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Ajit Pai wants to cap spending on broadband for poor people and rural areas

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Jon Brodkin
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Pai has not released the proposal publicly, but it was described in a Politico report Wednesday, and an FCC official confirmed the proposal's details to Ars. Democratic FCC commissioners and consumer advocacy groups have criticized Pai's plan, saying it could harm the FCC's efforts to expand broadband access.The FCC's Universal Service system's purpose is to bring communications service access to all Americans and consists of four programs: The Connect America Fund, which gives ISPs money to deploy broadband in rural areas; Lifeline, which provides discounts on phone and broadband service to low-income consumers; the E-Rate broadband program for schools and libraries; and a telecom access program for rural health care providers.Pai's plan suggests an $11.4 billion annual cap on the total cost of the four programs, which is more than current spending but would put an upper bound on what the program could spend in the future. Separately, Pai's attempt to take certain Lifeline broadband subsidies away from tribal residents was blocked by a federal appeals court last month.Pai's new proposal, in addition to proposing an overall Universal Service funding cap, encourages debate on the effectiveness of the Universal Service programs and asks the public how the FCC should prioritize spending in the event that a future spending cap is reached, the FCC official who talked to Ars said.The FCC's two Democratic commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, both criticized the plan in statements to Ars."The FCC's proposal flies in the face of the agency's own rhetoric about bridging the digital divide," Rosenworcel said. Arbitrary budget cuts to Universal Service Funds will disconnect Americans who are starving for digital opportunities, especially in unserved and underserved communities that Latinos call home."Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said Pai's plan "is just another signal that the commission's current leadership has chosen to severely weaken the FCC's long-standing universal service mission."Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also slammed Pai's proposal, telling Politico that "any effort that could harm classroom learning, broadband deployment, rural health opportunities, or connecting more individuals should be shelved and never considered again."You must login or create an account to comment.Join the Ars Orbital Transmission mailing list to get weekly updates delivered to your inbox.

As said here by Jon Brodkin