Universal Service Fund (USF) Working Group Request for Comment
We are pleased to inform you of an important opportunity to participate in the U.S. Congress’s efforts to shape the future of the Universal Service Fund (USF). Members of a USF Working Group, including Senators Luján, Thune, Klobuchar, Capito, Peters, and Moran, are inviting comments from stakeholders like yourself to gain insights, concerns, and proposals on the future direction of the USF. The aim of this bipartisan working group is to create an inclusive forum for education, awareness, and policymaking concerning the USF.
As part of this initiative, Senators Luján and Thune recently convened a Subcommittee hearing titled “The State of Universal Service” in May 2023, engaging expert stakeholders to discuss the significance of the USF and necessary reforms to the programs funded through it. Now, the Co-Chairs of the working group are seeking additional input from advocates, industry professionals, and local communities across the nation to gain a deeper understanding of the current state of the USF and its future prospects.
The Co-Chairs specifically invite comments on the following topics:
- How should Congress and the Commission evaluate the effectiveness of existing USF programs in achieving universal service goals for broadband?
- To what extent have the existing USF programs been successful in carrying out Section 254 of the Communications Act of 1994?
- Has the Commission adequately evaluated the effectiveness of each program against concrete goals and metrics?
- Is the FCC’s administration of the USF and its four programs sufficiently transparent and accountable? If not, what reforms are necessary and appropriate within the four existing USF programs to improve transparency, accountability, and cost-effectiveness, and does the Commission have the authority to make such reforms?
- What reforms are necessary to address inefficiencies, waste, fraud, and abuse in each of the four programs and duplication with other government programs?
- What additional policies beyond existing programs are required for the preservation and advancement of universal service?
- Should Congress eliminate the requirement that a provider must be an “Eligible Telecommunications Carrier” to receive USF subsidies?
- Currently, telecommunications companies must pay a contribution factor to the Universal Service Fund proportional to interstate end-user revenues. What reforms are necessary to ensure that the contribution factor is sufficient to preserve and advance universal service?
- Some have advocated for assessing USF contributions on broadband service and edge providers. What would be the impact of such reforms on ratepayers and the marketplace?
- Some have advocated for funding the USF through an appropriations model. What impact would that have on the USF?
- What actions are necessary and appropriate to improve coordination between USF programs and other programs at the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, USDA Rural Development, the Department of Treasury, and other federal agencies?
- Is the USF administrator, USAC, sufficiently accountable and transparent? Is USAC’s role in need of reform?
- Is Congressional guidance needed to ensure future high-cost program rollouts, such as RDOF phase II, are improved? Would a thorough and upfront vetting process be more efficient for federal dollars and recipient ISPs?
Stakeholders in the USF program who wish to submit comments are encouraged to consult with the attorney assigned to their account or reach out to Jonathan S. Marashlian at email@example.com to evaluate the issues, develop concrete responses, and coordinate submissions (including a determination whether to pool knowledge and resources to submit comments in coordination with other, similarly situated firm clients).
The comment collection period will remain open for 30 days, closing at midnight 12:00 AM Eastern Time on Friday, August 25th, 2023. If you elect to submit comments directly, be certain to adhere to the instructions provided by the USF Working Group.
Your insights and input are vital in shaping the future of the USF, and we appreciate your engagement in this significant regulatory process!