CWA Supports Universal Service Fund Reform
With the FCC about to launch an important rulemaking to update the universal service program for broadband, CWA outlined its priorities in a recent meeting with Chairman Genachowski's legal advisor Zac Katz.
CWA has long advocated reform of the universal service program — originally designed for a monopoly telephone world — to foster affordable, high-speed broadband to everyone. The National Broadband Plan (NBP) endorsed these goals. Now, a year after release of the NBP, the FCC begins the reform process with an initial focus on the $4.2 billion High-Cost Fund of rural subsidies. The FCC's proposal will center on creating a Connect America Fund (CAF) to support broadband deployment in unserved areas.
CWA urged the Commission to follow the following principles for the Connect America Fund to support universal, affordable high-speed Internet to everyone and good union jobs in the industry:
- Subsidize only one broadband provider in areas where there is no private sector business case.
- Target support at a granular level based on need, not carrier characteristics.
- Support networks that can upgrade to higher capacity. Typically, these will be wireline networks.
- Require carrier-of-last resort obligations and service quality reporting.
- Support capital and operating expenses.
- Require USF recipients to upgrade to 1 gigabyte capacity to schools, libraries, and rural health centers.
- Ensure a smooth transition that does not result in rate shock to rural customers.
In addition, CWA urged the Commission to move forward in these areas:
- Ensure USF supports investment, not exorbitant shareholder dividends and large executive compensation packages.
- Broaden the contribution base. The current system, which is based on a percentage of telecommunications long-distance revenues, is outdated and unstable. All communications carriers, including broadband providers, should contribute equitably to the fund.
- Require all USF recipients to provide broadband service.
- Reform the low-income Lifeline and Link-Up system to support broadband adoption.
- Support and strengthen the E-rate program of support to schools, libraries, and rural health center.
CWA and Speed Matters will participate actively in the universal service program. Sign up to stay informed and to get involved in these important policy initiatives.
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