August 8, 2011 - 1:46 pm

Since we voted unanimously in February to frame a path forward for fiscally responsible reform of the Universal Service Fund’s high-cost program and intercarrier compensation system, the Commission has been diligently reviewing comments, engaging with stakeholders, crunching numbers, and refining proposals. Three public workshops were held, including one in Nebraska. And we’ve met with the diverse participants in the universal service and intercarrier compensation system, including state officials; consumer advocates; phone companies and broadband providers of all sizes; Internet content and application developers; and many others. Indeed, since February, the staff and Commissioners have held more than 400 stakeholder meetings on these issues and we’ve received more than 900 comments.

As part of this effort, we challenged stakeholders to come to us with serious proposals that reflected the core principles set forth in February. We are pleased that several parties, including the state members of the Joint Board on Universal Service and a group of large and small telephone companies and associations, have worked hard to present comprehensive reform proposals.

To assist in our review of these and other proposals, last week the Wireline and Wireless Bureaus released a Public Notice requesting comment on specific aspects of the proposals and on additional issues that are not fully developed in the record. We encourage parties to focus their feedback on the specific questions the Bureaus have raised.

As we review the comments and finalize an order, we will seek to achieve reform in a comprehensive and legally sustainable way that modernizes the current system; brings broadband to millions of Americans that are currently unserved; puts USF and ICC on a fiscally responsible path that provides incentives for efficient operations and accountability for every dollar spent; contains the size of the Universal Service Fund; and fairly balances the interests of all consumers.

And after reforming the distribution side of the universal service equation this fall, we will move soon to launch, and subsequently conclude, a proceeding to restructure the universal service contribution mechanism, which is equally in need of reform. The release of the Notice marks the final stage of our reform process. We look forward to your comments.