Tuesday, October 25, 2005

TELECOM '05: FCC Chairman Affirms Technology Neutral Stance

The FCC must maintain technological and competitive neutrality, said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in a videocast keynote address to TELECOM '05 attendees in Las Vegas. Martin said he believes new video entrants, regardless of the technology employed, should be encouraged and not impeded from entry. At its upcoming November meeting, the FCC will consider what action to take with regard to burdensome local video franchise rules. Martin said other pressing issues that must be addressed by the FCC include the universal service fund and intercarrier compensation. To save the Universal Service Fund, Martin advocates a mechanism based on phone numbers. Any phone service that uses a telephone number would be required to contribute to Universal Service. Regardless of which solution is ultimately adopted, Martin said he would work to ensure that is technology neutral.

  • In June 2005, the FCC launched a formal inquiry into the management, administration and oversight of the Universal Service Fund, which helps provide affordable phone service in rural areas, fund Internet access and telecommunications equipment in the schools and libraries, bring telemedicine services to rural areas, and assist low-income families with their phone bills. Since 1997, the Universal Service Administrative Company, or USAC, which administers the fund, has disbursed approximately $30.3 billion from the fund. Money collected for the USF has been declining for some time. The FCC has been considering changes to the way it collects money for the USF. Currently consumers pay a percentage of their long distance service bill each month. The FCC is considering switching to a monthly flat fee based on telephone numbers.

  • Every year, the nation's universal service fund (USF) pays out approximately $673 million for low-income programs and about $3.0 billion to support high-cost rural services.


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