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Federal Communications Commission, In the Matter of Connect America Fund; A National Broadband Plan for Our Future; Establishing Just and Reasonable Rates for Local Exchange Carriers; High-Cost Universal Service Support; Developing an Unified Intercarrier Compensation Regime; Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service; Lifeline and Link-Up; Universal Service Reform – Mobility Fund (FCC 11-161) (Nov. 18, 2011) (full-text).
The Order contains comprehensive reforms to expand access to high-speed Internet and voice services nationwide and benefit consumers by accelerating deployment of modern communications networks. Adopted unanimously late last month, the overhaul transforms the FCC’s outdated universal service and intercarrier compensations (ICC) systems into a new Connect America Fund (CAF), representing the most significant policy step ever taken to connect all Americans to broadband. The CAF is expected to help connect 7 million Americans to high-speed Internet and voice in rural America over the next six years.
The Order recognizes the growing importance of mobile broadband and makes it an independent universal service objective for the first time. Dedicated support to expand mobile broadband nationwide to tens of thousands of road miles where millions of Americans live, work, and travel will be provided through a new Mobility Fund.
The Order also phases down antiquated, opaque, regulated charges for the exchange of voice traffic among carriers — known as intercarrier compensation (ICC) — and transitions to a simplified, uniform “bill-and-keep” framework, which removes hidden subsidies on consumers’ bills, increases efficiency, and eliminates impediments to the deployment of modern networks. Intercarrier compensation reform will provide benefits to all Americans through improved service and lower costs.
The Connect America Fund will put America on the path to universal broadband and advanced mobile coverage without increasing costs. By eliminating waste and targeting support where it is most needed, these reforms keep universal service funding on a firm budget, and they will ensure rigorous accountability for Fund recipients.