A group of rural telecom associations, comprised of the
National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization
for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies
(OPASTCO) and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA), were joined by
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and U.S. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) to urge the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) to promote and preserve sustainable broadband
access for rural consumers.
The campaign includes an advertising and social media
effort intended to educate consumers and members of Congress about the
consequences of the rule changes currently under consideration, as well as
economic studies and other initiatives to shine greater light on how the
proposed changes would adversely affect rural consumers and small businesses.
“The FCC’s intention to expand broadband access to
all Americans is one we all support,” said Shirley Bloomfield, chief
executive officer of NTCA. “But if the FCC adopts rules like those
currently under consideration, it would likely create all-new ‘unserved’ areas
in rural America and mean higher broadband access costs for those rural
consumers lucky enough to keep their access to broadband. It would also
harm small companies and entrepreneurs who rely on broadband to conduct
business in rural areas. In today’s struggling economy, that is something
neither consumers nor small businesses can afford.”
The associations also reacted to the House Republican
proposal that would take $1 billion from the Universal Service Fund and apply
it to deficit reduction:
The House Republican proposal is a new, hidden tax on
consumers. This will not only mean less money for consumers, but will also
negatively impact commerce, e-government, agriculture and our overall
prosperity, and result in defaults in government and private sector loans
leading to more economic distress and lost service. The associations urge
consumers to reach out to their members of Congress and tell them to leave the
Universal Service Fund alone.
Currently, rural carriers of last resort obtain support
through the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) for a portion of the costs
they incur to provide and expand broadband services to nearly five million customers in high-cost rural areas.
This support enables small rural telephone companies and
cooperatives to provide consumers and businesses in their service areas with
affordable broadband service, to extend such services to “unserved”
areas over time, and to upgrade their networks in response to consumer demand
for faster connection speeds and more bandwidth-intensive applications and
However, new rules currently being considered by the FCC
would put affordable and reliable rural broadband service and upgrades in
jeopardy by slashing and redistributing this essential USF support.
The rural telecom associations’ alternative would achieve
USF and intercarrier compensation (ICC) reform by encouraging fiscal
responsibility, demanding accountability, reasonably constraining growth in the
USF and modernizing existing mechanisms.
By TelecomLead.com Team