IIA Applauds New Efforts to Reform Universal Service Fund

Alliance cites inclusion of broadband in proposal as a ‘Major Step Forward’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 29, 2011 – A new effort to reform the Universal Service Fund to include broadband is a major step forward in achieving universal broadband, according to the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA).  IIA is a broad-based coalition supporting public policies that bring broadband to all Americans including rural areas.

Major telecom players (including AT&T, an IIA member) unveiled “America’s Broadband Connectivity” Proposal today.  This proposal, which the group believes will advance the goals of the National Broadband Plan, encourages additional private sector investment by targeting funding to rural areas that have been neglected under the current regulatory system.

“For decades, the primary purpose of USF has been to fund voice service through the equivalent of a tax on inter-state phone service,” said IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher, a former Congressman from Virginia who chaired the Subcommittee on Communications and championed USF reform while in Congress.  “Modernization of the USF to bring high-speed Internet services to unserved areas directly addresses the nation’s foremost telecommunications challenge – the need for universal broadband.”

As a matter of process, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will review the proposal and will likely open a proceeding to evaluate the ideas.  The FCC could move to a more formal adoption process, advancing the proposal and holding a vote on it.

According to the America’s Broadband Connectivity Proposal, it would create and fund a new Broadband “Connect America Fund” (CAF).  The CAF would focus on extending broadband to unserved areas within five years, including millions of rural households and maintaining broadband service in existing high-cost areas.

Boucher continued, “It’s important to enable broadband to be funded through USF, and this plan as well as the FCC plan now under consideration enable that.”

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