• Reps. Boucher, Terry Introduce USF Reform Bill
  • December 2, 2009 | Authors: Jennifer A. Cetta; Carly T. Didden; Jennifer L. Richter
  • Law Firm: Patton Boggs LLP - Washington Office
  • House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-VA, and ranking member Lee Terry, R-NE, on Nov. 6 released a much-anticipated discussion draft of legislation to revamp the Universal Service Fund (USF).

    The draft will be the focus of a November 17 hearing before Boucher's panel. The legislation would broaden the base of contributions, rein in distributions through a new competitive bidding process for wireless providers and cap the high-cost program at the current funding level. There would also be a one-time, permanent increase in the cap if the FCC revises intercarrier compensation rules. The draft calls on the FCC to complete an intercarrier compensation reform proceeding within one year of the bill becoming law.

    For contributors, the legislation would require any provider of service that uses telephone numbers or Internet protocol addresses or their functional equivalent to pay into USF, along with any company offering Internet service. The FCC would determine whether to use a contribution methodology based on revenues, numbers or a combination of the two.

    On the distribution front, the discussion draft permits USF monies to be spent on buildout of broadband lines offering service at download speeds of 1.5 megabytes or greater, although the FCC would be able to waive the requirement for providers in areas where such service would be technically or economically infeasible.