NTCA, USTelecom: USF Contributions Regime Discriminatory; Rural Consumers, Broadband Providers Need Relief Pending Further Review

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Kelly Wismer, 703-351-2015, kwismer@ntca.org
              Amy Schatz,    202-326-7346, aschatz@ustelecom.org

Arlington, Va. (June 14, 2017)—Citing the discriminatory nature of current Universal Service Fund (USF) contribution requirements, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association and USTelecom today filed with the FCC a joint petition for targeted, temporary forbearance from certain USF contributions for small, rural broadband providers until the completion of further pending reforms.

The filing comes as the commission is undertaking ongoing updates to the USF, which provides support through user fees to offset the high costs of deploying and operating communications networks in rural America. The relief requested would put the services offered by small, rural broadband providers on a level playing field with other broadband services pending the completion of broader reform efforts intended to address the long-term sustainability of the USF programs.

In seeking temporary forbearance, NTCA and USTelecom said the move would reap the following positive results:

  • Eliminate disparate and discriminatory treatment of one class of broadband as compared to other similarly situated services;
  • Avoid the anti-competitive implications of a regime that picks “winners and losers” in the broadband marketplace by treating one type of offering differently from others; and
  • Ease to some degree the significant burden that small, rural broadband providers face in attempting to serve customers at rates that are comparable to those offered in urban areas.

“NTCA has long advocated for comprehensive USF contributions reform as essential to sustain the mission of universal service in a broadband world,” said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield. “Pending that much-needed effort, the petition we filed today aims to provide targeted, temporary relief to providers and consumers of broadband services in some of our country’s most rural communities until the FCC is able to complete such comprehensive reform. This petition would simply put smaller, rural providers on a level playing field with other operators as the FCC already intended in a reform order last year, and the relief requested could help to a limited degree in mitigating the higher rates that rural consumers are being forced to pay for broadband due to the workings of the current USF mechanisms.”

“Getting more consumers connected in rural areas is a widely-shared goal and the petition filed today by USTelecom and NTCA would be a positive step forward in that direction,” said USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter. “Relieving rural broadband providers of their singular Universal Service Fund burdens, paid by consumers, on a narrow slice of wholesale DSL service would help mitigate the already high cost of providing service in rural America and could lead to lower monthly bills for consumers. The FCC should remove this regulatory handicap for rural America to level the playing field across the entire ecosystem.”

###

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 850 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.

 

USTelecom is the nation’s leading trade association representing service providers and suppliers for the telecom industry. Its diverse member base ranges from large publicly traded communications corporations to small companies and cooperatives – all providing advanced communications services to markets both urban and rural. Visit us at www.ustelecom.org.