November 15th and I am spending the day at the Club 20 “Building Toward Broadband for Colorado” conference. I will provide posts about much of the content.Patrick Halley, Deputy Director Office of Legislative Affairs for the FCC and former advisor to the Wireline Bureau Chief joined via tele-conference.
Mr. Halley spent some time talking about the structure of the Universal Service Fund. The USF comprises four programs: 1) the high cost fund, 2) low income subsidies, 3) E-Rate, and 4) rural health care. The presentation then focused on the high cost fund. The high cost fund was designed to ensure all Americans could have access to dial tone. Now the FCC is working to extend broadband access to all of America. Simultaneously, the Commission is working to correct structural concerns with their disbursement mechanisms.
The resolution to the USF high cost fund is through the Connect America Fund (or CAF). CAF is intended to: 1) provide universal service, 2) to do so in a fiscally responsible manner, and 3) to accommodate business realities – that is to accommodate the status quo as much as possible. The CAF will have access to about $4.58 billion per year to address: 1) fixed locations, 2) mobility, and 3) very remote or very high cost areas (probably going to be served by satellite).
Some facts from the presentation:
· 220,000 people in Colorado without access to fixed broadband (4 Mbps down/1 Mbps up) of which 178,000 are in rural areas.
A COUPLE OF THOUGHTS…
High cost funds are not available to state open access builds. There does not seem to be any current reasonable hope USF will be made available to state sponsored builds - especially those that are overbuilds.
When we had the OIT presentation, they indicated the National Broadband Map was the correct place to ask for corrections. Mr. Halley pointed out that the National Broadband Map is a compilation of state maps. As a population, the State should challenge OIT to offer a state challenge and map data updating process.