Congress Seeks Your Input on Universal Service Fund

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Digital Beat

Congress Seeks Your Input on Universal Service Fund

On July 27, 2023, the members of the Universal Service Fund Working Group sought public comment on the future of the Universal Service Fund (USF). The working group includes Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), John Thune (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

The USF consists of money collected from telecommunications companies that is dedicated to fulfilling the goals of universal service which, just about one year ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) articulated as universal deployment, affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access to broadband throughout the United States.

Specifically, the senators are asking for input on the following questions.

1) How should Congress and the FCC evaluate the effectiveness of the existing USF programs in achieving universal service goals for broadband?

2) To what extent have the existing USF programs—1) High-Cost Support, 2) Low-Income Support, 3) Schools and Libraries Support, and 4) Rural Health Care Support—been effective in carrying out section 254 of the Communications Act of 1994?

   a) Has the FCC adequately evaluated the effectiveness of each program against concrete goals and metrics?

3) Is the FCC’s administration of the USF and its four programs sufficiently transparent and accountable?  If not, what reforms are necessary and appropriate within the four existing USF programs to improve transparency, accountability, and cost-effectiveness, and does the FCC have the authority to make such reforms?

4) What reforms are necessary to address inefficiencies and waste, fraud, and abuse in each of the four programs and duplication with other government programs?

5) What additional policies beyond existing programs are necessary for the preservation and advancement of universal service?

6) Should Congress eliminate the requirement that a provider must be an “Eligible Telecommunications Carrier” to receive USF subsidies?

7) Currently, telecommunications companies must pay a contribution factor to the Universal Service Fund proportional to interstate end-user revenues. What reforms are necessary to ensure that the contribution factor is sufficient to preserve and advance universal service?

   a) Some have advocated for assessing USF contributions on broadband service and edge providers.  What would the impact of such reforms on ratepayers and the marketplace?

   b) Some have advocated shifting the funding for the USF to an appropriations model.  What impact would that have on the USF?

8) What actions are necessary and appropriate to improve coordination between USF programs and other programs at the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development, the Department of Treasury, and other federal agencies?

9) Is the USF administrator, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), sufficiently accountable and transparent?  Is USAC’s role in need of reform?

10) Is Congressional guidance needed to ensure future high-cost program rollouts, such as FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund phase II auction, are improved? Would a thorough and upfront vetting process be more efficient for federal dollars and recipient ISPs?

The Universal Service Fund Working Group is accepting public input on these questions through Friday, August 25, 2023. Comments can be submitted via online forms as a single PDF file that includes your organization name and contact information.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2023. Redistribution of this email publication - both internally and externally - is encouraged if it includes this copyright statement.

For subscribe/unsubscribe info, please email headlinesATbentonDOTorg

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

Share this edition:

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Broadband Delivers Opportunities and Strengthens Communities

By Kevin Taglang.