The years-long effort to reform the Universal Services Fund, a pot of money used to provide reasonably priced telecommunications services to all U.S. citizens, especially those in rural areas, is expected to wrap up by the end of August, Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said Thursday. The fund historically has been used to expand the reach of access lines and telephone service. Officials from Congress and the Federal Communications Commission now are working to aim the fund's focus at boosting the availability of high-speed Internet access in rural areas that are either underserved or don't have access to broadband at all.
Today, a group of rural telecom associations, comprised 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), were joined by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and U.S. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promote and preserve sustainable broadband access for rural consumers.
With an impending FCC decision on Universal Service Fund reform looming over the telecom industry, NTCA, OPASTCO and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA) launched a website and a social media campaign to educate consumers, the FCC and Congress about how the FCC’s reform plans threaten the viability of rural America. The new website, www.saveruralbroadband.org, provides consumers an opportunity to send a letter to legislators explaining that the FCC’s actions could result in job loss, stifle economic development and cause higher prices for telecom services. In addition to the informative website, consumers and rural telecom advocates can also get involved with Save Rural Broadband on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. According to the rural associations, the mission of Save Rural Broadband is to: “(1) show the Congress and Obama Administration how rule changes being considered by the FCC will have a negative effect on broadband networks in rural communities, and (2) urge Congress and the Obama Administration to intercede."
In this day and age of elevated unemployment levels across the country, you might think it would be difficult to find a company in a high-tech field like wireless desperate to find suitable employee candidates to fill vital holes. Welcome to Hays, Kan., home to just over 20,000 people, a lot of open space as well as booming wireless operator Nex-Tech Wireless L.L.C. that is indeed looking for people to help support the carrier's rather impressive growth. The carrier, which is privately held by a triumphant of area telephone operators, has in its short history managed to carve out both a place in the hotly competitive mobile space.
With a decision on Universal Service Fund reform drawing near, I want to take a moment to share my feelings on this highly important issue in a public forum, with hopes that my message will be heard by a diverse audience in addition to its intended recipients: telecom regulators at the FCC. I have been involved in the rural telecommunications industry my entire life, as I come from a family-owned rural telecom business (Walnut Communications) that has been operating in rural Iowa for nearly 100 years. I have been a student of telecommunications for five years, and I have spent the last six months almost exclusively focused on USF reform - I have read nearly every filing in this proceeding, attended conferences, lobbied Congressional offices, written dozens of articles analyzing different aspects of the reforms, talked to various stakeholders about the potential impacts, and I intend to do my Master's thesis on the outcomes of the reforms on the RLEC industry once the rules are finalized.
According to the Congressional Telecommunications Act of 1996, “Consumers in all regions of the Nation… should have access to telecommunications and information services… that are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas and that are available at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates charged in similar services in urban areas.” However, in recent discussions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a new National Broadband Plan could leave places like West Liberty in the lurch when it comes to access to quality phone and Internet services.
Almost every month a new telecommunications innovation is launched that has a profound impact on our lives. And lately we've seen the impact of these telecommunication changes in ways we never could have imagined. We've watched the Egyptian government toppled by citizens using their cell phones to organize rallies and send videos of shocking violence against the demonstrators around the world. We learned that it was through sophisticated tracking of a cell phone that led our soldiers to Osama bin Laden's doorstep in Pakistan.
Golden West Telecommunications is concerned that efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to bring broadband Internet service to more rural residents could make the service more expensive for its customers. An FCC official, who was in Rapid City last week to speak at a conference of utility and energy regulators, said the agency is attempting to reform its Universal Service Fund to create incentives for telecommunications companies to bring broadband to more households.
Almost every month, a new telecommunications innovation is launched that has a profound impact on our lives. Lately we’ve seen the impact of these telecommunication changes in ways we never could have imagined. In past months we’ve witnessed the Egyptian government being toppled by citizens using their cell phones to organize mass rallies and send videos of shocking violence against the demonstrators around the world. And in just recent days we learned it was through sophisticated tracking of a cell phone that led our soldiers to Osama bin Laden’s doorstep in Pakistan. In both cases, a broadband wireline network infrastructure transported these important communications and changed history.
To some of Iowa’s telecommunications companies, an Obama administration plan to help rural America connect to the Internet will do more harm than good. To others, it’s a sorely needed reform that will bring rural areas in Iowa and across the nation into the 21st Century. What’s at stake is $8 billion in the Universal Service Fund, an account maintained largely from a small fee on every residential and business phone bill.
In this small town southwest of Beatrice, companies like C&C Meats are thriving on the trickle of broadband that connects them to the outside world. Back in Washington, D.C., politicians have used C&C Meats as an example of the impact that barely adequate high-speed Internet can have on businesses in rural America. The small Midlands towns once built on railroad tracks and paved highways now need a new kind of infrastructure to carry them through the 21st century and beyond.
The Internet wasn't even available in his remote hometown near the Kansas border when Chad Lottman went into business in Diller at age 19. In the 17 years since then, Lottman and his wife, Courtney, have made such a success of a high-speed connection with the Internet to market hotdogs, bratwurst, jalapeno ham sticks and other specialty meat products that they earned a visit Wednesday from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
The National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA), together with 30 concurring state and regional associations, filed comments in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding Universal Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation (ICC) reform.