Congress is considering fundamental changes in the Universal Service Fund (USF), allowing it to include broadband service.

The USF program disburses funds to help pay for phone service to remote subscribers. While some have advocated for killing the USF, that does not appear to be an option. The most likely change would be to include broadband connectivity in addition to phone service.

"The better question is whether or not we actually impose an obligation on recipients of universal service funding to provide broadband, to do so throughout territories, and to do so at a certain minimum speed," according to Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.

Boucher was quoted by Dow Jones, which also reported that the testimony of several phone company executives was that extending broadband to remote subscribers would be almost prohibitively expensive.

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