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Phone Co.'s Ask FCC to Reconsider USF Reform Proposal

Verizon, Sprint and USTelecom are among those challenging the FCC's recent revamp of the Universal Service high-cost fund, which provides phone -- and eventually broadband -- subsidies to hard-to-reach areas.

The commission in October voted to start migrating the fund to broadband, phase out legacy phone support, try to reduce duplicative payments, fraud and abuse, and reform intercarrier compensation -- the payments communications companies make to each other for exchanging traffic over their networks -- including making it explicit that cable operator's VoIP traffic should get equal footing with other phone service when it comes to compensation for exchanging and terminating traffic.

In a notice released Thursday, the commission listed the parties that had petitioned the FCC for reconsideration of the decision. The USF reform order already faces court challenges from AT&T (a USTelecom member) and the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association. AT&T was particularly unhappy with the VoIP true-up, suggesting that terminating circuit-switched traffic was a lot more involved than interconnecting VoIP.

Those opposed to the petitions have 15 days from publication of the notice in the Federal Register -- that usually takes a week or so -- to respond, with replies to those oppositions due 10 days after that 15-day window has closed.

Among those also petitioning the FCC for reconsideration were MetroPCS, OPASTCO (Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies) and the Western Telecom Alliance.

The notice came the same week FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski circulated an order reforming another USF subsidy, the Lifeline program that subsidizes phone service to low-income households. The FCC is also looking to migrate that fund to broadband, put it on a budget -- as it did with the USF high-cost fund -- and weed out duplicative support.