September 16, 2010 - NTCA's Shirley Bloomfield Testifies for Rural Groups at House USF Hearing
Rural Groups' Joint Testimony Supports Crucial Modifications to Universal Service Plan Found in H.R. 5828, the "Universal Service Reform Act of 2010"
WASHINGTON (September 16, 2010) - In testimony today before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) explained how H.R. 5828, the "Universal Service Reform Act of 2010" helps update the universal service program to reflect the critical shift from voice to broadband.
Bloomfield testified on behalf of NTCA, the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA) at the House hearing, and thanked Committee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Rep. Lee Terry (R-NB) for their long-standing focus and understanding of universal service issues and their leadership in sponsoring H.R. 5828.
Bloomfield told the committee that the "Universal Service Reform Act of 2010" contains a number of universal service program modifications that the rural groups support:
- Maintains rate of return regulation for eligible communications service providers;
- Defines universal service to include high speed broadband service, so support for the build-out of broadband lines will be explicit;
- Requires contribution to the Universal Service Fund from a wider range of providers, including all broadband providers;
- Requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act on intercarrier compensation reform in the near term and allows the Universal Service Fund growth factor to accommodate any intercarrier flows directed to it;
- Addresses so-called "phantom" traffic by mandating identification of all calls;
- Prohibits implementation of a primary line restriction;
- Includes requirements to ensure audits are fair and auditors are trained in universal service fund program compliance;
- Eliminates the so-called "parent trap" so that providers acquiring exchanges are not stymied from investing in such markets;
- Maintains current Act requirements on comparability of service in terms of price and scope as well as sufficiency of support; and
- Provides some relief from deployment requirements for high-speed broadband service to unserved areas where significant high-cost market conditions exist.
"'The Universal Service Reform act of 2010' represents a laudable effort at compromise between many different viewpoints and interests on important issues. Your work in crafting such a compromise and ability to find some common ground on such a complex and controversial topic is a testament to your efforts to serve the American public and your dedication to advancing telecommunications policy to reflect better the needs of a broadband-focused world," Bloomfield testified.
"Universal service continues to be a cornerstone of our nation's communications policy. It ensures that Americans living in rural areas of the country receive services comparable in performance and price to those living in more urban areas. We must continue working to ensure that all Americans, including those living in rural areas, have the opportunity to experience the benefits offered by a nationwide integrated advanced communications network."
Access Bloomfield's testimony.
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.