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Setting the Bar for Public Funding: Aiming Higher with the Connect America Fund

By: Carol Mattey

February 2018

Published by Medium

The Federal Communications Commission concluded in a recent report that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, but there’s more work to be done. On the latter point, there’s widespread agreement. The report is a snapshot in time, not a comprehensive roadmap of the future.

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Defining Success in the Phase II Auction

By: Carol Mattey

January 2018

Published by Medium

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) upcoming Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II auction will be the first significant U.S. effort to use competitive bidding to address the digital divide in rural America. In the Phase II auction, the FCC will award nearly $200 million in annual support for a ten-year term to entities willing to provide voice and fixed broadband service to rural, high-cost areas currently lacking broadband connections.

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A More Holistic Approach to Achieving Universal Broadband in Rural America

By: Carol Mattey

November 2017

Published by Medium

 

I recently attended a symposium hosted by the Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) about the Federal Communications Commission’s programs to achieve universal service: the Connect America Fund to expand and maintain voice and broadband service in rural, high-cost areas, the E-rate program to bring internet connectivity to schools and libraries, the Rural Health Care program to provide critical communication services to healthcare providers, and the Lifeline program to make service more affordable for low-income households.

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Why Community Anchor Institutions Should Care About the Connect America Fund

By: Carol Mattey

October 2017

Published by The SHLB Coalition

 

Universal service has been a core mandate in the United States since 1934, with longstanding programs to ensure everyone could subscribe to telephone service. More recently, after passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the E-rate program to help connect schools and libraries to the Internet and the Rural Health Care program to bring critical communications connectivity to clinics and hospitals in rural areas.  In 2011, the FCC transformed its existing high-cost program to subsidize voice service into the Connect America Fund, with the objective of maintaining and extending fixed and mobile broadband service to homes and small businesses in rural communities.

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"It’s time to step back and ask the question of how these programs could work better together to ensure that 21st century communications infrastructure is available to everyone in rural America."

Carol Mattey

Looking Ahead to the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction

By: Carol Mattey

May 2017

Published by Benton Foundation

 

Under the new Trump Administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved quickly to take concrete steps to advance parts of Chairman Pai’s digital empowerment agenda to advance broadband across America. In February, the FCC voted to adopt rules for the upcoming Mobility Fund Phase II auction and the Connect America Fund Phase II auction. More recently, the Chairman established a Task Force to oversee the two auctions, signaling that these auctions are a priority for the agency. That’s progress – but the real question is – what needs to happen next to have successful auctions for these universal service subsidies?

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Carol Mattey

In Infrastructure Plan, a Big Opening for Rural Broadband

By: Blair Levin and Carol Mattey

February 2017

Published by Brookings Institute

 

Despite tens of billions of dollars of federal subsidies for rural communications networks, rural broadband connectivity remains a vexing problem. While the numbers show improvement from prior years, the most recent broadband report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that 39 percent of the rural population (23.4 million Americans), compared to just 4 percent of the urban population, lacked access to what the FCC regards as basic fixed broadband service—25 megabits per second (Mbps) up/3 Mbps down. Even more starkly, 20 percent lacked access even to service at the previous, now outdated, broadband definition of 4/1 Mbps. This lack of access has a number of negative implications for economic development in rural America. For example, as the FCC report noted, “small businesses tend to subscribe to mass-market broadband service. Thus, the rural-urban disparity in deployment of these broadband services also disproportionately impacts the ability of small businesses operating in rural areas to successfully compete.”

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A Milestone in Expanding Broadband to Rural America

By: Carol Mattey

August 2015

Federal Communications Commission Blog

 

Yesterday, the FCC reached a major milestone in its mission to connect rural America to robust broadband. Thursday was the deadline for some of the nation's largest phone companies to decide whether to accept "Phase II" funds from the FCC's Connect America Fund to expand broadband to their rural customers. All told, ten carriers accepted over $1.5 billion in annual support to provide broadband to nearly 7.3 million consumers in 45 states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In exchange for receiving funding for all eligible areas that they serve in a given state, these providers have committed to expanding and maintaining broadband service with defined milestones and obligations over a six-year period.

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"This is great news for these rural communities, where broadband can spark economic development, support education, and provide residents with access to the news, information and cutting-edge Internet applications that are a fact of life in most other parts of the country."

Carol Mattey

Learning From Rural Broadband Experiments

By: Carol Mattey

October 2014

Federal Communications Commission Blog

Last week, the Wireline Competition Bureau opened the application filing window for parties interested in participating in the Commission’s rural broadband experiments. Already we have seen activity in the online system we are using to accept the applications, with many entities working on their applications. Interested parties have until 6 p.m. on Friday, November 7 to submit applications for this funding opportunity.     

The opening of the filing window marks a historic occasion. For the first time, the Commission is using a competitive bidding process to award ongoing Connect America Fund support that will bring broadband to rural America.

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