Broadband Universal Service

PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 1213-19
Monday, June 3, 2013

For over seventy years, our nation’s telecommunications policy has been based upon the concept of "universal service." Though in recent years technology has radically changed the landscape of the telecommunications industry, its spread has been dramatically inconsistent. Though revolutionary, broadband internet has skipped over a vast segment of American citizens. Rural Americans have been left with expensive, obsolete technologies unable to provide the services essential to participation in American economic and social life. Carrying on the ideal of universal service despite technological change is essential to ensuring that all Americans have access to communications, education, jobs, and healthcare.

However, investing in new broadband infrastructure in rural areas is a challenge. Though the Federal Communications Commission has taken many steps to enhance the availability of broadband, technology has not changed the fundamental economic challenges of running a wire to every home. States must explore innovative new policy options to support broadband deployment despite their jurisdictional limitations. Though primarily a Federal program, achieving broadband universal service will require the close supervision and local expertise of state commissions.