Every month, consumers pay a small fee on their phone bills for a federal program that uses the money — a total of $8.8 billion raised nationwide last year — to provide affordable access to telecommunications services in rural areas, underserved inner cities and schools.
Now the fee could start appearing on broadband bills too, in a major expansion of the nearly two-decade-old Universal Service Fund program.
It’s not clear yet, however, if most consumers would end up paying more in total USF fees than they do now.
In approving the tough rules for online traffic in February, the Federal Communications Commission put broadband in the same regulatory category as phone service, opening the door for the charges.
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