Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed a new spending cap on the FCC's Universal Service programs that deploy broadband to poor people and to rural and other underserved areas.
Pai reportedly circulated the proposal to fellow commissioners on Tuesday, meaning it will be voted upon behind closed doors instead of in an open meeting.
The FCC's Universal Service system's purpose is to bring communications service access to all Americans and consists of four programs: The Connect America Fund, which gives ISPs money to deploy broadband in rural areas; Lifeline, which provides discounts on phone and broadband service to low-income consumers; the E-Rate broadband program for schools and libraries; and a telecom access program for rural health care providers.
The FCC's list of items on circulation was updated today to include the proposal, referring to it as a plan for "Universal Service Contribution Methodology," but provides no description beyond those four words.
"The commission must inject fiscal responsibility into the USF [Universal Service Fund] by establishing an upper boundary of how much we are willing to take from hardworking American consumers who support the program through higher fees on their phone bills."
But adding a government fee to broadband service would be controversial and may require Congressional approval.