Recently adopted net neutrality regulations soon could make your monthly Internet bill more complicated — and potentially more expensive.
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.
For phone service, telecom firms pass the fees directly to their customers, with the average household paying about $3 a month.
Those who opposed the net neutrality rules foresee the fees rising.
“The federal government is sure to tap this new revenue stream soon to spend more of consumers’ hard-earned dollars,” warned Ajit Pai, a Republican on the FCC.
Higher fees on Internet bills could make the service unaffordable for some people, reducing broadband adoption instead of expanding it, critics say.
The FCC held off on adding the assessment until a special federal and state board that has been weighing whether broadband providers should contribute to the fund makes a decision in the coming weeks.
SOURCE: Jim Puzzanghera
Los Angeles Times