Connect America Fund: Phase 2

The FCC this week took significant steps toward implementing the next phase of its Connect America Fund to expand broadband in rural America.

In Phase I of the Connect America Fund (map) the government invested $438 million to deploy broadband service to 1.6 million previously unserved Americans. It also invested $300 million to expand advanced mobile wireless service and nearly $50 million for better mobile voice and broadband on Tribal lands.

In Phase II of the Connect America Fund the government will offer state-level support to carriers for constructing fixed-location voice and broadband capable networks. Over five years, Phase II of the Connect America Fund will provide nearly $9 billion to expand broadband in rural areas to provide broadband access to an additional 5 million Americans.

To determine eligibility, the FCC first taps data in the National Broadband Map to find the presence of unsubsidized providers that deploy fixed, land-based technologies such as cable, fiber, DSL, or fixed wireless providers like WISPs (wireless Internet service providers).

They will check if these competitors also provide voice service. They will then use that information to publish an initial list of census blocks presumed to be lacking an unsubsidized provider – and therefore potentially eligible for the Connect America Fund.

Not everyone, including members of the FCC, are on board with the new plan, says Fierce Wireless. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai filed a dissent, expressed concerns over the regulator’s decision to maintain the “rate floor.” As a result of that policy, “over one million rural Americans can expect their local telephone rates to increase by up to 46 percent as the rate floor rises from $14.00 to $20.46 per month.”

The National Broadband Plan, unveiled March 16, 2010, was an FCC plan to improve Internet access in the United States. One goal was providing 100 million American households with access to 100 Mbit/s (megabits per second) connections by 2020.

The Universal Service Fund (USF) was created by the FCC in 1997 to meet Congressional universal service goals. On October 27, 2011, the FCC approved a six-year transfer process that would transition money from the Universal Service Fund High-Cost Program to a new $4.5 billion a year Connect America Fund for broadband Internet expansion.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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