NTCA Reacts to Senate Mark of Telecom Rewrite Legislation

June 27, 2006, Arlington, Va. - Calling it another step forward in the process of reforming our communications laws to reflect the changing realities of today’s market place, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) today commended the Senate Commerce Committee for its thoughtful consideration of S. 2686, the “Communications Consumer’s Choice and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006,” introduced by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

“NTCA commends Senator Stevens for his tremendous leadership in shepherding his bill to this critical stage and preserving the integrity of universal service,” said Shirley Bloomfield, vice president for government affairs and association services.

NTCA was particularly pleased with the withdrawal of an amendment that would have capped the Universal Service Fund (USF) at $6.52 billion annually. A cap is a disincentive to network investment, as it would hinder a carrier’s ability to receive the support it is due. Capping USF also runs counter to President Bush’s goal of ubiquitous broadband by 2007.

The group commended Senator Dorgan for raising the complexities of preempting state control over voice over Internet protocol, noting that “while his attempt to strike VoIP preemption failed to pass the committee, Senator Dorgan engaged the committee in a colloquy about the importance of competitive neutrality and ensuring state and federal USF obligations for VoIP providers,” Bloomfield said.

Contact Caitlin Colligan at 703-351-2086 Also of note to NTCA was the decision to drop an amendment that would have mandated that USF be subject to federal anti-deficiency act, and one that would have created a new state pilot project for the distribution of USF support. Both amendments would have hindered the availability of universal service support that enables rural telecommunications providers to deliver advanced communications technologies and increased choices to rural consumers.

The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association is the premier association representing more than 560 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 www.ntca.org.