The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has elected to launch its "Connect America Fund," a $300 million reserve that will be used to expand broadband Internet to over 400,000 un-served homes and businesses in rural areas.
"This is a landmark victory for rural America. Finally, rural residents will enjoy the same advantages and opportunities as their urban counterparts and be able to compete in today's global economy,” says National Grange President Edward Luttrell. “Rural America has so much to offer, and now with high-speed Internet we'll be able to market and deliver those vital resources that keep our nation running,"
The Connect America Fund comes as a result of FCC’s recent decision to restructure the outdated Universal Service Fund and redirect the funds for the benefit of broadband expansion, rather than landline telephone service. This is just the first funding phase from the Connect America Fund; carriers have 90 days to accept the funding and begin work on these extensive build-out requirements.
It is expected that private carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, will supplement Connect America Fund dollars with their own private capital. The Universal Service Fund's High Cost Loop Support, or HCLS, will assist smaller rural carriers to expand broadband in their areas. High Cost Loop Support provides nearly $800 million a year to small providers in an effort to offset high operating costs associated with broadband build-out.
Thanks to the new reforms, approximately 500 carriers serving 2 million homes and businesses will receive more funding for broadband expansion.