Sunday, November 2, 2008

FCC Puts Off Vote on Intercarrier Compensation and Universal Service Reform

The FCC will not vote on Intercarrier Compensation and Universal Service reform at its scheduled meeting this week. The items had been on the agenda, but four out of the five commissioners said they were not prepared to vote on the issues at this time.


In a statement, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said: "The issues of Intercarrier Compensation and Universal Service reform have been in front of the Commission for years. Last summer I publicly indicated my intention to put forward concrete and comprehensive proposals to reform the inefficient and outmoded Intercarrier compensation and Universal Service programs. Those proposals have been with my colleagues for several weeks now. I am disappointed that we will miss the opportunity for comprehensive reform. Instead my colleagues have requested that we once again seek public comment on several proposals. As a result such a notice would make little progress and ask for comment again on the most basic and broad questions about reforming the two programs. For example, the Commission would again ask should broadband be supported by the Universal Service Fund and should we move to one uniform rate for all traffic or should that rate vary by the type of company?


I would like to be encouraged by my colleagues' commitment that they will truly be ready to complete this much needed reform on December 18. The nature of the questions they would like to include makes me doubt they will have found their answers with an additional seven weeks. I believe the far more likely outcome is that, in December, the other Commissioners will merely want another Further Notice and another round of comment on the most difficult questions. I do not believe they will be prepared to address the most challenging issues and that the Commission will be negotiating over what further questions to ask in December."


In response, the four other FCC Commissioners issued the following joint statement:

""Three weeks ago, Chairman Martin first shared with the Commission his proposals to fundamentally reform the intercarrier compensation and universal service systems. Four Commissioners provided the Chairman bi-partisan, constructive and substantive suggestions, and stated that notice and comment should be sought on the proposals, with an understanding
that we would all be prepared to vote on December 18. We also have asked the Chairman to narrowly address the ISP-bound traffic remand and the Joint Board's Recommendation. We therefore are disappointed that the Chairman has withdrawn the fundamental reform item from tomorrow's agenda.


"We approached this proceeding with the common goal of modernizing our universal service and intercarrier compensation policies, and commend the desire to tackle some of the most important issues facing this Commission. It is equally important to ensure that any reform proposal receive the full benefit of public notice and comment - especially in light of the difficult economic circumstances currently facing our nation.


"We remain committed to fulfilling our obligation to tackle these difficult issues, and have set forth a reasonable path for completing comprehensive reform. We remain hopeful that the consensus process we have pursued regarding this issue will ultimately lead to a thoughtful, well-reasoned item that will inure to the benefit all Americans."http://www.fcc.gov

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