NTCA's David Crothers Calls for Passage of USF Reform Legislation
In Testimony to House Energy and Commerce Committee:
Says Terry-Boucher bill will ensure USF remains solvent and forward-looking
June 21, 2006, Arlington, Va. - The Universal Service Fund (USF) is still necessary, and legislation introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) will position the fund to meet the communications needs of the future, according to David Crothers, chairman of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Associations (NTCA) government affairs committee. Crothers comments came in testimony today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Crothers began his testimony at the hearing Universal Service: What are we Subsidizing and Why? by noting that USF is indeed not a subsidy-nor a tax-but an industry-funded cost recovery mechanism to which no federal monies are appropriated. He also told the committee that the fund is still needed, noting that it is even more essential now as the nation transitions to a digital and broadband world.
Crothers outlined several of NTCAs universal service policy positions that are closely reflected in the Terry-Boucher bill (H.R. 5072), including the expansion of the base of contributors to include all providers utilizing the underlying network infrastructure, and the exemption of the USF from the federal Anti-Deficiency Act.
If enacted, these policies will ensure the long-term sustainability of USF, bring it in line with technological and market realities of today and position the fund to meet the communications needs of the future, Crothers testified. He also urged the committee to adopt H.R. 5072 and push for its passage by the full House this year.
According to Crothers, the bill contains several cost-saving provisions aimed at controlling the growth of the fund-particularly the elimination of the identical support rule which will ensure competitors receive universal service support based on their own costs. These provisions will offset much of the additional costs associated with expanding the program to cover broadband, and make a proposed statutory cap on the fund unnecessary.
Crothers is executive vice president of the North Dakota Association of Telephone Cooperatives. Geoff Feiss, General Manager of the Montana Telecommunications Association, also testified on behalf of rural carriers at todays hearing.