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In today's global economy, the ability to quickly access and share information is critical. Accordingly, a prerequisite for economic growth is an advanced, reliable and affordable telecommunications infrastructure. This is especially true for rural areas, where distance and low population densities often put small communities at competitive disadvantages. 

New research commissioned by the Colorado Telecommunications Association (CTA) and released today details the potentially harmful effects that cuts to the Universal Service Fund (USF) would have on the state’s rural communities and businesses. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering modifications to the USF, which helps build rural communications networks and assists small, rural telecommunications providers in offering affordable broadband services to rural communities.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed to alter the Universal Service Fund (USF) program and move the funds currently being used to support telephone service towards the establishment of a national broadband plan. In so doing, the FCC has proposed changes to the USF that would reduce, and could eliminate, USF Funding to thirty- five small telephone companies serving rural Missouri.

New research released today by Missouri State University’s (MSU) Bureau of Economic Research (BER) details the potentially harmful effects that cuts to the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) would have on the state’s rural communities and businesses. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering modifications to the USF, which helps build rural communications networks and assist small, rural telecommunications providers in offering affordable broadband services to rural communities. The report helps to frame the importance of USF to the state’s economy.

Today, the Rural Telecom Associations, composed of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA), sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction urging the committee members to recognize the long history and legal precedent of the Universal Service Fund as private funds and that those funds are unavailable for use by the Committee to aid in their efforts to reduce the Federal debt.

In February 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to alter the Universal Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation system ostensibly for a broadband marketplace. Among other things, the NPRM seeks comment on: “Streamlining the study area waiver process to eliminate barriers to consolidation and rationalization of service territories.” To the extent the proposed rule changes reduce regulation and lessen the burden on overregulated companies, the rule changes are praiseworthy. But, the FCC appears to frame the discussion of changing rules on study area waiver requests not as a matter of deregulation, but rather as a matter of industrial policy aimed at reducing the number of small telephone companies and increasing the size of the remaining companies.

Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a former Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 1997-2001, today released a white paper today arguing the Commission should not hold a position regarding consolidation with the rural industry.

We are fortunate to be living in the midst of a telecommunications revolution that is changing our lives for the better. While the newest smart phone or Internet application gets the headlines, it is the broadband network infrastructure such as the fiber optice cable deployed by Pine Telephone and other companies that make it happen.