On Monday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai introduced a proposal to commissioners that would provide more than $500 million in funding for accelerating the rollout of broadband in rural regions. In addition, according to a release, this proposal would also “put in place strong new rules to prevent abuse of the high-cost program.” Included in it are also multiple reforms to the program, which the FCC says will improve the existing program’s “effectiveness and efficiency.”
The proposal relates to the FCC’s Connect America Fund and, more broadly, the “digital divide” that exists in the US. Many rural places in the US still have little or no access to broadband Internet, which has itself become a necessity in the modern world. Many schools now assign online homework, leaving students at risk of falling behind if they don’t have Internet access.
Internet has also become the primarily form of communication for many people; job searches often take place primarily or solely online; paying bills and managing accounts can be difficult in a world where many companies push paperless statements and online account management.
In a statement about the new proposal, Chairman Pai said:
Closing the digital divide is the FCC’s top priority. A key way to reach this goal in rural America is updating the FCC’s high-cost universal service program to encourage cooperatives and other small, rural carriers to build more online infrastructure. We need more deployment in sparsely populated rural areas if we’re going to extend digital opportunity to all Americans. But I’ve heard from community leaders, Congress, and carriers that insufficient, unpredictable funding has kept them from reaching this goal. With the $500 million in new funding provided by this order, we’ll boost broadband deployment in rural America and put our high-cost system on a more efficient path, helping to ensure that every American can benefit from the digital revolution.
The actual details on the proposal weren’t made available to the public, however.