Rural Consumers and Telcos Win Primary-line Victory in Congress

November 22, 2004, Arlington, Va. - Rural telecom carriers and consumers won a major victory on universal service Saturday. House and Senate conferees agreed to retain language in the final fiscal year 2005 omnibus appropriations legislation that would prohibit the FCC from further considering any proposal to restrict universal service support to a primary or single line.

The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) is delighted Contact Caitlin Colligan at 703-351-2086with this action. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) played instrumental roles in ensuring the language was included in the final bill. Throughout the process, Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) also were key supporters in the House.

"We strongly believe that forcing a consumer to choose one line is not the appropriate means to control the growth of the Universal Service Fund. There are more effective means to ensuring this fund is maintainable," said Michael E. Brunner, NTCA chief executive officer.

"Rural consumers are very fortunate to have strong leaders on Capitol Hill who recognize the critical communications needs of rural America," Brunner added.

Background: Limiting universal service support to primary lines is a concept that the FCC has rejected on two previous occasions, yet has continued to seriously consider in light of a February 27 recommendation by the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service. On several occasions NTCA and many members of Congress urged the FCC to steer clear of the primary-line restriction concept. Despite these efforts, reports out of the agency suggested it was continuing to give consideration to the matter, which led to the development of the language that was included in the FY 2005 omnibus appropriations bill.

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NTCA is the premier association representing nearly 600 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides its members with legislative, regulatory and industry representation; meetings; publications and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs. Visit us at http://www.ntca.org.