NTCA Applauds FCC Universal Service Actions, Expresses Eagerness to Review Decisions and Engage on Next Steps

For Immediate Release
Contact: Hillary Crowder, 703-351-2086, hcrowder@ntca.org


Arlington, Va. (April 23, 2014) – Today, the FCC adopted a series of orders and initiated additional rulemaking processes to address several outstanding concerns related to the implementation of 2011 Universal Service Fund (USF) reforms and to set the stage for further work on broadband-oriented support systems for rural America. 

The following statement is from NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield: 

“NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association welcomes today’s actions by the FCC to move closer to implementation of a Connect America Fund that is tailored for the unique challenges faced by smaller carriers that serve those rural areas left behind long ago by larger providers. NTCA also applauds the FCC’s thoughtful course corrections on matters such as the 2011 flash-cut elimination of the Safety Net Additive and the quantile regression analysis caps on Universal Service Fund support that created untold levels of uncertainty to the detriment of our country’s shared broadband deployment objectives. 

“We thank the chairman, each of the commissioners and FCC staff for their commitment to ongoing evaluation and dialogue on these important issues, especially as we recognize that much more work still lies ahead. NTCA also thanks the many members of Congress who have provided leadership and guidance, and have always kept the interests of rural consumers first and foremost as our country tackles these essential universal service issues. We are eager to see the text of the decisions made today, but our hope is that this action can serve as a springboard for in-depth and open-minded conversations aimed at creating regulatory certainty and building a lasting broadband future for the millions of consumers and businesses served by smaller rural carriers. We are ready and eager to finally bring this vision to reality and create an environment that fosters sustainable and affordable voice and broadband services for all rural consumers.” 

The following statement is from NTCA Senior Vice President of Policy Michael Romano: 

“NTCA first raised the need for targeted and tailored updates to existing universal service mechanisms in our November 2012 ‘IP Evolution’ petition. We recognized early on that sufficient and predictable universal service support that is updated for a broadband world will be essential to ensure that rural consumers and businesses can participate in our increasingly online society through robust and affordable connections. While we need to see the text of the items voted on today, the steps taken by the FCC will hopefully move us closer toward creating a Connect America Fund for the areas served by smaller rural carriers, and for that we applaud the commission. 

“At the same time, today’s action is just another building block—although a very important one—in an ongoing dialogue about how best to fulfill and then, just as importantly, sustain our national mission of universal service. NTCA and other stakeholders have already helped to lay out a straightforward, carefully constructed, data-driven blueprint to guide the FCC’s implementation of a Connect America Fund for areas served by smaller companies. But now all involved in this process must get right back to work and undertake the critical conversations and in-depth evaluations that are necessary to implement such a measure. 

“And, while the course corrections adopted today like the elimination of the quantile regression caps are significant and very welcome, there are several remaining pieces of the 2011 USF reforms—including the effects of the rate floor policy and other retroactive caps—that still require further analysis and the same kind of thoughtful ‘fresh look’ that led to adoption of today’s seventh order on reconsideration.  

“So, in many ways, the work is just starting even in the wake of many important steps taken today. We are eager for productive engagement and prompt action on all of these issues in coming days, weeks and months.” 

Sen. Mark Begich (D–Alaska), a champion of rural communications, released the following statement: 

“I welcome today’s action by the Federal Communications Commission to do away with the problematic quantile regression analysis, which has caused irreversible delays in sorely needed telecommunication buildout in rural America. Nowhere was this impact more prevalent than in Alaska, where rural providers were brought to a standstill in an environment of uncertainty caused by the 2011 transformation order. I applaud Chairman Wheeler for his attention to rural carriers’ requests, and for his willingness to deal with the difficult decisions in an effort to bring broadband and advanced telecommunications to rural America. Thank you to the leadership of NTCA and for the direct advocacy of the many rural providers who fought for this seventh order on reconsideration.” 

### 

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of exploding technology, deregulation and marketplace competition, NTCA's members are leading the IP evolution for rural consumers, delivering technologies that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development and commerce, education, health care, government services, security and smart energy use. Visit us at www.ntca.org.