Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the House Communications Subcommittee, gave a shout out to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler for a speech he made about the need to reform the Universal Service Fund (USF).
In that speech Monday to the fall conference of NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, in Boston, Wheeler said that "in areas where the marketplace will not support the deployment of broadband networks, USF needs to be able to step in to help support the deployment of modern broadband networks."
Walden has long argued that the USF subsidy, which supports advanced telecom to hard-to-reach people and places, is ultimately underwritten by consumers, should only go to building out new plant, not subsidizing competition to existing service.
“This is the right approach," Walden said in a statement. "Precious Universal Service dollars should be targeted for communities where investment is lacking. Chairman Wheeler’s decision to move the Connect America Fund [the FCC's migration of the USF subsidy from phone to Internet] forward with a focus on unserved areas will help bring millions of Americans online, including many in Oregon.”
“The Connect America Fund is a tremendous opportunity to lower the communications gap for rural Americans, and with responsible management, we can ensure that ratepayer dollars are spent efficiently in fulfilling the important mission of the USF.”
Wheeler also said in that speech that the money needs to be targeted to those who need it, not siphoned off by "bad apples."
Walden has also put a priority on reducing the potential for waste, fraud and abuse in USF subsidies.