FCC should broaden the Universal Service Fund contribution mechanism, not cap the program

CWA filed reply comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in opposition to the FCC's recent proposal to cap the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF supports four programs designed to provide universal affordable access to voice and broadband services: the Connect America Fund for rural communities, the Schools and Libraries program or E-Rate, the Lifeline program for low-income households, and the Rural Health Care program.

The FCC has proposed capping the USF at $11.42 billion, which would force programs to compete with each other for resources.. Each USF program already has a cap or targeted budget, making an overarching cap unnecessary. Moreover, a USF cap would undercut attempts to close the digital divide.

“There is broad agreement that the USF programs are working, and that the Commission’s proposal risks undermining their success,” wrote CWA. “Rather than cap USF funding, the Commission should reform the outdated Universal Service Fund contribution mechanisms.” The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, AARP, the National Education Association, Common Cause, the American Library Association, the National Association of American Veterans, Free Press, and Public Knowledge all opposed the FCC’s proposal to cap the USF. 

The Commission should modernize the USF funding mechanism by requiring that all digital communications contribute to the fund. Expanding the contribution base would ensure the sustainability of vital USF programs and at the same time reduce the burden on voice telephony consumers. 

Read CWA’s reply comments here

Links:

Reply comments of Communications Workers of America (CWA, Aug. , 2019)

Reply comments of Public Knowledge (Public Knowledge, Aug. 26, 2019)

FCC’s proposed Universal Service cap would undercut efforts to close digital divide (Speed Matters, Aug. 5, 2019)