The New York Times this morning editorialized this morning that changing the purpose of the Universal Service Fund “to stop subsidizing rural phone lines and start subsidizing rural broadband connections is long overdue. Right now an estimated 14 million to 28 million Americans have no way of getting access to the Internet.”
The Times is backing a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission that would switch the USF from subsidizing phone service to providing incentives for companies to provide broadband to unserved areas, primarily in rural communities.
Meanwhile, however, U.S. Senators from three very urban states have written the Federal Communications Commission asking for other changes in the Universal Service Fund.
Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Bill Nelson of Florida and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey (all Democrats) tell FCC chair Julius Genachowski that residents of their states pay in $4.68 into the fund for every $1 they receive in return.
The USF has paid to bring phone service to underserved communities, primarily in rural areas. Genachowski wants to use the fund now to spread broadband into rural America.
Although we support the concept of universal service and recognize the importance of universal access to broadband for all Americans, the USF desperately needs to be changed to address the numerous inequities and inefficiencies in its current administration,” the lawmakers wrote.
•The governor of Kentucky sent a note to the governor of Florida asking him to reconsider a decision to stop monitoring prescription drugs. Kentuckians are piling into Florida to pick up prescription pain killers from doctors working with little oversight.
The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, said no. “I don’t support the database,” Scott said at a news conference. “I believe it’s an invasion of privacy.”
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said that 60% of the illegal prescription drugs in his state come from Florida.
The White House drug czar, Gil Kerikowske told a crowd in Kentucky yesterday that he felt the Florida drug monitoring system was a good idea. And perhaps more important to Republican Gov. Scott, so did Rep. Hal Rogers, chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
Referring to raids in Kentucky that have found large quantities of drugs from Florida, Rogers said, “I hope that these incidents encourage Gov. Rick Scott to back down from his proposal to repeal Florida’s (monitoring) law, a program desperately needed to stop the flow of illegal prescription drugs from Florida to Kentucky.”
• Speaking of Rogers, The Washington Post writes its story about the new chair of the House Appropriations Committee and representative of the most rural congressional district in the country. The story examines Hal Rogers’ extraordinarily effective efforts to steer federal money to his poor district and asks if he is the right man to cut federal spending.
Article has a good quote: “Everybody likes the colonel, because he brought the fried chicken,” said Williamsburg florist Greg Prewitt. “We look at Hal Rogers like we look at Colonel Sanders.”
•Daryll Ray and Harwood Schaffer go to Texas and find farmers who are shifting more acres to cotton. (Peanuts will be a loser there.) It’s spring and the competition for acres is hot and heavy.
• As the government budget cuts get closer to home, they get easier to see. There is talk in the House about cutting funding for community health centers. Texas would likely close 12 community health centers if these cuts are made, many in rural areas.
• One of the nation’s largest potato growers was indicted in California yesterday on charges that he funneled $66,000 to two state legislative candidates through family and employees, bypassing a $3,900 limit. Larry Minor owns Agri-Empire. l
• Post, Texas, is gaining population, which is not all that usual for rural West Texas counties. “This was built as C.W. Post utopia city, and I think he is smiling on us right now. I think he did his job in the very beginning and we’ve continued it,” said Mayor Thressa Harp.
In fact, Post is listed as one of the nation’s fastest growing communities.