The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Connect America Fund in 2011 to bring its program to support rural voice communications services into the modern age. The new fund applies the same universal service monies to help bring broadband connectivity to rural areas that are unprofitable for the private sector.
The FCC has a new Chairman, Ajit Pai, who was recently appointed by newly inaugurated President Trump, and Pai now taken his first significant action since being appointed. Specifically, he announced that a petition brought by New York State’s own broadband program to utilize money from the Connect America Fund was approved.
In total, $170 million in federal funding will be added to $200 million from state funding and private investors to expand access to broadband connectivity in rural New York State. Speaking about the initiative, Chairman Pai said, “Broadband is critical to economic opportunity and job creation. This is a first step of many to fulfill my promise to empower Americans with online opportunities, no matter who they are and no matter where they live.”
The FCC’s order authorizes Connect America Phase II support to regions with applicants that are chosen through the competitive New NY Broadband Program. Monies will be utilized that were previously turned down by Verizon in 2015.
The FCC Universal Service Fund sets aside $4.5 billion each year, administered through a number of universal service programs that support high-cost areas in rural America with support for voice and broadband networks. It’s clear that whatever other policies Chairman Pai supports or opposes, providing funding to support rural broadband initiatives is one area where the FCC will continue to participate under the new administration.
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