The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the government entity responsible for governing the policies surrounding the Universal Service Fund (USF). This $10 billion fund is used to enable and facilitate efficient communications service nationwide at reasonable charges.

Despite the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which hands the responsibility of distributing the funds to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the FCC will continue to play a crucial role in broadband expansion. This is primarily due to their involvement with the maps that determine which areas are considered unserved.

How does this impact states?

All states will receive $100 million but the question remains as to whether they can start using these funds toward broadband deployment, or if they are required to wait for maps to be finalized. Unfortunately bureaucracy takes time and there’s an urgent need to meet the growing expectations of broadband equity, access, and deployment today.

What role does open access play?

There are several benefits of open access systems especially when addressing the last mile, the final leg of the telecommunications network that bridges the gap between your ISP and location. Benefits of open access include heightened competition for communities, superior innovation, and increased collaboration to leverage unique strengths of stakeholders.

Fostering long-term partnerships is key to the success of these models as there is a need to honor both public and private investments. For open access models to work, we need to collectively use all the “tools in the toolbox” to better serve our communities.

Making data-driven decisions

Leveraging speed test data is critical to properly understand broadband coverage and provide an accurate view of what’s happening in a given geographic area. This requires heavy lifting and strong partnerships with communities, but the results can provide valuable insight into the state of broadband access in a region.

The journey to achieve broadband equity is ongoing and we must foster discussions surrounding the process and anticipated timelines for completion. Despite the delays in progress due to political debates and red tape, the broadband industry must remember to prioritize the needs of communities first. There are expectations to be met and both state funding and open access systems play a significant role in closing the nation’s digital divide.

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