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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Big changes in the neighbor's house

I took a quick look at the "Recommended Decision" concerning the USF High Cost Program that was posted on the FCC Web site today. It is a set of recommendations to the FCC from the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service.

I'm just not an expert on the High Cost program, so I just skimmed the decision to see how it affected the program.

First, I'm not sure what the document is. Is it a request for comments? A notification of a pending decision? An Order? So I don't know if it's all going to happen.

I noticed two things that affect the E-Rate program, and both in good ways.

First, the decision calls for a cap on the High Cost Program. This program has been ballooning, so the idea is to cap it at $4.5 billion. I don't know if that's good or bad for the High Cost program, but it's definitely good for the E-Rate program. The USF charge on our phone bills has been increasing, and that makes it more likely that someone in Congress will try to slash the whole program. With High Cost capped, the USF should be more stable, which will help keep it off radar screens.

Second, the decision expands the definition of supported services to include broadband Internet access. Since Internet access is already eligible in the E-Rate program, it won't have a big effect on E-Rate rules, but I'm hoping it will lead to lower costs for Internet access for applicants in high-cost areas, which will mean more money for everyone else.

So it's kind of like your neighbor fixing up the plumbing and electrical in their house. It doesn't really help you right off, but it's a good thing.

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