With the excesses and abuses of the Universal Service Fund so well documented, it's rather surprising to find anyone who still believes in it (well, other than politicians and the companies that benefit from it, that is). Some are still out there though, and think the flawed system needs expansion. Computerworld editor Preston Gralla writes in support of a new proposal out of Congress that would add a federal tax to broadband bills for the purpose of helping to build out rural broadband. Gralla argues that the tax needs to be put in place to make up for diminishing revenue on long-distance taxes. But there are also state taxes on mobile-phone use, and as it is the USF already has way too much money. The main beneficiaries of this money aren't the rural residents, but rather the operators that rake in an exorbitant amount to provide rural service. If the USF actually had a track of delivering on its goals, that would be one thing. Then we'd be left debating the merits of government-subsidized rural broadband, and whether people who live in rural areas have any reason to expect the same services afforded to city dwellers. Unfortunately, the USF doesn't accomplish what it sets out to, because it's so poorly managed, which should make anyone hesitant to throw more money at it. If politicians insist on subsidizing rural broadband, then here's a better idea: why not force the companies that are raking in $13,000 per year per customer to spend some of that money on building out internet access? Surely they have some money left over after the cost of providing phone service.
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