Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Why is the FCC Talking about a USF Cap?
On March 26, 2019, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai circulated an item that would for the first time consider imposing an overall cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF). USF programs provide subsidies that make telecommunications and broadband services more available and affordable for millions of Americans. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Executive Editor Kevin Taglang:
The Benton Foundation unequivocally opposes any proposals from the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the FCC to shirk its responsibilities to meet its Congressionally-mandated mission. The FCC is supposed to ensure:
- Quality services are available at just, reasonable, and affordable rates.
- Access to advanced telecommunications and information services are provided in all regions of the Nation.
- Consumers in all regions of the Nation, including low-income consumers and those in rural, insular, and high cost areas, have access to telecommunications and information services, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services, that are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas and that are available at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates charged for similar services in urban areas.
- There are specific, predictable, and sufficient Federal and State mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service.
- Elementary and secondary schools and classrooms, health care providers, and libraries should have access to advanced telecommunications services.
USF budget reductions or caps could stall and stifle America’s internet opportunity. They would undercut critical efforts to close the digital divide, efforts meant to ensure that every American can take advantage of the transformative opportunities that broadband can deliver.
Capping internet opportunity is not the right answer. Rather, the FCC should spend its time working to eliminate the bureaucratic barriers that are preventing these programs from getting the most bang for the buck and achieving their maximum potential.
We can’t extend broadband’s reach throughout rural America with a USF cap.
We can’t solve the homework gap with a USF cap.
We can’t ensure that everyone can afford essential voice and broadband service with a USF cap.
We can’t bring world-class medical care to rural areas with a USF cap.
So why is the FCC talking about a USF cap?
Benton, a non-profit, operating foundation, believes that communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities to bridge our divides. Our goal is to bring open, affordable, high-capacity broadband to all people in the U.S. to ensure a thriving democracy.
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