INCOMPAS to FCC on Its Future of USF Report to Congress: To Save USF, FCC Must Adopt USForward Report Recommendation Immediately
WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 17, 2022) – INCOMPAS, the internet and competitive networks association, is pressing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make the smart, transparent and expedient choice to save the Universal Service Fund. By evolving USF to include contributions from broadband internet access service providers, which the FCC could do immediately without an act of Congress, INCOMPAS says low-income families, schools and rural hospitals would all benefit from this renewed commitment to ongoing affordability solutions.
In comments filed today, INCOMPAS warns that the USF program is spiraling toward disaster, with contribution levels set to rise to nearly 40%. To save USF, INCOMPAS offers detailed suggestions that would promote four key elements: competition, coordination, affordability and transparency.
“The reality is the FCC needs to act fast or the USF program, the hallmark of dependable affordable internet access solution for millions of families and schools who access E-rate funding, will be in serious jeopardy,” said Angie Kronenberg, General Counsel and Chief Advocate for INCOMPAS. “Evolving USF to include broadband internet access service is a natural progression that promotes stability and transparency, and would deliver immediately to help families in need and make the Fund more equitable.”
The INCOMPAS filing highlights the need for competition in the USF program and asks the FCC to make competition one of the universal service goals, pointing to the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which states: “The more competitive the [ISP] market, the larger the net gains to subscribers and edge providers . . . [i]nnovation by ISPs may take the form of reduced costs, network extension, increased reliability, responsiveness, throughput, ease of installation, and portability.”
The filing also lays out steps the FCC should include in its Report to Congress on the Future of USF. INCOMPAS emphasized the need to assess each USF program and to work with states and other agencies on long-term solutions to better track the program and ensure quality service remains available at reasonable and affordable rates.
INCOMPAS also blasted attempts by critics of internet and streaming innovators who are seeking to delay and derail USF reform by placing new taxes and fees on competitive alternatives to expensive big cable bundles.
“Suggesting new taxes and fees on internet and streaming competition is a stalking horse that is designed to delay reforms and destabilize the USF program. It’s also a slap in the face to consumers who suffered for decades under skyrocketing prices and poor service before cord cutting competition and innovation set them free from higher prices and customer service abuse,” Kronenberg added.
INCOMPAS has been a leading advocate for USF reform and released the USForward report in 2021 with NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, SHLB Coalition and Public Knowledge.