Telecoms Praise ‘America's Broadband Connectivity Plan'

Telecom Industry reaction was, not surprisingly, generally positive to a telecom company-backed proposal to migrate the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes phone service in high-cost rural areas, to broadband support, and reform intercarrier compensation, the mechanism for carriers to compensate each other for carrying telecom traffic.

One public interest group, however, called it a self-serving, consumer unfriendly deal.

"We are encouraged by the progress being made to overhaul universal service and intercarrier compensation rules to redirect funds for national broadband deployment," said Mobile Future President Jonathan Spalter. "We applaud this effort to build consensus across the broadband ecosystem around a solution that will ensure deployment extends into remote, unserved communities in a way that leverages mobile and other rapidly developing technologies."

Mobile Future members include AT&T, which is one of the six major telecoms that produced the plan, as well as Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Qualcomm, and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of commerce.

The Internet Innovation Alliance, whose members also include AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent, applauded the reform efforts.

"It's important to enable broadband to be funded through USF," said IIA honorary chairman and former House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, "and this plan as well as the FCC plan now under consideration enable that."

"The Board of Directors of the United States Telecom Association...offers its endorsement of the America's Broadband Connectivity plan as providing a positive forward-looking framework from which all participants in the broadband ecosystem can work together towards our common goals of achieving expanded broadband deployment, increased broadband investment, and greater stability and predictability in the financial fundamentals of the telecommunications industry," said USTelecom President Walter McCormick in a statement.

Free Press called the framework an improvement on past plans, but far short of ideal.

"While this industry-authored proposal is certainly more sound than most of the prior self-interested plans we've seen, it still falls short of adequately confronting the real problems with the Universal Service Fund. Worse, it ensures that the inflated profits of telecom companies are protected by shifting the burden of reform to ordinary consumers," said research Director Derek Turner in a statement.

John Eggerton

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.