A pair of rural telecom coalitions have called on Congress
to legislate a "time out" in what they say are the FCC's flawed
Universal Service Reforms, trying to leverage the exit of the current FCC
chairman to make their case.
The FCC is phasing out legacy phone support as it phases in
subsidies for broadband deployment, the new must-have communications vehicle.
The Rural Independent Competitive Alliance and the Rural
Broadband Alliance have asked legislators for a bill that would mandate a
180-day moratorium on implementation of the FCC's subsidy distribution reforms
until the commission has sought and gotten input from state officials via the
Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service.
They argue that with FCC chairman Julius Genachowski exiting
the commission -- he launched the reforms -- it is a good time to take a time
out to make sure those reforms do not prove a disincentive for investment by
rural carriers, some of which is based on legacy support that is being phased
"The rules should not penalize rural small business
carriers for investments made previously in new broadband technology," the
The FCC has conceded there will be some pain at the pump, as
it were, during the transition.
"Because the FCC has not taken the issue more
seriously, the burden falls on members of Congress, like you, to pick up the pieces
left by the outgoing FCC chairman and protect the interests of rural consumers
and promote economic recovery in rural parts of our state," the groups wrote.
"The Commission's unanimous, once-in-a-generation reforms that created the Connect America Fund are delivering broadband to rural Americans who lack access while at the same time imposing much-needed fiscal discipline on the fund," said an FCC spokesman. " In addition, reforms of intercarrier compensation are unleashing over $1.5 billion in annual benefits to consumers by eliminating hidden calling costs while removing major barriers to deployment of advanced IP-based broadband networks. The FCC continues to work closely with all stakeholders as we make this once-in-a-generation transition to bring broadband and voice service to all of rural America."