RealTime IT News

Stevens Seeks USF Expansion to Broadband

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens may no longer be chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, but the Alaskan Republican is still stumping hard to expand Universal Service Fund (USF) obligations to broadband services.

As the new minority-ranking member on the committee, Stevens Thursday introduced the Universal Service for Americans Act (USA), which would collect fees from broadband and Voice over IP (VoIP) users to subsidize telecom services in high-cost and rural areas.

The bill is largely the same as the USF reforms Stevens inserted in last year's ill-fated Senate telecom reform legislation. The new fee would be reflected as a line item on consumers' bills.

Under current law, long-distance customers pay the bulk of the USF payments, which have traditionally been used to underwrite telephone service and to provide Internet connections and support services for schools, libraries and health care facilities.

With the dramatic decline in long-distance rates over the last decade, the USF fund has been challenged to meet its obligations.