Is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) attempting to contradict its own efforts to deliver broadband solutions for everyone? One could easily arrive at this conclusion given the organization wants to cap funding for broadband, while still emphasizing affordable, broadband solutions across the U.S.
This recent Spencer Daily Reporter piece highlights the anticipated move by the FCC.
The agency will vote on the issue known as the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation this week. According to Chuck Deisbeck, CEO of Western Iowa Networks in Breda, and Premier communications Regulatory Manager Ryan Boone, of Sioux Center, the Universal Service Fund places a surcharge on everyone’s bill throughout the U.S. and allows for similar broadband solutions for both rural and urban users.
The fund currently totals at $4.5 billion, an amount the FCC is seeking to cap and reduce, yet still make sure broadband solutions are available to everyone. The fund initially ensured telephone service for all in the 1930s, but is now focused on extending broadband solutions, something Deisbeck and Boone want to see continue.
"We want them to continue this
funding mechanism so we can continue to get the dollars that we've laid on the line that we're going to reinvest in our networks," Boone told the Daily Reporter. "But, for the companies that have invested, all of a sudden you cut that funding and how are they going to sustain keeping their investments whole and current?"
Boone and his colleagues are also concerned that the vote will make new rules retroactive, eliminating guarantees on guaranteed funding. Companies throughout rural America have already invested millions of dollars to expand broadband solutions through fiber or building out their infrastructure. If the vote takes place as planned, it could hamper a provider’s ability to earn a return on those investments.
When estimating economic impact, Boone highlighted $314 million that has already been invested by telecomm providers, including the $142 million within Iowa’s urban areas, which the FCC actually labels as rural. Throughout the nation, $9.6 billion is contributed to urban areas and telecom providers are also supporting wireless towers with fiber optics.
Diesbeck stressed that without sufficient broadband solutions, it’s difficult to bring in new growth. Additionally, schools, libraries and hospitals all rely on connections to other entities through broadband solutions to be successful.
The question is, if the FCC votes to cap and reduce the fund, how will broadband solutions be guaranteed for everyone? Does there need to be collaboration between all telecomm providers to draft a plan to rein in spending, increase oversight and enable companies to continue to expand broadband solutions to everyone? One first glance, you would assume this was the role the FCC was meant to play.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca