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Dems: USF Should Be Tied to Anchor Institutions

A quartet of Democratic reps has asked the FCC to find a way to condition its Universal Service Fund broadband subsidies to reaching schools, libraries and other anchor institutions.

The FCC commissioners are currently vetting the chairman's proposal for major USF and intercarrier compensation reforms.

In a letter to the chairman, Rep. Doris Matsui and Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Ed Markey (Mass.), and Michael Doyle (Pa.), said that as the FCC prepares to vote on its reforms (Oct. 27), it should "consider ways to require broadband providers that receive USF support to build-out broadband networks in rural areas to deploy high-capacity broadband to anchor institutions."

The FCC's USF program already provides discounted telecom service, including Internet access, to schools and libraries (the so-called E-rate program FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski helped implement as a top aide to then FCC Chairman Reed Hundt), but that does not include a high-speed broadband build-out requirement.

The Obama administration has made boosting broadband build-outs to anchor institutions the focus of its second tranche of funding in the approximately $7 billion in broadband stimulus grants and loans administered by the Commerce and Agriculture departments.