Federal Communication Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to propose an increase in the spending cap for the agency by $1.5 billion, bringing the cap to $3.9 billion. The proposal is meant to fund the FCC’s plans to bring high-speed internet to schools and libraries. New spending from the FCC would result in an increase of about 16 percent in the monthly fee consumers receive on their phone bills. FCC officials say this translates to an average of $6 extra per year for each household.
Wheeler’s proposal comes on the heels of an overhaul of the E-Rate program that began in July. E-Rate is the education component of the Universal Service Fund which provides broadband connections to low-income populations, rural communities, schools, and libraries. The overhaul shifted money from programs which funded telephone and paging systems to Wi-Fi and broadband connections. The overhaul did receive some criticism from members of the Commission who recommended tighter spending controls.
The increase in the annual spending cap for the FCC would also go to funding to other aspects of the Universal Service Fund, including rural and low-income populations. The money will also be spent to set up high-speed fiber-optic connections. Expanding Wi-Fi connection to schools and rural areas can strain already existing wires, making it necessary to build new connections to handle the new traffic.
“The growth will be a combination of payments for costly one-time nonrecurring infrastructure upgrades and increasing monthly recurring charges for Internet access,” the F.C.C.’s proposal says.
Read More – F.C.C. Chief Aims to Bolster Internet in Schools (New York Times, Edward Wyatt)