The FCC Wednesday announced steps to reform the Universal Service Fund.
Telecommunications companies pay into the fund to subsidize phone service to underserved areas—poor, rural—and to schools. Cable companies, for example, pay into it on their phone service, including voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service.
Legislators have been pushing the commission to help combat waste and fraud associated with the fund, and the FCC said Wednesday it would bar companies convicted of criminal violations or civil liability from all of the funds programs (there are four) rather than just one.
It also increased its oversight of contributions, including filing and penalties for late filing, and adopted performance metrics for all four funds and their administrators.
Numerous legislators, including Joe Barton (R-Tex.), have been highly critical of the management of the fund and were not shy about expressing it. More than one Republican questioned whether it was needed at all, though the desire for tighter management was bipartisan.