SUMMARY OF FCC COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI’S REMARKS
BEFORE THE 2014 SPRING MEETING OF WTA – ADVOCATES FOR RURAL BROADBAND
On April 9, 2014, Commissioner Ajit Pai of the FCC delivered remarks at the Spring Conference
of WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband. During his address, he emphasized that the FCC must take
seriously the promise of the Communications Act to “make available, so far as possible, to all the people
of the United States . . . a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wide and radio communication
service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.” He then offered a number of proposals for doing
Summary of Proposals
. Freeze the FCC-imposed rate floor indefinitely and reexamine the underlying policy.
o The rate floor will increase the rates that over one million rural consumers pay for
telephone service by up to 46 percent.
o Incomes in rural America lag far behind those in urban areas, so higher rates in rural
America are not comparable to higher rates in the cities.
o Federal law does not mandate this result; it instead calls for “affordable” rates.
o The rate floor intrudes on the traditional state role; state commissions have long adjusted
rates to reflect local circumstances.
o No federal benefit: The rate floor increases rural rates without
saving the Universal
Service Fund (USF) any money.
o Numerous entities, including WTA, NTCA, NECA, ERTA, Independent Telecom
Associations of Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington,
Washington’s state commission, and the National Tribal Telecommunications
Association, have all questioned the rate floor.
. Strike the QRA benchmarks from the books.
o They harmed rural investment and created regulatory uncertainty without saving the USF
Helping Small Carriers Gain Scale
. Streamline FCC review of transactions involving
geographically adjacent rural carriers seeking to merge.
o Allowing such transactions can increase carrier efficiency and further broadband
deployment in unserved communities.
Reducing Paperwork Burdens
. Small carriers are facing death by 1,000 paper cuts.
o Consolidate certification and reporting deadlines to ease compliance costs.
o Reconsider requirement for carriers to file 5-year plans when fate of USF support for
broadband is still uncertain in rural areas.