The Federal Communications Commission chairman Monday released an overhaul plan for the long-criticized program that helps bring telephone service to remote rural areas.
The primary purpose of Chairman Julius Genachowski's proposed overhaul is to focus on expansion of high-speed Internet access to those same remote rural areas.
This is a positive step for rural America.
The Universal Service Fund is funded by phone companies' fees paid on a percentage of long-distance phone calls, fees often passed on to customers.
The original purpose of this fund was to fund telephone access to remote rural locations, which has often been cost-prohibitive. Over the decades, the program helped facilitate critical telephone access in these remote rural areas.
In this 21st century, the program needs to be overhauled and look at the full communications needs across America, including west central Minnesota.
Reforming the Universal Service Fund is a critical part of the FCC's National Broadband Plan.
The time has come to update the plan and refocus on high-speed Internet, which is the critical technology of the 21st century. This technology is vital now as the telephone was in the 20th century.
Telephone capabilities will be just one of the products available on high-speed Internet. Business communications, movie and other entertainment downloads and gaming are products now available via this Internet access.
Adequate access to high-speed Internet in the future will be a critical factor for business development, education access and basic communications in the future.