I heard an NPR story the other day about the FCC‘s recent ruling that diverts monthly fees from rural telephone service to rural broadband service. The “Universal Service Fund” or something similar has been around since the early 20th century, charging a small fee on our phone bills to subsidize phone service for rural areas and the poor.
The newly minted “Connect America Fund” now allocates this money for mobile telephone and broadband in rural communities and needy areas. As I’ve discussed in a blog post earlier this year, access to the internet can not only offer rural U.S. citizens access to critical information, but it can provide them health care benefits that could literally save lives.
This long-standing telephone program represents an example of a government policy that benefits everyone in the country by helping to educate and inform our citizens in the hyper-competitive global economy. Along with the FCC’s rural health care pilot program, the Connect America Fund can also provide critical, timely health care services to people in rural locations through advanced telemedicine technologies.
Obviously the possibilities from a collaboration standpoint are exciting (having previously lived in a rural area where my DSL came in from a water tower across a corn field, I am especially excited for my former neighbors). In addition, though, rural access to video communication technologies offers personal connections to medical specialists from any location as well as a portal to vast educational opportunities.
So when you notice that small fee labeled “Connect America Fund” on your phone bill, know that it’s going to rural broadband access that will make a huge difference in people’s lives while improving our country’s overall competitiveness and health.
How do you foresee increased broadband access having an impact in your community?