Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee held a hearing reviewing the FCC’s proposed 2013 budget. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), whose rural constituents will be significantly impacted by the FCC’s action on USF and ICC, had numerous questions for the chairman of the FCC. He focused on the need for small broadband carriers to have additional assurances that the investments they have made in their plant and network using RUS loans will be able to be paid back as part of the USF-ICC reform process. Senator Moran noted, “In my view, the Order now handicaps the revenue necessary to recover those loans and grants.” He also focused on the importance of a real and workable waiver process for carriers. He actually took the time to read the waiver provision from the actual Order and commented that the threshold for the waiver was very high–especially given that only a carrier unable to provide voice service any longer would qualify– making it unlikely that many telcos would be able to actually qualify for the waiver process.
It was interesting to hear many of the issues noted and the concerns about fiscal constraint raised before the same congressional committee that received the two percent budget increase request from the FCC.