Last updated: June 25, 2008 - 9:02am
Ed Markey (D-MA), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, held a hearing exploring the core principles of universal service, which historically has provided a baseline level of affordable voice telecommunications service to everyone in the United States, in light of the rise of Internet-based broadband communications technologies and the changing marketplace. He said it was time to begin a "conversation about what we believe universal service should be in the 21st Century. This will allow us to effectively manage both the imposition of fees as well as justify the eligibility and purpose of disbursements."
Chairman Markey wanted to begin with questions: What level of service should be supported for rural consumers? Should the supported services include just plain old telephone service or broadband, wireline or wireless service too? If competition fails to achieve affordability for a particular service in a rural community, should extremely wealthy rural consumers be subsidized or should the program be targeted to assure affordability for non-wealthy consumers in some way? For low income consumers in non-rural areas, should their supported service or services be comparable to the level of service provided to rural consumers? How should Congress or the FCC adjust the program for rural health care? What about the future of the e-rate?
House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell said, "Broadband is the communications platform of the future. Any successful universal service program for the future must account for this reality. Universal service is about access and affordability. A proper universal service program should ensure access and affordability in places and situations where market forces cannot or do not. Properly targeting universal service support must ensure consistency, efficiency, and fairness." Chairman Dingell said Congress, not the Federal Communications Commission, is better suited to make the tough political choices on how best to reform the system.
Rep Mike Doyle (D-PA) may grab all the headlines saying, "Generally, I think the Universal Service Fund needs to be blown up like the Death Star." He continued, "We need to completely reform the Fund by moving away from subsidizing telephone service and instead put our money toward the broadband future. For now, I'll call this needed reform Universal Service 2.0."
(sources listed below)
- House Dems Eye Telecom Review
- House Dems urge FCC to cap USF high-cost fund
- House Panel Discusses Preserving Internet Freedom
- Lawmakers urge FCC to improve Internet access in schools, libraries
- Markey Outlines Telecom Agenda
- Rep. Dingell Asks FCC to Complete USF Reform by October
- Markey Addresses E-Rate and other Top Technology Issues
- Broadband Census Bill Moves in House
- Reaction to FCC's USF Reform Proposal
- Today's Quote 06.25.08
- H.R. Universal Service Reform Act of 2006
- Legislators: Don't Forget Urban Underserved When Doling Out Stimulus Loans
- Hearing: Oversight of the FCC
- Hearing Summary - Universal Service: Transforming the High-Cost Fund for the Broadband Era
- Chairman Genachowski's Response to Members of Congress Regarding Universal Service and Intercarrier Compensation Reform