Phone companies present rural broadband plan

WASHINGTON (AP) ? AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and four other telecom companies are offering a proposal to overhaul an $8 billion federal phone subsidy program in order to pay for high-speed Internet access in rural and other underserved areas.

They say the plan, which was filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Friday, would bring broadband service to nearly all Americans within five years.

The proposal is one of dozens the FCC will likely receive as it seeks to bring the subsidy program, called the Universal Service Fund, into the digital age. But the new plan is significant since it has the backing of six major companies that are among the largest recipients of federal dollars to provide phone service in rural and poor areas.