Under a set of recommendations issued last week by the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, broadband services, for the first time ever, would be eligible for universal service fund (USF) subsidies that would enable providers to expand the availability of broadband service within rural areas. Members of the Joint Board include FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and members of various state regulatory agencies. The Joint Board’s proposals target the high-cost portion of the USF, which covers the provision of telecommunications services in rural and underserved areas. As part of the $4.5 billion in total high-cost USF funding recommended for the near term, the Joint Board has proposed allocating $300 million in support of rural broadband services. Noting that the total sum distributed through the high-cost fund would not change from current levels, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said that the new broadband fund would be compiled from money saved through other proposed changes in the high-cost fund, such as the capping of wireless support and the elimination of the “identical support rule,” which bases subsidies to wireless competitors on the cost of incumbent wireline operations. In addition to creating a new broadband fund, the Joint Board has also recommended the establishment of separate funds for the subsidization of wireless infrastructure and for the “provider of last resort,” which would be a single carrier (such as an incumbent local exchange carrier providing traditional landline voice service) within a certain geographic area. The FCC is required to act upon the Joint Board’s recommendations within one year.