The leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee have asked acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps for information on the Universal Service Fund. That is the fund that companies pay into to support rural telecommunications service.
The committee will likely try to reform the fund, which both sides of the aisle agree is needed.
One of the reforms could be to extend the fund to broadband, something a number of Democrats suggest is just brining it into the 21st century since it was designed to underwrite the rollout of telecommunications service to remote or unprofitable areas at a time when phone, not the Internet, was the key communications link.
Others would be to institute competitive bidding rather than just giving fund recipients what they say they need. A government study of the fund found overpayments pushing $1 billion.
In the letter, the legislators asked for a list of eligible carriers in the the areas with the ten largest subsidies and how much they recieved over the past three years, as well as a list of their competitors that did not receive support.
They want that, and much more information, by April 23.
Sending the letter were Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and ranking member Joe Barton (R-TX), and Communications, Technology & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Rich Boucher (D-VA) and ranking member Cliff Stearns (R-FL).
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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