FCC Chairman Pushes Changes to Expand Broadband Access

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said he wants to overhaul a $7 billion federal phone-subsidy program and reallocate more airwaves to wireless carriers as part of a strategy to improve U.S. broadband Internet availability.

Mr. Genachowski’s comments Tuesday at a conference here are the latest in an increasingly strong series of signals that the FCC chairman is determined to shake up the status quo in the telecommunications industry to make fast Internet service cheaper and more widely available.

The Universal Service Fund is a federal subsidy program funded by consumers through a charge on their phone bills. The fund subsidizes phone service in rural areas and for low-income households. FCC officials want to change the plan so it funds new broadband Internet lines in rural areas. Proposals to revamp the fund have in the past provoked resistance from rural phone companies and their congressional allies. Smaller rural phone companies depend on the fund for operating revenues.

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