The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that almost 400,000 people and small businesses in 37 states will get access to high-speed Internet within the next three years as the FCC transitions phone subsidies to broadband.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski announced the first phase kickoff of the Connect America Fund, which has a goal of connecting 7 million unserved rural Americans to the Internet within six years and all 19 million unserved by 2020.
That first phase will combine $115 million in public funds with "millions more" in private investment, says the commission. "Today's action is just the beginning of our efforts to unleash the benefits of broadband for millions of homes and small businesses in unserved rural communities across the U.S. In today's economy, broadband is a vital platform for innovation and opportunity, including jobs, education, and healthcare," said the chairman.
That migration is part of the commission's reform of the disbursement side of the Universal Service Fund. Next up will be reforming the contribution side.
The announcement of the benefits of that migration come after several weeks in which Congress has pressed the FCC on complaints from smaller, rural telecom carriers about losing traditional telecom funding in that move to broadband, some of which they had used to secure loans from another government agency, the USDA's Rural Utilities Service.