Ajit Pai proposes $20 billion for “up to” gigabit-speed rural broadband

From Ars Technica

An illustration of Earth, with circuits covering North America and an Ethernet cable being plugged into the planet.

Getty Images | Henrik5000

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing a $20.4 billion rural broadband fund that could connect up to four million homes and small businesses over the next ten years.

The new program will be part of the Universal Service Fund (USF), and it will be similar to an existing USF program that began during the Obama administration. In 2015, the USF’s Connect America Fund (CAF) awarded $9 billion for rural broadband deployment—$1.5 billion annually for six years—in order to connect 3.6 million homes and businesses.

Carriers that accepted the CAF money are required to finish the broadband deployments by the end of 2020. Pai’s proposed Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will be the follow-on program, an FCC spokesperson told Ars. The fund would “inject $20.4 billion into high-speed broadband networks in rural America over the next decade,” the FCC said.

At $2 billion a year over ten years, the…

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