FCC Panel: No Broadband Subsidy


High-speed Internet-access providers should not receive subsidies from a
federal program intended to ensure that essential voice-telecommunications
services are universal and affordable, a federal advisory panel said

The recommendation against subsidizing broadband Internet access was made by
the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service in a 59-page report for
consideration by the Federal Communications Commission.

Republican FCC members Kevin Martin and Kathleen Abernathy served on the
eight-member joint board, as did Democratic commissioner Michael Copps.

The joint board was charged with examining whether federal law in support of
universal phone service could be interpreted to include broadband. In theory,
funding would promote broadband deployment in high-cost areas and allow carriers
to charge below-cost rates to consumers.

But the joint board said broadband service did not satisfy the legal criteria
for inclusion in the universal-service program. The report said a service must,
among other things, be 'essential to education, public health, or public safety'
to receive funding.

Copps expressed disappointment in the decision not to extend the subsidy pool
to broadband.

'I believe that advanced services are essential. Indeed, they are becoming
more so with each passing day. Already, broadband is a key component of our
nation's systems of education, commerce, employment, health, government and
entertainment,' Copps said in a prepared statement.

Martin, in a prepared statement, said he favored having the FCC collect data
regarding the extent to which the universal-service program can be used to
promote broadband in high-cost, hard-to-reach areas.

'Congress did not envision that services supported by universal service would
remain static. Instead, it views universal service as an evolving level of
telecommunications services,' Martin said.