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Lawmakers move to reform USF program to include broadband

House lawmakers are moving to reform an outdated multibillion-dollar federal fund designed to bring telecommunication services across the nation by bringing it into the digital age.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) have circulated a discussion draft to reform the Universal Service Fund, which funnels money collected by carriers (who get it from consumers) to bring communications services like phone lines to schools and libraries and parts of the nation that are expensive to connect.

Boucher, chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Telecommunications and the Internet, and Terry have proposed that the fund also go to high-speed Internet services.

The move, largely expected this year, is seen as a key component to the Obama administration's push to bring broadband services to every home and business in the nation. But similar efforts to reform USF have run into opposition on the Hill from lawmakers from rural areas and rural service providers. The FCC in past years has also faced difficulty transforming the nature of funds to include broadband.

"The Universal Service Fund is broken. Consumers currently pay more than twelve percent of long distance revenues into the fund, and that number will jump to more than fourteen percent next year," Boucher and Terry said in a statement. "Our discussion draft is a comprehensive and forward-looking measure, which will control the spiraling growth of the Universal Service Fund while ensuring that universal service support is available to the carriers which rely on it to provide service."

They said their bill will expand who pays into the fund, cap the growth of the fund and modernize the fund by allowing its use for the deployment of high-speed broadband service.

By Cecilia Kang  |  November 6, 2009; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  Broadband , FCC  
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The USF is, indeed, "broken," in ways that cannot be fixed by mere tinkering. The way to fix it is not to extend it but to replace it with something that actually works (such as the direct distribution of vouchers to customers in need of service).

Posted by: squirma | November 6, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

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