WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021 – Former Deputy Head of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey published a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a wide range of revenue sources, including broadband.
According to a report by consulting firm Mattey’s Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “high-speed Internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today are expected to contribute to USF programs that support the expansion of these services to all, âhe said. âThis will better reflect the value of broadband Internet access service in today’s market for consumers and businesses. “
Mattey notes that USF’s funding sources, which come primarily from voice revenues and support the expansion of broadband to low-income Americans and remote areas, have dwindled, putting the fund at risk. The contribution percentage reached an all-time high of 33.4% in the second quarter of this year, and declined slightly thereafter, although Mattey suggested it could reach 40% in the coming years.
“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the mission of universal broadband connectivity for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” says Mattey in his report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and the connectivity goals of the ‘America, we need to have a smart and meaningful conversation. on the future of the program.
According to Mattey’s data, assessed sources of income (primarily voice) will only decrease over the next several years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was produced in collaboration with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.
“It is time for the FCC to act and move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – which jeopardizes the USF which is essential to connecting our nation,” the report said.
John windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in his report, “We just need to put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.
Mattey report uniform with current recommendations
Mattey’s research is generally in line with supporters of change at USF. Some recommended the fund draw from general broadband revenue, while others said general taxation would offer a more sustainable solution. Even the commissioner of the FCC Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be obligated to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the interim president Jessica rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.
The FCC established the USF in 1997 as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecommunications infrastructure in the United States, distributing billions of dollars each year to make advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does this through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the Rural Health Care Program, and E-Rate.
These constituent programs address specific areas related to broadband. For example, the main focus of the E-Rate program is to ensure that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with the Internet and technological support to serve their students and communities. All of these programs get their funding from USF.