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FCC Reforms Universal Service Fund - Ensures that Community Anchor Institutions are Covered

In a historic vote to reform the Universal Service Fund (USF), the FCC Chairman and Commissioners unanimously approved the Report & Order (Order) on the Connect America Fund and Intercarrier Compensation item that was on today’s Open Meeting agenda.  Notably, ensuring universal availability of modern networks to serve “community anchor institutions” was mentioned in the 2nd Goal listed in the Order’s Executive Summary.  See:

We expect the FCC to release the text of the Order in the next 20 days and we will provide an analysis at that time.

John Windhausen, Director of the Schools, Health and Libraries (SHLB) Coalition issued the following statement today:

“The SHLB Coalition applauds the FCC for following the recommendations of Representatives Matsui, Markey, Eshoo and Doyle to ensure that recipients of USF support must serve the broadband needs of community anchor institutions in rural America.  We are particularly pleased that anchor institutions are given an opportunity to participate in the design of the broadband networks serving their areas, and that recipients of USF funding must include the anchor institutions served in their annual reports.  Providing rural schools, libraries, health care providers and other community anchors with affordable, high-capacity broadband will go a long way toward improving educational opportunities, medical care and economic growth in rural America.”

The FCC also established the new Mobility Fund that will support expanded mobile broadband services across the country.  In sum, the FCC estimates that over the next six years, the Connect America Fund will increase broadband access to over 7 million residents in rural areas who are currently unserved, it will put the country on the path to Universal Broadband within a decade, and it will create about 500,000 new jobs.

Chairman Genachowski also said that the FCC will soon turn to reform of the USF collection methodology (now collected via a surcharge on consumers’ phone bills) and the Link-up/Lifeline Fund (supporting low-income consumers).  It is anticipated that these further issues of USF reform could be addressed in the first half of 2012.