The heads of the three rural telecommunications associations that make up Save Rural Broadband today joined representatives of several other telecommunications organizations and companies in sending letters to key Members of Congress urging them to support their consensus framework for Universal Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation reform. The framework, which is comprised of two separate but complementary plans to support the deployment and continued operation of rural networks by providers of all sizes, was submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on July 29, 2011.
If the Rural Broadband Plan goes through as proposed, it will not only negatively affect the quality of rural Internet access, but also who has access, said Mike Foster, CEO, Twin Valley Telephone, on Tuesday at the Lion's Club meeting.
The plan, which has the backing of six telecommunications companies including AT&T and Verizon, would overhaul $8 billion in the Universal Service Fund to be used for building broadband access.
The Universal Service Fund, supported by a surcharge on long-distance phone bills, was created to ensure that all Americans have access to a basic telephone line. The program subsidizes phone service for the poor and pays for Internet access in schools, libraries and rural health clinics.
The telecommunications revolution is taking place right before our eyes. The proliferation and evolution of smart phones and other devices and applications that allow us to share and access information nearly instantaneously are the most visible signs. But equally important is the transformation that is taking place behind the scenes to deploy and improve the broadband network infrastructure that helps make the telecommunications revolution possible.
Taking a step backward seems unthinkable. But actions pending before the Federal Communications Commission threaten to do just that for rural America.
A proposed National Broadband Plan could end up harming rural telecommunication companies, local telecom officials say.
Blue Valley Tele-Communications at Home City, a utility serving thousands of homes in rural northeast Kansas, has joined other small rural carriers in asking Congress to weigh in on the plan.
“The United States is 17th in broadband development, so the federal administration wants to deploy broadband nationwide so we can become a leader,” said Dennis Doyle, Blue Valley’s general manager.
Kansas will lose out if rules currently under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission are enacted. At issue is an effort by the government agency to “reform” a telecommunications fund that Kansas residents and businesses rely on to the tune of nearly $143 million annually to connect their rural areas to the world.
Unfortunately, so-called “reform” of the federal Universal Service Fund looks like it could be more of a grand experiment than a focused effort to update and fine-tune a system that has worked well. It will mean that Kansans may need to say goodbye to broadband Internet access in some of the state’s more remote corners. Indeed, unless the FCC reforms this fund in the right way, millions of rural Americans across the state and the nation could be left behind.
After much deliberation, discussion and analysis, the leadership of NTCA, OPASTCO and WTA (the Rural Associations) have given approval for their respective associations to file a joint letter with a group of other industry stakeholders indicating that the universal service fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation (ICC) reform plan filed by the Rural Associations in April 2011, together with proposals being filed today by these other stakeholders, would provide a sound foundation for USF and ICC reform throughout rural America.
Since the release of the National Broadband Plan, the Rural Associations have worked together with a number of other stakeholders in the rural telecommunications industry to develop and file an alternative USF and ICC reform plan that would promote the availability of sustainable, affordable broadband in the areas served by small rural carriers. We recognize the deep commitment that our members have made to serve their consumers in these areas, and the importance of reliable cost recovery mechanisms that both enable recovery of costs from existing investment and promote new investment in broadband-capable networks.
Three rural telecom associations and several large U.S. telcos have agreed upon what the rural groups are calling “a framework and complementary set of reform plans” involving Universal Service and inter-carrier compensation reform.
The rural associations--the NTCA, OPASTCO and the Western Telecommunications Alliance—stopped short of signing on to Universal Service and ICC reforms expected soon from the U.S. Telecom Association and large carriers, including AT&T and Verizon. Instead, the associations said they are simply filing a joint letter with the other stakeholders “explaining how their plan and the Rural Associations’ plan can work in tandem to create an effective framework for reasonable USF and ICC reform.” The rural associations filed a Universal Service and ICC reform plan with the FCC several months ago, but the FCC appears unwilling to accept some of the ideas proposed by the rural telco groups.
The rural telecom industry is waiting to hear details of a Universal Service Fund and inter-carrier compensation reform proposal expected soon from the U.S. Telecom Associationand several of the larger U.S. carriers, including AT&T and Verizon.
In the meantime three rural telco associations have sent a letter to their membership outlining key points of the expected proposal and inviting members to offer their input on whether the associations should voice their support for those key points.
“Our expectation is that any consensus would be identified to the FCC and to others in the industry through a joint letter of those who support the consensus,” wrote representatives of the NTCA, OPASTCO, and the Western Telecommunications Alliance in the letter to their members. The representatives added, however, that they “would not sign onto any ‘USTA plan.’ Nor would any of the USTA companies sign onto the plan we filed previously.”
McPherson, Kan. — Rural telecommunications companies could find themselves shouldering a portion of the federal budget cuts proposed in Washington. As part of the spending cuts outlined by GOP leaders, $1 billion would be cut from the Universal Service Fund (USF), which subsidizes rural telephone and broadband service providers.
Telecom trade groups across the country have come out against the plan, citing the impact on small, rural phone and Internet providers. Providers in Kansas would not be immune.
Carla Shearer, CEO of Home Communications Inc. in Galva, said a cut to the service fund would be detrimental to the company and its ability to continue offering new technologies to rural customers in and around McPherson County.
Kansas will lose out if rules currently under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission are enacted. At issue is an effort by the government agency to "reform" a telecommunications fund that Kansas residents and businesses rely on to the tune of nearly $143 million annually to connect their rural areas to the world.
Iowans have seen the benefits of the telecommunications revolution that is sweeping across our nation and the globe. Families, schools, health care facilities and businesses large and small have come to understand the importance of high-quality broadband access. On Tuesday, Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the Rural Utilities Services (RUS), will be visiting North Iowa to discuss the policy dimensions of that access. His agency is well known to Iowans, and in the most positive of ways.
Yesterday, four Republican members of the
Missouri delegation wrote FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski expressing their
concerns with the Commission's proposed rule that would modify the Universal
Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation system (ICC)
(http://www.opastco.org/doclibrary/2278/FCC%20Letter.pdf). In their letter, the four urge the
Commissioners "to carefully consider the harm specific proposals could
have on rural consumers in our state -- and remain mindful of fragile rural
economies, while also promoting broadband adoption. We hope the Commission will take whatever steps are
necessary to ensure that all rural consumers can look forward to readily
available and affordable broadband services."
Some of the most influential voices in Congress on telecom matters said on Monday that they would oppose any move by budget negotiators to raid a major telecom fund as a way to pay down the deficit. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Lee Terry, R-Neb., two longtime proponents of reforming the $8 billion Universal Service Fund or USF, came out against a proposal from House Republicans to tap the fund in a debt deal.
Main Street in Owendale, Mich., population 264, is a four-block stretch of buildings that used to be a small, downtown business district. Today, nearly every building on the Thumb town's Main Street sits empty, the windows boarded or covered by the remnants of curtains. "We don't have gas. You can't get a loaf of bread. We have to go 6 miles for milk," said Owendale resident Norma Putman, 84. Putnam is staying. But young people aren't.
In an effort to balance the U.S. government's books, some Republicans have proposed taking US$1billion from a fund that subsidizes rural telephone and broadband service and using it to reduce the government's budget deficit. Four telecom trade groups and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners have all come out against the proposal to divert money from the Universal Service Fund since the idea surfaced last week. Representative Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican and House majority leader, proposed the USF cuts last week in a meeting with fellow Republican House members.
The FCC should consider costs and service areas of rural broadband customers as it reforms the Universal Service Fund (USF) to include broadband expansion, urged members of congress and rural telecom associations Thursday. The rural telecom associations announced at the Capitol building the inauguration of a DC-based print advertising campaign to highlight the economic harm of the FCC’s current proposal. The associations believe that USF reform as it is presently being considered would result in lost jobs, poor health care coverage and stifled innovation due to blocked access to global markets.
At some rural hospitals X-rays have to be physically transported for review by specialists outside the area because the low bandwidth copper wire infrastructure cannot handle high-speed image transfer. Hospitals are just one example of how rural areas without broadband access are at a disadvantage, according to a group of rural telecom associations that are urging the Federal Communications Commission not to cut subsidies for installation of high-speed fiber optic infrastructure.
A group of rural telecom companies fears that new rules being considered by the Federal Communications Commission will stunt the growth of broadband access to low-population areas. The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies, the Western Telecommunications Alliance and others announced their concerns - as well as the start of an informational campaign on the issue - during a teleconference this week.