June 24, 2010 - Hill Country's Delbert Wilson Testifies at Senate USF Hearing
Rural groups' joint testimony points to flawed FCC plan that undermines USF
Arlington, Va., (June 24, 2010) - In testimony today before the Senate Commerce Committee, Delbert Wilson, general manager of Hill Country Telephone Cooperative (Ingram, Texas) said the FCC's national broadband plan (NBP) fails to recognize the value of cost recovery mechanisms-including universal service-in bringing the promise of broadband to all Americans.
Wilson testified on behalf 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) at the Senate hearing, "Universal Service: Transforming the High-Cost Fund for the Broadband Era."
Wilson told the committee that rural communications companies like Hill Country have transformed their networks from traditional switched voice systems into dynamic IP broadband networks-a costly task made possible by a set of time-tested tools that ensure such costs may be recovered. He said that rural providers long ago recognized the need to transform these tools to accommodate broadband network needs, but noted that NBP policies unnecessarily erode this cost recovery system.
"Regrettably, many Americans today are either unfamiliar with, or have forgotten, the value of these critical cost recovery mechanisms, not the least of which is universal service-the central focus of today's hearing," Wilson testified. "Indeed, the FCC-the very agency charged with carrying out our national universal service policy.appears to be part of this group."
Wilson outlined the rural associations' concerns with the NBP, specifically that the plan:
- Fails to establish an environment that will yield job creation and subsequent economic development;
- Fails to quickly act on expanding the contribution base of the universal service program which could ease the pressure on the contribution factor;
- Discriminates against rural consumers, by proposing to fund rural networks at speed standards that will render them obsolete almost as soon as they are built;
- Discards proven funding mechanisms that can easily be adapted to support broadband, and proposes replacing them with inherently unpredictable and unworkable economic models and reverse auctions;
- Provides inadequate funding to support build-out and maintenance of broadband services in rural provider service areas;
- Severely underestimates the vital role rural carriers of last resort play in the provision of broadband services to rural Americans; and,
- Fails to recognize the critical nature of RoR regulation and how it yields rural infrastructure development.
"We had great hopes for the broadband plan and what it could mean for all Americans. Yet here we are again scrambling to fix an emerging federal policy that fails to comprehend the rural circumstance." Wilson testified.
He said the rural associations have urged policy-makers to refrain from further consideration of the NBPs' "unworkable approaches," noting they will slow or even eliminate future broadband deployment and adoption.
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.