Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller is pushing the
FCC to reform the Universal Service Fund. In some ways he is preaching to the
Reform of the fund was one of the first elements of the National
Broadband Plan unveiled by the FCC under Chairman Julius Genachowski. But
Rockefeller injected a very personal sense of urgency in a letter Aug. 2 to the
He cited the April explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in
his home state that killed 29 people. He said the explosion exposed a
"troubling lack of communications facilities in rural communities."
He made a similar point to the chairman in an oversight hearing on the
broadband plan earlier this year.
Rockefeller said the disaster might be unique to mining states,
but similar disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes or terrorist acts can
be worsened by "inadequate communications infrastructure."
Rockefeller said that while the law directs the FCC to provide
rural areas with telecom and information access that is reasonably comparable
to urban areas, "the current system has missed the mark,"
shortchanging residents of his state and elsewhere and failing to provide
the service that the law requires.
The problem has been exacerbated, he said, by an FCC system based
on the size and regulatory classification of the carrier rather than the area.