Can it be? Has the FCC finally put together a plan to reform the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation after a decade of procrastination? I have hesitated to write about the possibility, given the long history of deadlines missed and proposals never followed through on. But nevertheless, that's what the news out of the FCC says today -- although nobody has actually seen the full text of the actual order yet. The commission voted 4-0 to accept Genachowski's Connect America Fund proposal yesterday.
A few features of the proposal:
- A $4.5B fund to promote rural broadband with a firm annual budget
- Competitive bidding to distribute the money efficiently
- A long term Bill & Keep plan, but phased in over many years
- A new fee on phone bills, but rates not affected (uh huh)
- Curtailing of phantom traffic and access stimulation
Here's a link to the Executive Summary for those who would like to take a closer look.
The devil has always been in the details and loopholes though, and it will be a while yet before those bubble to the surface of the discussion. I expect everyone will have problems with some part of this plan, seeing as it seems to walk a central line. But the thing is - we just need *something* in place. The existing system was antiquated during the Clinton administration, and the uncertainty has held back the entire sector in a myriad of ways.
The FCC is billing the new plan as a source of 500,000 jobs over the next six years by expanding broadband to 7 million people in rural areas. That's one way to cut opposition off at the knees in today's environment! Congrats to Julius for finally putting something on the table, even if he did screw around with Net Neutrality first.
What do you think. Did the FCC finally get it right?
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