US senators urge FCC to discard plans to cap the Universal Service Fund

Thirty US senators urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to discard plans 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 proposed capping the USF at $11.42 billion, which would force programs to compete with each other. 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.

“Each program that is a part of USF plays an indispensable role in achieving the ultimate goal of USF, access to communication services for every American,” wrote the senators. “The proposal to place a universal cap on these programs is a direct assault on the FCC’s mission of bridging the digital divide. The proposal to combine the sub-caps for the E-Rate and Rural Health Care funds is particularly troubling. None of the USF programs should be pitted against each other and forced to vie for a piece of the pie.”

Communications Workers of America, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, AARP, National Education Association, Common Cause, American Library Association, National Association of American Veterans, Free Press, and Public Knowledge oppose the FCC’s proposal to cap the USF. 

Links:

Letter from 30 senators to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (US Senate, Sep. 19, 2019)

FCC should broaden the Universal Service Fund contribution mechanism, not cap the program (Speed Matters, Sep. 3, 2019)