FCC wants to freeze wireless funding program budget

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(Host) Getting cell phone service in rural parts of New England may soon become more difficult and expensive.

The Federal Communications Commission wants to freeze the budget for a program that provides funding for wireless communications in areas with low populations.

Jodi Breisler reports from Capitol Hill.

(Breisler) If the budget for the Universal Service Fund gets capped areas of Vermont and Maine might not get the wireless service they need. The Federal Communications Commission created the Fund a decade ago after Congress legislated that all Americans should have access to telecommunications regardless of where they live.

But FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says the program has exploded over the past six years.

(Martin) "Since I came to the commission – the first year I was there they received about a million dollars. Last year they received a billion dollars in Universal Services subsidy support. At that kind of growth rate I am concerned we can’t afford to continue to do that."

(Breisler) Groups opposing the funding freeze say the average rural Vermonter would pay over $278 more each year to receive telecommunications services. The FCC is currently weighing comments from lawmakers and citizens concerned with the proposed cap.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Jodi Breisler on Capitol Hill.

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