This week Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Connect to Compete, a new initiative that aims to increase broadband adoption and digital literacy training in disadvantaged communities throughout the United States. The initiative taps into existing FCC programs, and partnerships with nonprofits and the private sector. A complete overview, as detailed by the FCC, can be found here.
Much of the project involves the agency's plan for Universal Service Fund reform – that's the money that is collected in the form of a small surcharge on your phone bill. The FCC's Connect to Compete website claims that reforming this system originally designed as a fund to bring telephone services to rural or underdeveloped areas in the country could net "$1 billion or more per year in benefits for wireless consumers alone."
Critics say that the reforms would drive up prices on consumer broadband bills by raising the cap on USF fees charged by carriers above $6.50 per month. They also worry that some of that money will end up in the hands of the country’s largest service providers, who won’t do anything different than what they have already planned for building broadband infrastructure through the country.
DSLReports has an interesting report here that dissects some of the things the FCC doesn't detail in its announcement. It's worth taking a look at.
You can watch Chairman Julius Genachowski's presentation on this new initiative to your left.