Just as the Universal Service Fund (USF) was set up to make phone service available to all, what’s being called the ‘Connect America Fund’ was set up to expand broadband access to everybody according to certain USENET newsgroups. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has estimated that about 18 million Americans could get access to broadband connections over the next decade, which could mean that just about everybody in the county would have broadband access.
All broadband connections would be taxed to supply the fund. Needless to say, some are opposed to the idea. Some argue that the FCC is overstepping its bounds in imposing the new tax, while others are supportive. Those who support the idea argue that broadband access is largely considered a necessity now and especially in the near future. Those in areas where access is not available may be at a disadvantage.
The fund would provide a subsidy to broadband companies who will then create the infrastructure to deliver broadband service to areas where it is currently unavailable, namely rural areas. Expanding to these areas may not currently be profitable for the companies, hence the idea of the subsidy. AT&T, Sprint, and Google have supported the fund.
What many are calling a tax is actually being referred to as a fee by the FCC, which some suggest may be to avoid falling under the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prevents the government from taxing access to the Internet. The FCC argues that the USF is not a tax, but rather a fee.
The debate will go on, as they say. Usenet features a number of newsgroups in which the topic may be discussed. Obviously, technology newsgroups would find the subject apt for conversation, but others dedicated to government and politics may generate discussion about the proposed broadband fee as well. Usenet remains a good place to share discussion with others around the country and around the world.