* Genachowski offers plan for modernizing USF
* Plan would shift fund focus to broadband deployment
* Proposal set for agency vote on Oct. 27
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, Oct 6 The U.S. communications
regulator unveiled on Thursday a proposal for achieving
universal broadband coverage by the end of the decade.
Some 18 million Americans do not have access to broadband
where they live and work despite some $4.5 billion in public
money spent each year to subsidize telephone service for rural
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius
Genachowski proposed a strategy for revamping that government
subsidy program to help deploy high-speed Internet service to
millions of Americans living in rural and costly-to-serve
"The costs of this broadband gap are measured in jobs not
created, existing job openings not filled and our nation's
competitiveness not advanced," Genachowski said in a speech on
Thursday, acknowledging that the current program is broken.
The FCC earlier in the year proposed modernizing the $8
billion universal service fund -- paid for through fees added
to consumers' telephone bills -- to spur infrastructure
investment while removing inefficiencies in the program.
Genachowski's proposal would gradually move the largest
program within the universal service fund, the program that
subsidizes telephone service, to directly support fixed and
His plan would also phase out funding for duplicating
services offered by several phone companies serving the same
Broadband buildout to unserved areas could being in early
2012 under the plan, bringing high-speed Internet to hundreds
of thousands of homes in the near-term.
"It will help cut the number of Americans bypassed by
broadband by up to one half over the following five years, and
it will put us on the path to universal broadband by the end of
the decade," Genachowski added.
The comprehensive set of reforms will be circulated to the
other commissioners on Thursday, and are set for a vote at the
FCC's Oct. 27 meeting.
(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)