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FCC begins reform of USF fund, doesn't address reclassification

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday began the process of reforming the Universal Service Fund with a unanimous vote to set off the transformation of the phone subsidy program into one that also includes broadband services.

The move marks a concrete step forward in implementing the agency's national broadband plan, despite uncertainty over the FCC's authority to do so after its loss to Comcast's net neutrality challenge.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski didn't say how the agency plans to respond to the federal appeals decision but said it is evaluating the decision to ensure its actions on broadband policies are on sound legal footing.

The five commissioners agreed to revise old rules on roaming so voice roaming on competitors' networks is allowed. And they agreed on a proposal that could force carriers to share their networks for Internet data roaming -- a move that smaller competitors like Cellular South, have urged the commission to adopt.

They approved a proceeding related to television set-top boxes, meant to improve competition among providers and make broadband services easier to access on TVs.

The FCC also approved investigations into cyber-security and public safety efforts, including a specific inquiry that would see how resilient broadband networks are in natural disasters.

By Cecilia Kang  |  April 21, 2010; 3:13 PM ET
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