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Terry–Ross Letter Gives Shout-Out to Telco USF Plan

According to a copy of the letter obtained by B&C/Multi, Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.) are circulating a dear colleague letter, asking the FCC to keep "key elements" of the telco-backed America's Broadband Connectivity plan for reforming the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation regime.

USF is the telecom-funded subsidy for phone service in areas where there is not a private business case for service, while ICC is the way telecoms compensate each other for handing off traffic. The FCC is expected next month to propose its USF/ICC reforms. It sought comment on the ABC and other plans, and got plenty of it.

The letter does not expressly endorse the plan, or identify just what needs to be preserved. But the legislators do say that the so-called ABC plan, in combination with a separate plan from the Joint Rural Association, "appear to embody the core principles of the commission's National Broadband Plan, which they identify as migrating the Universal Service Fund to broadband in a 'competitively neutral' manner."

They argue that the framework provides "a path forward" to comprehensive reform.

The cable industry has argued that the ABC plan is hardly competitively neutral. While the National Cable & Telecommunications Association does not oppose the plan outright, members took to the Hill and the FCC last week to say that as it is currently constituted, it disproportionately favors the telcos.

The letter also says the FCC should make sure to end duplicative subsidies and direct funds where they are most needed, points cable operators would agree with.