Internet Everywhere May Be Coming

During the Great Depression, America brought its rural population into the 20th Century with the rural electrification program.  Later, the federal government subsidized getting telephones into all homes – first with party lines and later with direct lines.  In both situations, there was a risk that the US would be split into technology “haves” and “have nots.”  The federal government ensured that the rural part of our population was not left behind when pure economics only delivered new technologies to cities.

These changes are not all that long ago.  I can remember sharing a party line with other farms near a farm my family owned when I was young.  Now, the federal government, through the FCC, is again working to see that the rural part of America’s population remains with the technology “haves.”  The FCC is working to subsidize broadband for the rural population.

I believe that access to the internet and the information and communication that comes with it is even more important today than electrification in the 30s or telephony in the 50s.  Without the internet, I don’t see how a young population can be educated to share in the future in which they will live.  This move by the FCC deserves much more discussion than it has gotten.  It deserves applause.

Here is the story from the New York Times:

Court Approves F.C.C. Plan to Subsidize Rural Broadband Service
By EDWARD WYATT

MAY 23, 2014

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to convert its $4.5 billion program that pays for telephone service in rural parts of the country into one that subsidizes high-speed Internet service in high-cost areas.

The program, known as Connect America, is the largest portion of the $8 billion Universal Service Fund, which pays for a variety of efforts to provide telecommunications links to schools, low-income families and others.

In October 2011, the F.C.C. approved an overhaul of the fund. Soon after its approval, however, the effort was challenged in court by dozens of phone companies. Many were small carriers that provided service in rural areas and that stood to lose annual subsidies because of the changes.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver, rejected the phone companies’ arguments because their claims were “either unpersuasive or barred from judicial review.”

One of the carriers’ main objections concerned the F.C.C.’s simultaneous overhaul of its intercarrier compensation system, in which one carrier pays another carrier to originate and move calls. Many calls that involve different carriers on each end, and therefore require compensation, are made in low-population areas. Rural carriers have feared that they could lose money from the changes.

F.C.C. officials expressed satisfaction at the decision. “Congress has directed the commission to ensure that all Americans receive the benefit of 21st-century communications,” Kim Hart, an F.C.C. spokeswoman, said in a statement. “With today’s across-the-board affirmance of our landmark 2011 reforms, the commission has tools in hand to accomplish that critical goal.”

Mignon Clyburn, the longest-serving current commissioner at the agency, called voting for the overhaul of the fund “one of my proudest moments at the F.C.C.”

“The reforms are changing the lives of millions of Americans who will receive broadband for the first time,” she said.

In April, the F.C.C. approved a second phase of overhaul for the plan that would expand the money available for rural broadband.

Consumers pay into the fund through fees tacked onto their monthly home telephone and cellular telephone bills. The fee has been criticized by members of Congress as the assessment has increased, to about 16.5 percent currently from 7 percent in 2001, and as investigators have uncovered fraud in other parts of the program, including the $2 billion Lifeline program, which provides telephone connections for low-income families.

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