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FCC Moves To Convert Phone Fund To Broadband Fund

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the only-a-decade-or-so-behind dept.

Government 91

medv4380 writes "The Federal Communications Commission is expected to change the Universal Service Fund so that the funds are directed toward broadband infrastructure instead of rural phone infrastructure. '... while the world has changed around it, USF – in too many ways – has stood still, and even moved backwards. The program is still designed to support traditional telephone service. It’s a 20th century program poorly suited for the challenges of a 21st century world.' You can see a transcript of what was presented to the FCC (PDF) online."

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91 comments

Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35132520)

Great! Now we can look forward to another "Fee" being added to our monthly broadband bill! Big government GO AWAY!

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (4, Informative)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 3 years ago | (#35132566)

Most telcos (Cable or DSL) already collect these fees now. We don't have to charge for USF as a broadband (WISP) provider. They may force all broadband providers to collect these fess now. Won't have much effect on the vast majority of users.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (5, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35132580)

They've been collecting the fee since 1934 on telephones.

Until now it was going towards telephones in rural areas, now it'll go to internet infrastructure.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35132744)

Just like your gas tax goes god knows where these days too.

I have mixed feelings about this.

Propping up POTS is probably a bad idea. There seems to be little future there.

I suspect it costs no more to string fiber to small towns and then put up a cell tower.
Or maybe buy small sat dishes and a a cell tower in small towns.
Or put in the broadband and offer a free femtocells in really rural places.

Still I expect the fund just got ripped off for some other use. Perhaps it should just
be repealed and they can sell us a whole new solution with new legislation.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35133090)

You realize there is a sizable population in the country who doesn't live in 'towns', don't you?

I know a lot of farmers. Few of them live in a town, or even a village.

That's who this is aimed at.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35134876)

Not only that but with control of the last mile in the hands of a couple of corps and cherry picking many rural places get no choice or outrageous prices.

A friend tried to service his area by talking his boss into going in on a T-1 and subletting use, but the local teleco (who only offers $60 a month dialup to those not in town) found out and pulled his access to the backbone, with a "just try and sue us" nasty letter to boot. His lawyer said "sure you'll win, but it'll cost a million and a half and a decade in court and they KNOW you can't afford it" so now those folks are still stuck on dialup because the teleco refuses to upgrade their lines or add any DSLAMs and they and the local cableco haven't moved an inch in ANY direction in nearly 20 years here.

So I'm ALL for it. Use that money to lay broadband from coast to coast, and then let the monopolies compete. If they want to be the only provider in an area? Well then they better lay down 50Mbps fiber before we get there and offer fair prices. Because as it is in rural areas like I'm in there is very little service, the service offered is crazy priced, which keeps the poor from having any access, and it is just gouging all around. i mean $67 for DSL, and $103 for basic cable (which they won't unbundle so you HAVE to take it) with Internet? Talk about price gouging!

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35134906)

So some "sizable" (not!) population chooses to live in the middle of nowhere.

Why is it my problem that they aren't willing to pay the market price for broadband?

Can we assess them a "middle of nowhere" tax to subsidize my rent?

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (2)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35135452)

Why is it my problem that they aren't willing to pay the market price for broadband?

They help provide food for you and your friends.

One of the reasons why a civilization becomes "wealthy" is when one farmer can feed hundreds or even thousands.

That means those hundreds or thousands can do other things (make phones, be hair stylists, write Internet RFCs etc). Otherwise they'd all be fishing/hunting/farming to put enough food on the table.

You could of course outsource food supply to other countries. But from a big picture POV that's just sweeping it under someone else's carpet.

Of course the flip side is with all this specialization, civilization becomes a lot more fragile in some ways.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136170)

>>>one farmer can feed hundreds or even thousands.

Actually 99% of american food doesn't come from farmers. It is mass-produced in megacorp factories just like all our other products. So when you say you want to subsidize the rural community, you're really subsidizing the employees of that factory, or the local walmart, or mcDonalds. Not farmers.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35137124)

Actually 99% of american food doesn't come from farmers

So 99% of all that corn, wheat, pork, beef, chicken just magically springs into existence in those megacorp factories?

http://www.grains.org/corn [grains.org]
http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/wheat/YBtable04.asp [usda.gov]
http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/cropmajor.html [epa.gov]
http://www.fas.usda.gov/dlp/circular/2010/livestock_poultryfull101510.pdf [usda.gov]

If you say it's converted into "american food" by those factories, that's what I'm talking about - specialization etc :).

BTW I'm not saying subsidies are good.

Say the US has 1000 nonfarmers for every subsidized farmer. As long as countries buy US products (canned food, snacks, music CDs, software, hardware, military equipment, etc) some of those 1000 nonfarmers get $$$ and the US can afford to subsidize those farmers.

Whereas if some random African country has 0.5 nonfarmers for every farmer, their farmers are not going to be able to have much of subsidies.

Of course the picture is a bit more complicated because petroleum is bought and sold in US dollars and US energy companies profit from the petroleum, and much of US agriculture is basically "leveraging" petroleum for food (fertilizer, machinery, fuel etc). So the farmers are more important as a "strategic reserve", while petroleum and coal is critical :).

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35138440)

>>>So 99% of all that corn, wheat, pork, beef, chicken just magically springs into existence in those megacorp factories?

Pretty much.
The ground is owned by the megacorps, the seeds are owned by the megacorps, and the employees are megacorp employees. 99% of the food produced is not by "farmers" but by the agricultural equivalent of Microsoft or GM or Exxon. Except they call themselves ADM, Monsanto, and so on.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (0)

bouldin (828821) | more than 3 years ago | (#35138344)

No, I have driven through rural areas in my state, and very few of these people are farmers.

They are just too stupid to compete for real jobs and too dumb to live anywhere near civilization. So they all work shitty jobs at shitty fast food restaurants and eat snacks all day.

Then they vote for "small government republicans" so they can keep their guns and feel all Christy, yet expect city taxpayers to subsidize their roads, social programs, healthcare costs, and apparently, communications infrastructure.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133230)

For us here in Alaska, cheaper to run fiber around the state in the sea and then push data out over fiber and then wireless to the last mile.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133364)

Maybe cheaper if near the sea, but Alascom (remember them?), AT&T, and then GCI have a boat load of those little dishes and Microwave in the interior.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133864)

Just like your gas tax goes god knows where these days too.

Fuel taxes pay for the roads. They are the largest source of highway funding...

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133998)

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35134378)

The link complains about 10% of the gas tax is used on pork, of which is still mostly transportation and road related. So... fuel taxes go toward, almost completely, roads and public transportation.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136336)

Sure, it's road related if building a whaling museum encourages people to drive there.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35134934)

I suspect they will do what spectrumbridge is doing in claudeville,va. CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKI, COMMISSIONER MICHAEL J. COPPS, COMMISSIONER ROBERT M. McDOWELL, COMMISSIONER MIGNON L. CLYBURN, COMMISSIONER MEREDITH A. BAKER, are making statements [fiercegovernmentit.com] , possibly to that effect.

Re:Just another tax to add to our monthly bill! (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136144)

>>>Propping up POTS is probably a bad idea..... string fiber to small towns and then put up a cell tower.

Short-sighted thinking. Cell towers are limited to only ONE spectrum, which has to be shared with other services like shortwave, AM, FM, TV, emergency radio, and so on. Cellular internet has limited growth potential.

In contrast, wired internet has unlimited spectrum. Every time you lay a wire, you get a whole new spectrum from 0 to ~100 gigahertz. It is much wiser to build the internet on Wires rather than wireless.

And since it's using the existing infrastructure (copper), upgrading POTS to DSL will save billions of dollars in less labor cost.

Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (3, Interesting)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 3 years ago | (#35132526)

USF is used to provide phone service at the same price for everyone anywhere even if it costs the phone company to provide the service. Anyone anywhere in rural area can get phone service at the same price. Does this mean the same will happen to broadband?

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35132676)

I assume this will be DSL. As long as people can still pick their ISP, it doesn't sound too bad.
My local phone company seems to do everything they can to avoid letting people know they can choose another ISP and just pay the phone company for the DSL line.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 3 years ago | (#35132764)

The PDF mentions both Cable and DSL. Hopefully what this means is that they will stop spending the money making perfectly good copper incompatible with DSL. There are lots of things they do to plain copper to get a traditional phone signal out to rural areas that makes it nonfunctional with DSL.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133926)

Hopefully what this means is that they will stop spending the money making perfectly good copper incompatible with DSL. There are lots of things they do to plain copper to get a traditional phone signal out to rural areas that makes it nonfunctional with DSL.

Phone service is mostly digital on the backend anyways.
The problem is that voice over broadband doesn't come with the same kind of 99.999% uptime you have with POTS.
And a UPS backup in every home just isn't the same as a building full of batteries + generators at the telco.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#35134064)

Out of curiosity, how often does your power go out? I'm mostly an urban guy, and we get about 1 day of blackout per year, if that.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136690)

I'm in an urban area myself (and prefer it), but I grew up in the country.

It is a rule of country life, that if you live out there, you either own a generator or you know how to do without power for a week once in a while. . . . wood stove, hand pump, etc. Unlike an urban area, you also need to use electricity (or a hand pump) to pump your own water, and your heat and hot water is likely oil-fired (no natural gas service) and electricity is needed to pump oil (it needs to be pressurized) into these heaters.

Interestingly enough, the rules of my past have imposed themselves on my present, and I do own a generator, and have a transfer switch for it, so when the lights do go out (more often and longer here than where you live, by the sound of it), they don't stay that way. It gets a few hours of actual usage every year.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (2)

rcw-home (122017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35134268)

The problem is that voice over broadband doesn't come with the same kind of 99.999% uptime you have with POTS.

POTS doesn't deliver 99.999% availability. For example, Verizon promises only 99.9% availability [verizon.com] . The goal is to have the switching equipment be 99.999% available, so that the carrier can make the (much lower) per-line dialtone availability goals.

In practice it remains a noble but unachievable goal. Show me a CO that has had 316 seconds or less of customer-affecting downtime in the past 10 years and I'll show you an Anonymous user that actually uses seven proxies.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35132788)

Probably it means some form of rural broadband or Wimax or something for shcools. But maybe not for every farmer along the route.

It was Obama's promise [mcclatchydc.com] to push the internet into every classroom and village library and small town hospital.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

Phoghat (1288088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148864)

Probably it means some form of rural broadband or Wimax or something for shcools. But maybe not for every farmer along the route.

I on the other hand think it is for every farmer along the route as well. Farmers depend on the net a lot for things like weather forecasts, market prices for crops and livestock etc. I'd bet they're the squeaky wheel that's going to get greased and to the benefit of everyone else

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

KyderdogDan (604335) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133112)

NO, all those programs were set up under a more liberal government... Today conservative government is all about making profits for companies.... Did you really think the government was working for you?

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35135598)

No, this means telcos will get a nice big welfare check, just like the broadband carriers got.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35135984)

>>>Anyone anywhere in rural area can get phone service

Not the "same" price. It costs more to connect a phone in the boonies, then it does in the city or suburb, but the price will be reduced/subsidized by the USF fee.

And what this means for broadband - Phone companies will start offering DSL to everyone, again, subsidized by the USF. So now no one can claim, "I don't access to broadband" because they will. DSL has a frequency width of 100 MHz >>> the 0.004 MHz of phone lines.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (2)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136982)

One question is how will they define "broadband". ADSL is a marvel of modern engineering but high speeds only work over relatively short lines. Cable only tends to be available in urban areas. Afaict there are only three ways to get higher speeds to everyone, none of them cheap.

1: shorten the phone lines/reduce the number of users on one cable segment (most likely through some sort of FTTC/FTTP setup).
2: move to a totally different technology (e.g. FTTH)
3: bond multiple lines (this isn't a bad idea if you want to give one customer faster service but afaict in most areas there are simply not enough lines for it to be practical on a large scale.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35138514)

Broadband is defined by frequencies, not bits. So even 512k DSL is still broadband, because it is wider than a phoneline (100 MHz >>> 0.004 MHz) not because it is some arbitrary bitrate.

As for speeds, standard DSL can do 7 Mbit/s if you install a "repeater" every mile. 3 Mbit/s if you install the repeater every 5 miles, and would meet the FCC's current definition of "high speed" internet.

Re:Does this mean everyone will have broadband? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35137016)

I've been told by AT&t that to get a phone to me would require me signing up for a $70 a month phone plan with long distance for a minimum of 1 year. AT&t would have to run a cable from the pole which is in my yard to my house about 14 ft. I've asked them twice to come and do it. They've canceled the contract twice..No DSL no phone..but they sure will take my $79 a month for Wireless Slowband

Too Juicy to give up eh ? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35132560)

Another program that should have been dismantled instead of
stealing our hard earned money years ago.

Get ready for the V.A.T., sheep.

You go in that pot next.

jr

Re:Too Juicy to give up eh ? (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#35134102)

You realize the V.A.T. is in place of sales tax, not in addition to it, right? And that to the end consumer it looks basically identical? And that taxing the difference between input and output costs is actually more economically forgiving to struggling businesses than taxing everything overall, despite losses?

Re:Too Juicy to give up eh ? (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35134354)

Thing is in the US is Sales taxes are imposed at the state and local levels (county/city). This is much like how each country in Europe set's its own VAT tax rate. From what I've read about proposed VAT taxes in the US is that it would be another tax levied in addition to other taxes, not replacing a sales tax or income tax.

This would be like the EU coming and dictating that every transaction in the EU would include an additional x% in VAT collected and sent to Brussels to be used by the Parliament to fund EU projects. (I know not exactly how it works, but...)

Re:Too Juicy to give up eh ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35138016)

@cgenman @ Euro

Right.
They will drop the juicy sales tax in favor of taxing labor as well, at a 400% increase.
I wonder of the mindset that causes the "us vs them" in the government.
Cop mentality ?

Even Pogo knew the truth : "We have met the enemy and he is us."

That mindset needs to get erased, or given electro-shock treatments until they're better.

I dream of the day we get to vote on issues brought to us by our representatives,
rather than letting these elected clowns speak and act for us directly.

This would stop the graft, payoffs and lobbyists overnight.

US would be fixed in 4 years, and the dentists could be hired to gold-inlay the roads.

jr

Great if you can get it spent correctly (4, Informative)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 3 years ago | (#35132706)

Re:Great if you can get it spent correctly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35133064)

This.

Can we give money to the ISPs *AFTER* they build out the infrastructure this time?
Or have we not yet learned that any taxpayer money gifted to ISPs will just be pocketed?

To use the old meme:
1) Get government handout to "build connectivity" (Thanks Clinton!)
2) Pocket the handout
3) Profit
3) Whine that the few users you did hook up are using too much bandwidth
4) Get another government handout (Thanks Bush&Obama!)
5) Pocket the handout
6) Profit
7) Goto 1

Re:Great if you can get it spent correctly (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133146)

Damned right. I've worked for 3 different telcos and in every single one of them, the most profitable department has always been "Regulatory Affairs." Obama announced his broadband stimulus program and within a few months they were waring money hats while they worked on projects that had been in planning for over 5 years. The government paid telcos to do work that the telcos had already planned to do anyway. It was a cash giveaway, nothing more. The government needs to enforce net neutrality, get the department of weights and measures involved in broadband speeds and stop giving money to private business without requiring results.

Re:Great if you can get it spent correctly (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 3 years ago | (#35134476)

In this case it was even worse. The government was paying telcos to do what already has been done, which is exactly what this aims to fix.

Re:Great if you can get it spent correctly (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136002)

Just because you keep repeating the same FALSE article, does not make it any more true. READ the 1996 Telecommunications Act sometime. Most of the money was designated, not for optics, but for phone lines to be upgraded to Digital service. And the phone companies complied with that demand by Congress.

If you want to place blame, then place it on the congressmen for writing such a dumb bill.

broadband IS phone infrastructure (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35132844)

Okay, that's step one. Now how about collecting the USF from cable companies the same as telcos? Or treating broadband providers as common carriers?

From TFA: (3, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35132884)

The federal fund, known as the Universal Service Fund, comes from a line-item charge for phone customers, usually about $2 a month. That money goes toward building and maintaining copper-wire phone connections to remote areas that would be too costly to serve otherwise. The subsidy was created by the 1934 Communications Act, and regulators today say the fund needs to be used for high-speed Internet connections as people increasingly rely on the Web to gather information and communicate.

So, instead of paying $2 a month, so that yokels in the boonies can call each other and gossip, all them them city folks will now pay $20 a month, to subsidize broadband for folks who live on in the boonies can download porn to their ranches!?!?

[Checks Slashdot name] . . . Oh, wait, maybe it is a good idea to subsidize folks who live on ranches in the boonies.

Although, I read an article in The Economist about UNESCO: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNESCO#Controversy_and_reform [wikipedia.org] . The article said that half of the UNESCO budget never made in out of Paris, France, where the headquarters are located. I thought that was pretty amusing, until I was on a business trip in Geneva. Then we went out for lunch and waiter asked us if we worked for the UN (which was just down the road). When we said no, he treated us like unwanted, unwashed infidels. We noticed that the UN folks there were chowing down on kings' portions of food, and just got a bill for their meals, which the UN would pay for. Well, who pays the budget for the UN . . . ?

This is another trick in politics: Get someone else to pay for what you consume. When this FCC "reform" passes into law, I would be interested to see where all those dollars were being spent. But, alas, politicians do their best to avoid transparency . . .

Oh, well.

Re:From TFA: (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133306)

The cost of DSL in rural areas probably will not be that great. I suspect they could fund it with much less than $20, since as much of the existing copper twin wire cable can be used, with loop extender equipment being used to regenerate the signal.

Re:From TFA: (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133370)

[Checks Slashdot name] . . . Oh, wait, maybe it is a good idea to subsidize folks who live on ranches in the boonies.

*Fwap*

You insensitive clod. I'm a nerd who lives out in the boonies 40 miles from the nearest major city, and i'm sick of having low speed net connections. I want city dwellers to pay an extra $40 month so it will be possible for me to have FTTH, dammit.

The only thing that's messed up is the USF is tagged onto the phone bill. They should tag charges on to the health insurance, electricity charges, and social security taxes as well, so more people pay. Not everyone in the city gets a phone line, or internet service, believe it or not. But due to the new health care law, everyone has to buy health insurance, and an additional surcharge there could effectively fund broadband for everyone.

Oh yeah, and it's not a ranch. It's heavily forested though, and the geography does not lend itself well to wireless.

I'm happy to hear about city folks paying a little extra, so I can have some network connectivity. Otherwise... cities suck, because they cause broadband providers to serve city dwellers and ignore everyone else because it's selling overpriced services to city dwellers is a high profit market.

Re:From TFA: (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136098)

>>>I'm a nerd who lives out in the boonies 40 miles from the nearest major city, and i'm sick of having low speed net connections.

Move.
  - Don't steal money from your neighbors' wallets to subsidize your rural lifestyle. Move in closer to where DSL or CATV internet exists. Government should stop subsidizing sprawl and encourage more living close to the city.

>>*Fwap*
>>You insensitive clod.

Right back at you. My bills are high enough; I have no desire to support you too. ----- Oh and the healthcare requirement is illegal. The Union government can not mandate what products you must buy - it was never given that power by the Member states.

Re:From TFA: (1)

HereIAmJH (1319621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146988)

Oh and the healthcare requirement is illegal. The Union government can not mandate what products you must buy - it was never given that power by the Member states.

That's why we need to expand Medicare and go with a single payer system. Libertarian heads are exploding all over Slashdot. :-)

Really off topic, but the opposition to the healthcare mandate from the "I don't want to pay for someone else's ....." group baffles me. The mandate has no effect if you are already being responsible and have your own insurance. It only effects the freeloaders that assume they won't ever get sick and end up getting free (to them) healthcare in the emergency room.

Re:From TFA: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35136632)

Three words for ya - Wireless Ethernet Bridge. Find your nearest datacenter and beg them to mount an antenna. This will go fifty miles [afar.net] .

Re:From TFA: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35137134)

*Fwap*
*Fwap*

I live in the city and cant get FTTH. So why should i subsidize people in the boonies.

Re:From TFA: (1)

AgentSmith (69695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35142778)

Everybody whining about redirecting these fees are not looking far enough ahead.

When all these hicks finally get broadband, there will be some benefit. In the little patch of boonies where I live (rural PA), all the people who lost their jobs from manufacturing had to somehow earn a living. Namely the service industry (aka fast food jobs). There's an industrious percentage who have been going to school for information technology jobs. I'm not saying we're creating a budding tech industry of computer scientists and engineers, but having accessible broadband will create an environment where they can get OUT of the service industry. At the least someone could create freelance call centers that could possibly compete with outsourced locations. If you are a tech company who do you choose? 1) A call center script service with people who speak passable English, but don't know the culture OR 2) A call center that might cost a little more, but contains all trainable native English speakers who can relate to your customers, keep customers happy and turn them into loyal customers.

  Yes, there is a Level 1 tech support field out there waiting to be harvested IF we provide the infrastructure for that change. On the other hand, if you enjoy tons of unemployed and underemployed people draining the economy then just continue to whine about improving our infrastructure. Really it doesn't really matter if the broadband improvements are FTTH or upgrading phone lines to decent DSL quality. It would be nice to have fiber, but something has to happen. Telcos right now are not going to do jack.

 

Re:From TFA: (1)

HereIAmJH (1319621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147084)

Getting broadband at their homes won't make them a resource for on-shoring tech support jobs. It's already being done, and how it is accomplished is by setting up a call center in a small town. So the only network build-out needed is from the phone company CO to their office. It's not like some call center is going to have these people working from their homes, they couldn't manage hourly staff without having them corralled in a cube farm.

As far as them having IT training, they don't care if a level 1 script reader can do anything more than read the script, recite it to the customer and breathe.

OTOH, when all these hicks finally get broadband, maybe local farmers will have better access to urbanites and more food will be purchased locally. That would give the city dwellers better quality food, cut out some corporate middlemen, and reduce unnecessary fuel costs transporting food.

Re:From TFA: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35138122)

be careful what you wish for, you might wind up with cumkast.

Re:From TFA: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35134800)

AFAIK the mid-20th century government support fund hasn't been used to cover any new copper runs/upgrades in decades. Seeing how cellphones don't depend on fixed-costs for copper, and they're not rolling out any FIOS-type service, then these taxes are being pocketed elsewhere, obviously.

85% of one of our $80 cellphone bills under Sprint is actual charges. The other 15% was about 10 different small government taxes. Closer inspection made me boil with the realization that half of that amount is "revenge" and arbitrary $0.99 markups from the TELCO, cleverly disguised as regulatory fees.

 

Re:From TFA: (2)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136072)

When I worked for the government, we were allowed to book $120 per night hotel rooms. Outrageous. Really government workers should not receive more than half that allowance ($60) and book at places like Motel 6 or Super 8.

>>>all them them city folks will now pay $20 a month, to subsidize broadband for folks who live on in the boonies
>>>
This is why city people pay higher taxes, and the money flows to the red, rural states. City people are being forced to subsidize the rural lifestyle. (Phone USF, corporate farm subsidies, interstate road fund, electricity handouts, etc.) In an ideal world the rural persons would not be receiving any assistance, but the politicians inside the cities keep shooting themselves in the foot, and adding more taxes.

Oh well. (goes off to enjoy the country view.) Thanks.

Re:From TFA: (1)

drkoemans (666135) | more than 3 years ago | (#35143278)

When I worked for the government, we were allowed to book $120 per night hotel rooms. Outrageous. Really government workers should not receive more than half that allowance ($60) and book at places like Motel 6 or Super 8.

That must be a joke. The "government" is a big place, federal? state? local? I work for Washington State and our per diem is on a sliding scale based on location. Rural work our hotel is just $35, with a $20 meal allowance (all three meals). I won't describe some of the flea bag places i've had to stay in. in major markets, like san francisco, the rate goes up to $120 which, depending on the season, can be hard to accommodate. I don't know what agency you were with but don't shoehorn all "government" into a single group.

NO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35133074)

No. No free lunch. No free broadband, no free Cadillac from Jesus.

Hopefully more rural DSL rollout (2)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133282)

Hopefully this will mean a rollout of DSL in remote locations. DSL actually is the best way to bring internet to rural areas, as most of the cable is already laid, all that needs to be done is to install some signal regeneration/loop extender equipment. Fiber optics can also be brought to a node part of the way, but the amount of cable that needs to be replaced is still less. It is amazing the bandwidh that can be seen with newer DSL modems, its enough to even carry video. Its amazing what can be squeezed out of a twisted pair.

Re:Hopefully more rural DSL rollout (0)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35134494)

Amazing is right. They can even do voice. Voice that can connect to telephones in other areas. Switching this to broadband makes complete sense, as doing it will not even slow down the previous efforts. Anywhere they get broadband access, they inherently get telephone access.

Re:Hopefully more rural DSL rollout (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136130)

>>>It is amazing the bandwidh that can be seen with newer DSL modems, its enough to even carry video.

I get the feeling you are being sarcastic, but Japan is the world's 2nd fastest country for broadband, and they use almost nothing but DSL. Their latest standard can handle 120 Mbit/s over standard copper wires. That's enough bandwidth to feed 12 different HDTVs with content.

Re:Hopefully more rural DSL rollout (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35138360)

twisted pair ?
FCC and the MPAA ?

Don't redirect, cut the program off. (0)

notbob (73229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133590)

Don't redirect the output of this "fund", but instead remove the charge all together.

Most rural areas have access to these things and eventually as consumer demand drives it they will get access to other things like broadband.

We do not need stimulus programs from the 1930s these days, we need cost cutting. I'd rather put that $8 billion towards the national debt even for the next 5 years to help out there then cut it off entirely.

Re:Don't redirect, cut the program off. (2)

kenj0418 (230916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133910)

Agreed. Are they going to have rural people subsidize my higher housing costs in the city? What about my higher car insurance rates?

There is already "Universal Access" via satellite. It may be comparatively slow and expensive -- too bad. If you want a lovely night sky and lots of trees - go live in the country. If you want fast internet and Thai food delivered to your front door - live in the city.

Live where you want to live - but don't make me pay for its shortfalls.

Re:Don't redirect, cut the program off. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35138214)

I personally don't give a shit whether hillbillies in the sticks have broadband. Their only contribution to the economy is consuming hohos from walmart and cheese-stuffed funnel cake dip'n sticks from burger crap.

The irony is that these are where the so-called "small government" types live. You know, the ones who vote for "tea party" candidates?

Does Congress not make law anymore? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35133860)

So let me get this straight. Congress back in 1934 passes a bill to fund rural phone lines by charging city slickers an extra tax on their phone bill.

Now 70 years later the FTC decides on its own that it can levy any tax it wants to against anyone it wants to and put the money towards any program it so desires.

Does Congress' power to tax and make law have little meaning anymore? Is our form of government becoming one in which bureaucrats decide for themselves what taxes to levy and what laws to create?

I'm hoping at least a few people on SlashDot recognize the types of precedents that have been set over the last several years in how it undermines the intentional separation of powers in the US Constitution. It's more insidious and the long-term consequences more dire than I'm sure most people here realize.

Re:Does Congress not make law anymore? (2)

fyrewulff (702920) | more than 3 years ago | (#35134132)

Try reading harder. They want to change what the money can be officially allotted towards. There is no new fee being added, just the destination of the current one. No new tax is being levied against you.

Re:Does Congress not make law anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35134962)

Try reading harder. They want to change what the money can be officially allotted towards. There is no new fee being added, just the destination of the current one. No new tax is being levied against you.

Nonsense. Migrating the benefit to rural broadband will increase the demand for funds 10-fold, and as landlines continue to disconnect, there will be a cry for "new funding sources" - to wit, a $10 tax on your cable bill. USF and E-Rate fraud are well documented, and yet, no one has ever gone to jail, despite billions of dollars wasted. If rural folks aren't willing to pony up to pay the cost of attracting broadband, too bad.

Re:Does Congress not make law anymore? (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136748)

So you are angry because you assume that this group will raise taxes without the authority to do so?

Re:Does Congress not make law anymore? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136944)

He still has a point. Congress passed the bill to tax phone service. Congress, additionally, designated that the moneys raised by that tax would be used to fund rural phone lines. The FCC does not have the authority to now use those moneys for some other purpose. The FCC may request that Congress pass a law designating that those funds can be used for rural broadband, but it is not allowed to just decide to use those funds for it because the original purpose is obsolete (in their opinion, which in this case is probably correct). Under the U.S. Constitution, all spending bils must originate in the House of Representatives.
The FCC does not get to decide how it will spend its money, unless the law explicitly gives them that authority. In this case, the law explicitly states what the money is to be used for, that means that the FCC does not have the authority to do this.

Re:Does Congress not make law anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35138872)

For years I worked for a computer company, which viewed the USF as a great source of revenue. We basically did network installations in schools, and it was AMAZING what we could get paid for, as long as it was ancillary to bringing internet access to these poor, deprived schools. There were actually tutorials on how to write our quotes to pass scrutiny. Since the purpose of the fees has supposedly gone away (and most was not spent for it's untended purpose anyway) I have a revolutionary idea" Instead of finding something else to spend the money on, why don't we just let the citizens.... keep it?

Congressional mandates (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35138714)

So let me get this straight. Congress back in 1934 passes a bill to fund rural phone lines by charging city slickers an extra tax on their phone bill.

Now 70 years later the FTC decides on its own that it can levy any tax it wants to against anyone it wants to and put the money towards any program it so desires.

Nope.

First of all, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) isn't involved in this story at all, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is.

Second, the provision of law governing the universal service fund (47 USC Sec. 254) has been amended by Congress since 1934, and the current version adopted by Congress states:

Universal service is an evolving level of telecommunications services that the Commission shall establish periodically under this section, taking into account advances in telecommunications and information technologies and services.

See, the thing with Congress' ability to make law is that it keeps being exercised, its not just something that happened once in the distant past.

Does Congress' power to tax and make law have little meaning anymore? Is our form of government becoming one in which bureaucrats decide for themselves what taxes to levy and what laws to create?

I'm hoping at least a few people on SlashDot recognize the types of precedents that have been set over the last several years in how it undermines the intentional separation of powers in the US Constitution. It's more insidious and the long-term consequences more dire than I'm sure most people here realize.

I'm hoping that at least a few people on Slashdot will recognize the importance of actually having some idea of what the facts are before launching into crazed rants.

VERY smart move (2)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35133918)

They are directing Federal funding to broadband services. Federal funding is a fun thing. It comes with all sorts of stipulations.

USF Must Die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35134856)

In other words, the administration has found another way to jack our taxes while claiming to "help" us be "neighborly".

Re:USF Must Die (1)

Yaos (804128) | more than 3 years ago | (#35136552)

I agree, this is just more socialism that Obama invented to socialize the country and take more money out of the hands of the rich. More and more, we are seeing that billionaires can not support theirselves on their paltry salaries while the poors take over the country.

Finally gettin some? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35136938)

Does that mean i'll finally get a broadband connection..this $79 a month for 26kbps speed is killing me. At&t wireless broadband is nothing but dial up at half speed :( for 3X the cost

Common Carrier (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 3 years ago | (#35137232)

So this means ISPs will finally fall under Common Carrier laws like telephones right? Right?

Why yes, I am rather interested in purchasing your bridge.

FCC once again exceeding its authority (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35137838)

Congress created this tax. When they did they also specified what it would be used for. The FCC does not have the authority to decide to use this money for something else, no matter how worthy that something else might be, nor how obsolete the original purpose might be.
The U.S. Constitution says that only Congress may decide how Federal money can be spent.

FCC not exceeding its authority (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35138792)

Congress created this tax. When they did they also specified what it would be used for. The FCC does not have the authority to decide to use this money for something else, no matter how worthy that something else might be, nor how obsolete the original purpose might be.

Really? So what do you think Congress defined the tax as being for? Telephone service alone? Nope, not under the current version of the law adopted by Congress governing the USF. 42 USC Sec. 254(c)(1):

Universal service is an evolving level of telecommunications services that the Commission shall establish periodically under this section, taking into account advances in telecommunications and information technologies and services.

Seems to me that Congress has specifically granted the FCC authority it has proposed using.

Next time you want to accuse someone of breaking the law, try checking what the law is first.

Re:FCC not exceeding its authority (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35139198)

You are correct. Congress wrote a bad law (what a surprise). The law should specify what this tax is for and when that purpose becomes obsolete, Congress should abolish the tax. If there is a new need, Congress should pass a new law authorizing a tax for that purpose (or just paying for it out of general funds). I generally oppose special purpose taxes, although this is the type of special purpose that makes sense. However, the purpose should be clearly defined and the tax eliminated when the purpose is accomplished. If there is a related, but different purpose, it should require Congress to actually take the politial risk of passing a new law.

Re:FCC not exceeding its authority (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140502)

You are correct. Congress wrote a bad law (what a surprise).

That's not what I said.

The law should specify what this tax is for and when that purpose becomes obsolete,

The law specifies what the tax is for: it is for improving access to advanced telecommunications services.

Its actually rather routine for Congress to set high-level policy and priorities and delegate ongoing administration to regulatory agencies. That's, actually, the whole purpose of having regulatory agencies.

Re:FCC not exceeding its authority (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141786)

I know that it is rather routine for Congress to write bad laws like this one. "Improving access to advanced telecommunications services" is entirely too subjective, especially for a special purpose tax. I do know that Congress often delegates quite a bit to regulatory agencies. I beleive that that is bad policy. It encourages people to blame bureaucrats for things that they should be blaming their Congressperson for.

Placing blame (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35142956)

I know that it is rather routine for Congress to write bad laws like this one.

I really don't think the alternative you seem to be offering -- Congress essentially abolishing all executive branch regulatory bodies and doing everything currently done through regulation as legislation -- is really desirable.

"Improving access to advanced telecommunications services" is entirely too subjective

That's the high level purpose. The law (47 USC Sec. 254) provides additional detail on both the substance (factors to be considered in deciding what should be encompassed ) and procedure (mechanisms by which changes shall be considered and adopted) associated with the determination of "universal service".

You would know that, if you knew what the law was before criticizing it; you didn't, and you still apparently don't.

I do know that Congress often delegates quite a bit to regulatory agencies. I beleive that that is bad policy .It encourages people to blame bureaucrats for things that they should be blaming their Congressperson for.

Everything that is within the jurisdiction of a regulatory agency is so because of Congressional action. Whether people "should" blame Congress or the regulatory authority depends on whether the problem they have is with the regulatory agency having the scope of authority Congress has delegated it or whether the problem they have is with the way the regulatory agency is exercising its authority; those are two separate questions. But it makes no sense to say that this delegation is bad policy on the basis that it supposedly encourages people to blame the wrong set of decision makers, since it does no such thing. Anyone who blames the wrong set of decision makers does so based on ignorance of who is responsible for the decision that they specifically disagree with, and this does not encourage (or discourage) that kind of ignorance.

Re:FCC not exceeding its authority (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141078)

The law should specify what this tax is for and when that purpose becomes obsolete, Congress should abolish the tax. If there is a new need, Congress should pass a new law authorizing a tax for that purpose (or just paying for it out of general funds). I generally oppose special purpose taxes, although this is the type of special purpose that makes sense. However, the purpose should be clearly defined and the tax eliminated when the purpose is accomplished. If there is a related, but different purpose, it should require Congress to actually take the politial risk of passing a new law.

You don't actually have any idea what you believe, do you? That paragraph is a whole mess of contradictions.

Correct citation (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140520)

42 USC Sec. 254(c)(1):

Actually, that's wrong. It's title 47, not title 42, so that should be 47 USC Sec. 254(c).

Taxed Enough Already... (1)

MrWin2kMan (918702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35139464)

On my last months' bill the Federal Universal Service Fund charge was $2.18 for Long Distance, and $0.94 for Local Service. Add to that the $6.07 Federal Access Charge (which Qwest basically pays to itself for access to the long distance network), the 3% Federal Excise Tax (which was put into place to fund the Spanish-American War in 1898, repealed and reinstated several times since), and various other Universal Service Funds, Relay Service Funds, 911 Fund, Regulatory Surcharge (a faux tax put in place to recoup the costs of complying with regulations) and state, county and city sales taxes. And that's just for my land line, not my mobile. All amounting to about 11-12% of my phone service bill. What does all this get us? A bunch of overpaid union employees, an increasingly outdated and fragile telecommunications infrastructure, and the slowest, most expensive broadband speeds in the developed world. $8,000,000,000 could buy a lot of fiber infrastructure, if it was managed properly. Which it won't be. ...

Re:Taxed Enough Already... (1)

Shompol (1690084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140574)

...and now that the landline is drying out, FCC is looking for greener meadows to attach to. Prepare to pony up for FCC services -- they will monitor all your net traffic to ensure net neutrality, among other things.
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