Rockefeller Introduces Bill To Apply Universal Service Fund To Back Broadband

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Senate Commerce chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has introduced a bill that would extend the FCC's Universal Service Fund to support broadband for low-income households.

The FCC has been collecting comment on ways to reform the fund, including extending it to broadband. The fund, which subsidizes service to communities where it would be cost-prohitibive or profit-prohibitive for the commercial sector to wire, currently primarily only covers phone service.

The Rockefeller bill would create a two-year "pilot program" to expand the USF to cover "the recurring cost of basic broadband service for eligible low-income households" in addition to phone service.

It also asks the FCC to report to Congress on how it might extend broadband assistance to helping with the cost of computer equipment, just as it now does now with the start-up costs of phone service.