The Federal Communications Commission announced May 22 it would work in a public-private effort to bring high-speed broadband internet service to rural America.

FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn announced the effort was a result of the second release of Phase I funds of the Connect America Fund. The fund will offer up to $485 million to expand fixed broadband in rural America. The additional investment will leverage millions in additional private investment to quickly serve rural areas currently lacking access to high-speed broadband.

Approximately 15 million Americans, most of them living in rural areas, lack broadband and the access it provides to jobs, education, and opportunities. Without broadband, consumers and small businesses are cut off from the $8 trillion global Internet economy, severely limiting opportunities for jobs and economic prosperity.

This additional investment comes as the FCC moves into Phase II of the Connect America Fund, created in the historic overhaul and reform of the FCC’s traditional universal service program for rural voice service. Phase II will provide ongoing annual support of $1.8 billion for both voice and broadband service, all without increasing growth in the fund. Any funding not accepted in Phase 1 will be used to connect unserved communities in Phase II. Total FCC investment in expansion and support of rural fixed and mobile broadband and voice through universal service is budgeted at $4.5 billion.