The time has come to kill the Universal Service Fund, and make sure that it is not replaced with another Universal Broadband Fund that will do nothing but line the pockets of the same telcos that have failed to deliver.
An incumbent that can’t survive without USF subsidies SHOULD go out of business so that they can be replaced by an entity that is able to survive in the market. Fast Failure is far better than dragging the decline out over decades, while a government supported collects the money and lets the infrastructure rot away.
If an ILEC could no longer get their $150/month/line subsidy to support the market and they can’t keep it supported, they would turn around and sell it as fast as they could get rid of it, to the point of practically giving it away. The best result would be that inefficient, government supported telcos get out of the market and are replaced with entities that are better suited to take care of the market. The new players may not necessarily be other large corporate entities – they might be community coops, mid-sized regional or sub-regional players or even – gasp – WISPs that already have infrastructure and staff in place to handle the technical requirements and would be able to benefit from the right of way and existing copper plant.
Related to this concept – this is a giant piece of motivation for WISPs to get their billing, infrastructure, technical expertise and legal counsel upgraded so that they are ready to take advantage of these opportunities when they come up.