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This week, Public Knowledge filed comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to consider implementing a cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF). USF remains the federal government’s primary tool to help close the digital divide by funding broadband access and deployment in rural communities, affordable broadband for low-income families, and affordable connectivity for schools and libraries. Public Knowledge opposes capping the USF because it may hinder the FCC’s ability to fulfill its universal service mandate.
The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Policy Director at Public Knowledge:
“Universal service is the core principle of U.S. telecommunications policy, and Congress has directed the FCC to ensure affordable advanced telecommunications capabilities are available to everyone. Members of Congress from across the political spectrum, the Administration, the FCC, and state and local lawmakers vigorously agree that bringing the benefits of high-speed broadband to all areas of the U.S. is a moral and economic imperative. However, the FCC’s proposal to cap the USF jeopardizes the FCC’s ability to use the agency’s universal service programs to close the digital divide.
“The Commission’s current broadband data collection process suffers from a failure to collect granular and relevant data, overreporting of coverage by broadband providers, and insufficient FCC verification of carrier-submitted data. While the FCC believes that approximately 21 million people in the U.S. lack access to quality, affordable broadband, Microsoft reported that more than 160 million people actually fail to access the internet at broadband speeds, and research from NPD Group concluded more than 100 million don’t have access to broadband. The agency’s proposal to cap the USF imperils the agency’s ability to address the true scale and scope of America’s universal service problem.
“The Commission is correct to express concern about the burden on USF ratepayers. However, retreating from America’s longstanding commitment to universal service is not the answer. Instead, the Commission should make a good faith effort to correct the outdated aspects of the USF contribution mechanisms by broadening the base of support for the universal service programs. Increasing the USF’s contribution base will buttress the sustainability of the program, alleviate burdens on current ratepayers, and ensure universal service programs have the funding they need to achieve their missions.”
You may view the filing here.