have it at home; when someone cannot get high speed internet in an urban area, when the next neighborhood over has it; all these things and more need to be addressed and rectified. But how does one do that with the limited resources and funding that is available?
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will unveil a proposal Tuesday to phase out subsidies for traditional telephone service to rural areas, with the money transferred to a broadband deployment program.
The Universal Service Fund (USF) is outdated and inefficient, with much of its budget going to support last-century networks, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Monday in a speech at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
"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," Genachowski said in a preview of Tuesday's FCC meeting. "But while the world has changed around it, USF -- in too many ways -- has stood still, and even moved backwards."
A revamped USF is needed to bring broadband to an estimated 24 million U.S. residents who don't yet have access to traditional broadband service, Genachowski said.
But USF is "plagued with inefficiencies," he added. "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 FCC proposal will focus on eliminating waste and inefficiency, and on finding better measures of effectiveness for the Connect America Fund, the broadband program that would replace the USF high-cost fund, Genachowski said.
The proposal will also suggest ways for the FCC to revamp intercarrier compensation, the complicated formulas that telecom providers use to carry each other's traffic. The proposal, he said, will address so-called traffic pumping, a controversial practice in which some small carriers with high intercarrier access fees partner with sex chat lines or free teleconferencing services to drive voice traffic to their networks.
The notice of proposed rulemaking, or NPRM, is an early step in the FCC's efforts to revamp USF. In an NPRM, the FCC makes proposals and asks for public comment on them.