Rural Associations Applaud FCC on VoIP State USF Contributions

Ruling a Crucial Step in Reforming Universal Service Policies for the Future All-IP World


WASHINGTON - The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO, and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA) today applauded the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Declaratory Ruling allowing state public utility commissions to require nomadic voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) providers to contribute to state universal service funds. VoIP providers already are required to contribute to the federal Universal Service Fund.

The FCC's Declaratory Ruling is an important step for rural communications carriers who own, maintain and invest in the rural broadband network infrastructure. Nomadic VoIP providers originate and terminate calls using the existing broadband network infrastructure and should contribute to the state mechanisms that support the infrastructure.

In addition, the rural telecom associations have long held the position that VoIP providers hold their services out as substitutes for traditional telephone service, and thus it is appropriate that these carriers comply with all of the same regulatory requirements as RLECs.

"The FCC's decision rightly confirms the complementary roles that state and federal regulators play in ensuring the objective of universal service-particularly as consumers migrate to IP-enabled services that rely upon underlying broadband network infrastructure investments by rural carriers," said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield. "We applaud the commission for recognizing the need for all network users to contribute to the universal service fund, which will help ensure rural consumers' continued access to affordable, reliable broadband."

"As the network transitions toward all-IP, this declaratory ruling paves the way for the FCC to begin transitioning policy to match the reality of an all-IP world," OPASTCO President John Rose stated. "Ensuring that the rural broadband infrastructure remains robust and continues to meet the growing needs of consumers starts with policies that reflect the realities of the network. Although this declaratory ruling is narrow, it is a good first step toward recognizing what it will take to provide high-speed broadband everywhere."

"As we transition further into the broadband world, it is important that everyone who uses the network contribute to it so that it remains robust and vibrant for all consumers to use. We are glad the FCC recognized this and gave the states flexibility to require VoIP providers to contribute to their universal service funds" said Kelly Worthington, WTA's Executive Vice President.

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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.Contact NTCA at 703-351-2037