For years, FCC officials, lawmakers and assorted observers of telecom policy have argued the need to reform the Universal Service Fund, a federally administered telecom subsidy whose annual cost has swollen to more than $8 billion.
But efforts at reform have stalled, repeatedly. Today, the FCC is trying again, unanimously voting to approve a notice of proposed rulemaking that would ultimately aim to curb waste and abuse in the program, and shift funds away from telephone service to support broadband service.
Today’s vote only marks the beginning of the process, which will involve the collection of comments from all stakeholders, including rural service providers, who have historically opposed effort to curb their funding through both the USF and the intercarrier compensation regime, which today’s action also seeks to reform.
Rural providers have pledged to work with the FCC as it works toward a final order, expressing cautious support for the commission’s goal of eliminating waste and abuse in the programs, and gradually shifting them to cover broadband.
Datamation reports on the FCC’s efforts at enacting reform in the arcane policy arenas of Universal Service and intercarrier compensation.