The FCC calls the initiative “one of the biggest job creators in rural America in decades.” Regulators unanimously voted to help bring broadband to underserved areas via a new Connect America Fund — replacing the current Universal Service Fund where phone customers pay monthly fees that are used to promote phone connections. Instead, cash will be used to build wired and — for the first time — wireless broadband in sparcely populated or poor communities that cable and phone companies haven’t wanted to serve. The new fund will have a budget cap of $4.5B a year. The FCC estimates the fund will boost economic growth by $50B over the next six years while creating about 500,000 jobs and bringing high-speed Internet to more than 7M people. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association says that it’s “disappointed” that the FCC will provide “incumbent telephone companies an unwarranted advantage for broadband support” but adds that it will “work closely” with regulators to expand broadband coverage.
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