126.96.36.199 Universal service fund
Many countries have established a universal service fund (USF), to which telecommunications operators contribute. The USF is used for general objectives such as installing telecommunications networks in rural areas, but it is increasingly being targeted to particular sectors such as schools.
How the USF funds are distributed varies from country to country. In some, operators bid to provide service in designated areas. The winner is the operator with the lowest bid, and the amount is then reimbursed from the USF. In other countries, the USF is used to reimburse designated operators that deploy infrastructure in targeted areas. In some instances, the USF is used to subsidize tariffs for specific groups.
In Latin America, many countries have established USFs aimed at increasing access to telecommunications services in unserved or underserved areas. Some of these funds include specific provisions for school connectivity.
Ecuador offers one example. The country’s universal service strategy includes support for providing Internet connectivity to schools, chiefly in areas where there is no existing access. The objective is to provide the majority of schools in the country with Internet connections. The telecommunications regulator (Comision Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, or CONATEL) is responsible for developing an annual plan that identifies universal service targets for funding from FODETEL, the country’s universal service fund.62 FODETEL has financed a number of school connectivity programs, including a USD 469,000 project providing broadband connections and free Internet access to 74 schools in the Cantón Montúfar Municipality.63