The federal government spends more than $4 billion a year, collected from phone bills, to subsidize phone service in rural and poor areas. Now, it's considering ways to give those places more for the money: high-speed internet connections instead of old-fashioned phone lines, the Associated Press reports. The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Tuesday to begin work on a blueprint for transforming a subsidy program called the Universal Service Fund to pay for broadband. The details the agency works out could have profound consequences not just for residents of rural areas who are still stuck with dial-up connections...

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staff and wire services reports