The principle of universal service is that all Americans need access to affordable communications. In the last century, universal service programs connected virtually the entire nation to telephone service. Now, in the 21st century, when high-speed Internet has become the essential communications tool for jobs, innovation, economic growth, education, healthcare, public safety and building communities, our goal must be to connect every American, regardless of where they live. To do this without imposing new funding burdens on consumers means eliminating inefficient rules and bad incentives that have plagued the Universal Service Fund for years.
That’s exactly what the Commission did last year when it voted unanimously to reform and modernize the Universal Service Fund, it set the express goal of bringing broadband access to the more than 18 million Americans, mostly rural, who lack it. The centerpiece of this modernization is the Connect America Fund, or CAF, which transforms the old voice-centric universal service fund for rural areas into an engine for rural broadband deployment. To meet these goals without growing the fund beyond its current size, the FCC also imposed long-overdue fiscal responsibility and accountability measures, limiting the universal service fees paid by consumers and business across the country.
Today, we take two important steps toward reaching these goals.
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