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Mignon Clyburn Expects FCC Universal Service Fund Proposals by Year-End

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ARLINGTON, Va., October 2, 2010 – Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn emphasized the need for quality research in policy making, particularly with regard to reforming the universal service fund for telephone and internet connectivity.

Speaking at the Friday evening dinner session at the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, a top telecom research conference here, Clyburn also said that she expected the FCC to propose changes to the USF system, and to propose funding for universal broadband, by the end of 2010.

Earlier on Friday at TPRC, the conference began with a panel examining broadband plans around the globe. The panel included officials from developed and developing nations, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore and the European Union; and the developing nations of India and Brazil.

The common problem between both groups was determining the value of broadband to the overall economy, panelists said.

They said it was simple to determine the direct value based upon construction of broadband networks; but the longer-term value to the economy was difficult to monetize.

Developing nations face this analytical problem when contemplating whether to invest in broadband or other more traditional resources such as hospitals or schools. Panelists said that the developed nations, by contrast, are more concerned with maximizing the value of government investment.

The challenges of broadband deployment differ by population density, geography and the government’s proclivity to intervene in the marketplace. Even different types of capitalism change the willingness of private industry to invest, said Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, who compared Japan's longer-term focus to U.S. firms’ greater focus on the short term.

The largest problem faced by developing nations was determining which type of broadband service to deploy (i.e. wired or wireless), and of finding the necessary funding. While most of the world accesses the internet via a computer, the penetration of mobile phones in India is so high that many regulators are beginning to pay greater attention to questions of mobile broadband.

The TPRC conference, currently in its 38th year, continues on Saturday and Sunday.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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