WASHINGTON, DC: The Federal Communications Commission today took significant steps toward implementing the next phase of its program for expanding robust broadband in rural America, the Connect America Fund.
Phase I of the Connect America Fund has already invested over $438 million to deploy broadband service to 1.6 million previously unserved Americans. Phase I also invested $300 million to expand advanced mobile wireless service and nearly $50 million for better mobile voice and broadband on Tribal lands. Phase II the Connect America Fund will result in a nearly 70% increase in annual support for broadband and voice service in areas served by the nation’s largest traditional local providers – known as “price cap” carriers.
The effort will expand broadband access to an additional 5 million Americans who are currently unable to benefit from the opportunities of 21st century communications. Over five years, Phase II of the Connect America Fund will provide nearly $9 billion to expand broadband in rural areas.
Today’s actions build on the FCC’s experience implementing the landmark 2011 reforms of universal service support for voice and broadband in rural areas that created the Connect America Fund. The steps taken today are focused on updating the program to ensure that we are delivering the best possible voice and broadband experiences to rural America within the confines of our Connect America budget, while providing increased certainty and predictability for all carriers and a climate for increased broadband expansion.
For example, because 98 percent of the population in urban areas has access to fixed broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps or more, among the proposals being explored is whether to more than double the download speed required for subsidized broadband networks, from 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps. This is one of several areas in which the Commission seeks to ensure that consumers receive the same quality service regardless of where they live. In addition, because there has been rapid private sector expansion of 4G LTE mobile broadband service since 2011, the Commission is exploring whether to retarget Mobility Fund Phase II support to ensure the continued deployment and preservation of 4G LTE mobile broadband service and preservation of mobile voice and broadband service in areas that otherwise would not have such service through marketplace forces.