Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Congressmen Boucher & Terry Release Universal Service Fund (USF) Reform Bill Proposal

Press Release for Office of Rep. Rick Boucher via 11/10/09 Boston - U.S. Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA-09), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and Lee Terry (R-NE-02) on November 6 released a discussion draft of the Universal Service Reform Act of 2009. 
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA-09)

The measure will improve the Universal Service Fund (USF) and ensure its continued viability by broadening the base of contributions into the Fund and controlling distributions from the Fund, allowing use of the Fund for broadband deployment.

"The Universal Service Fund is broken. Consumers currently pay more than twelve percent of long distance revenues into the fund, and that number will jump to more than fourteen percent next year. Our discussion draft is a comprehensive and forward-looking measure, which will control the spiraling growth of the Universal Service Fund while ensuring that universal service support is available to the carriers which rely on it to provide service. The measure will expand who pays into the Fund, cap the growth of the Fund and modernize the Fund by allowing its use for the deployment of high speed broadband service," said Boucher and Terry.

"The Universal Service Fund helps provide essential communications services to millions of customers in rural areas, and the draft released today will assist with the deployment of broadband, especially in rural areas, by declaring broadband to be a universal service and requiring universal service fund recipients to offer high speed broadband services within five years of the date of enactment," Boucher noted.

"This bill brings the fund into the 21st century by modernizing it and allowing it to play a roll in our country's plan for eventual ubiquitous broadband," Terry said.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE-02)
The draft will also control costs by directing the FCC to adopt a competitive bidding process to determine which wireless carriers will receive universal service support. Additionally, the measure caps the total amount of universal service support and changes the calculation methodology for the non-rural, high-cost portion of the fund from geographic to wire center averaging. The discussion draft also directs the FCC to establish and implement performance goals for each universal service fund program and to determine the appropriate methodology for audits of universal service fund recipients.

"After a lengthy process of consultation with industry representatives and others with an interest in the Universal Service Fund, this measure reflects broad areas of consensus. We look forward to working with our colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee to get the Universal Service Fund under control by enacting this reform," Boucher and Terry concluded.

A legislative hearing on the Boucher-Terry discussion draft is scheduled on Tuesday, November 17, 2009.
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