With broadband subsidies much in the news these days--billions of dollars of new COVID-19-related connectivity money for example--Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, wants the FCC to provide him with an accounting of the state of the Universal Service Fund.
USF is the multi-billion-dollar advanced broadband subsidy for low-income and rural residents, as well as schools and libraries paid for by fees on telecom sub bills.
In a letter to acting FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Wicker pointed out that the pandemic had made closing the digital divide even more urgent and, as he evaluated the fund, wanted some facts and figures. (He also took the opportunity to praise the FCC for its work in keeping Americans, particularly rural ones, connected.)
Wicker wants, by March 9, a detailed report on the status of funds for the Connect America Fund (CAF), Lifeline program(low-income), E-Rate (schools and libraries), and rural health care. He wants to know the status of all funds, obligated, committed, or available, he said.
The FCC is currently deciding whether to free up more USF money for schools and libraries and is setting up $3.2 billion in one-time (or at least confined to the pandemic) subsidies in an Emergency Broadband Fund authorized by Congress, as well as the second of two congressionally mandate telehealth initiatives related to the pandemic.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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