The Flaw in Obama’s Wireless Plan

Main Street in Ten Sleep, WY

Main Street in Ten Sleep, WY

The President hopes an increase in Internet access will result in more economic development. Fiber networks would do that better than mobile broadband

By Brendan Greeley

The residents of Ten Sleep, Wyo., know the meaning of rural. They didn’t have phone service until the 1950s, when Tri-County Telephone Assn., a municipal cooperative, used federal subsidies to string copper wire to every home. In 2005 the co-op upgraded to fiber-optic cable, giving the town’s 300 residents Internet access at 20 megabits per second. For the technically unfamiliar, Chris Davidson, Tri-County Telephone’s general manager, describes this as “smoking fast.”

Even President Barack Obama is impressed. On Feb. 10 he rolled out a national wireless plan, pointing to Ten Sleep as an example of what he wants to replicate nationally: Because of the town’s high-speed fiber network, one company has been able to hire locals to teach English to Asians by video chat over the network. Obama hopes his plan will result in more such economic development by providing 98 percent of Americans with access to high-speed wireless Internet. “Ten Sleep,” Obama mused. “I love the name of that town.”

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From voice to broadband: FCC redirects its $8.7B in phone bill fees

By Matthew Lasar

ARS Technica

Can the Federal Communications Commission save a huge government program that overpays carriers to provide old school phone service, overtaxes subscribers to subsidize it, discourages modernization, and doesn’t even offer broadband to the low income and rural consumers it purports to serve?

Yes it can, insists FCC Chair Julius Genachowski.

The Commission’s $8.7 billion Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation system was designed “for a world that no longer exists,” Genachowski told the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Monday. The USF was created “for a world with separate local and long-distance telephone companies; a world of traditional, landline telephones before cell phones or Skype; a world without the Internet.”

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F.C.C. to Propose Expanding Broadband Service to Underserved Areas


WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday will propose the first steps toward converting the $8 billion fund that subsidizes rural telephone service into one for helping pay to provide broadband Internet service to underserved areas, according to commission officials.

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the F.C.C., is expected to call for a consolidation of existing methods of supporting rural phone service into a new pool of funds.

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New OPASTCO chairman: Broadband universal service must fund served as well as unserved areas

By Joan Engebretson

Ron Laudner, CEO of Iowa-based OmniTel Communications, was recently elected chairman of the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies, assuming that role at a critical time for small U.S. telcos. With the Federal Communications Commission set to put the process of reforming the Universal Service program in motion next week, I talked to Laudner this week about that and other key issues for OPASTCO members.

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Connect America Fund Threatens Rural States’ Telephone Subsidies

Aberdeen, South Dakota
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Jonathan Charnitski, Reporter,

WASHINGTON, November 29, 2010 – As the next phases of the National Broadband Plan draw near, states with significant rural area have expressed concern that they may lose funds vital to affordable telephone service.

The plan’s Chapter 8 outlines recommendations to provide affordable broadband internet access to all Americans. Part of that chapter recommends the creation of the Connect America Fund. The CAF would fund deployment of broadband to unserved and underserved populations, much as the Universal Service Fund provided the economic means to provide telephone service to all Americans.

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