Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski outlined a plan Monday to shift money set aside to subsidize landline telephone service to pay for high-speed Internet in rural communities.

Genachowski outlined his plans to revamp the $8 billion universal service fund in a speech at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

A recent ITIF study found that the U.S. ranked 6th in broadband adoption among 40 industrialized countries.

Some 24 million Americans live in areas that don’t have broadband service. Genachowski said the current universal service fund didn’t meet the nation’s needs. “It was designed for a world with separate local and long-distance telephone companies; a world of traditional, landline telephones before cell phones or Skype; a world without the Internet — a world that no longer exists,” he said.
Technology Review tells how Super Wi-Fi could be brought to rural America using open spectrum (so-called “white spaces”) that had been reserved for broadcast networks.

Since rural America has fewer local TV stations, it will have far more of these empty “white spaces” to fill with new wireless signals, points out Alex Besen, who runs an industry consultancy, the Besen Group. In many rural areas, super Wi-Fi will have access to well over 200 megahertz of spectrum, he estimates—more capacity than Verizon and AT&T combined. That huge injection of spectrum could revolutionize the digital infrastructure of rural America, Besen says.

* This isn’t a list a company wants to lead, but Dean Foods, the country’s largest dairy producer, showed up this morning as the member of the S&P 500 that has lost the most value over the last two years of a rising market.

Dean Foods is also a member of the Daily Yonder 40, forty stocks picked to reflect the rural economy. If Dean has had a tough time, dairy farmers have had it tougher.

* Jennifer Steinhauer in the New York Times reminds us that sometimes those earmarks came in handy. Salt Lake City lost staffing for two new shelters for abused women, and a “rural Wisconsin county will not be able to upgrade its communication system, and a road in Kentucky will not be widened next year.”

She continues: “Across the country, local governments, nonprofit groups and scores of farmers, to name but a few, are waking up to the fact that when Congress stamped out earmarks last week, it was talking about their projects, too. “Tensions are particularly acute in districts where new conservative lawmakers, many of whom criticized throughout their campaigns the practice of quietly inserting earmarks into spending bills, are coming face to face with local governments and interest groups who were counting on federal dollars to help shore up their own collapsing budgets.“

* Times columnist Paul Krugman says the jump in food prices worldwide is primarily a function of a spate of severe weather. And outbreaks of severe weather are a result of global climate change.

* Nothing rural in this, but we found it interesting that people in richer parts of Washington, D.C., have registered more guns over the last few years than those in poorer, crime-plagued neighborhoods.

* DTN reports that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is asking Congress to hold special oversight hearings on livestock marketing rules proposed by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

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