Following on the heels of its bid to combat bill shock, the Federal Communications Commission Oct. 14 proposed to move $100 million to $300 million from the Universal Service Fund to forge a Mobility Fund.
The Mobility Fund would facilitate the growth of broadband in the United States, where despite the expansion of 3G broadband by carriers the FCC estimates some 24 million Americans in rural areas lack access to fixed or mobile broadband.
The Mobility Fund would “help improve coverage in these areas for current-generation or better mobile wireless service, which may include 4G mobile broadband service,” the FCC explained in a statement.
The FCC wants to support the fund using some of the USF money given up by wireless carriers Verizon Wireless and Sprint.
The USF, which comprises money consumers pay phone carriers to subsidize landline phone services for low-income and rural families, was forged in 1996 to ensure access of affordable telecommunications services to all U.S. citizens.
Under the Mobility Fund, some of these funds will be distributed using a reverse auction to target consumers in areas without advanced mobile services.
The reverse auction would let potential providers of services in areas without 3G service compete for support from the Mobility Fund.
The effort dovetails with the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.
The core tenet of this plan is ensuring broadband access to hospitals, health clinics, businesses and residences in rural areas traditionally uncovered, or poorly covered, by Internet access providers such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and others.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made his case for the Mobility Fund by claiming that broadband Internet is supplanting telephone service as the communications platform in the country.
“The pro-consumer, pro-market Mobility Fund will begin closing the ‘mobility gap’: the millions of Americans living in communities that lack current-generation mobile service or, even worse, any mobile service at all, and millions more who work in or travel through these areas,” Genachowski said.
He added that the Mobility Fund will also create jobs and fuel economic growth in those rural communities it is serving.