- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Contrary to your Feb. 4 editorial “Kill the Universal Service Fund,” the USF has been tremendously successful at bringing reliable, affordable phone service to millions of Americans in rural areas where free markets alone would not deliver service because of low population density. This is why the federal USF was created and will be necessary for as long as our country remains committed to the idea that all Americans should be connected through the communications networks.

Nearly all forms of communication, including wireless phones, use the incumbent wireline network, which in large portions of the United States has been built and maintained by the USF.Simply stated, repealing the USF would disrupt nearly the entire telecommunications network, ranging from broadband to voice communications to wireless phone calls, and strand millions of Americans in rural, high-cost areas with decaying and ultimately nonfunctional telecommunication services.They would not receive adequate broadband services, either. The Washington Times made the claim that satellite communications can serve consumers virtually everywhere and more cost-effectively.If satellite were a more cost-efficient method, it likely would be deployed more widely.In fact, satellite is extremely expensive, and the quality and reliability of service are questionable at best. More important, it can only be used to serve a relatively small number of customers before exhausting its capacity limitations.

We should recalibrate the USF for current technology and marketplace and then transition the fund to explicitly support broadband while still ensuring reliable, affordable voice service.The USF needs to target support to the truly high-cost parts of our country and stop making payments to multiple providers in the same geographic area.

Furthermore, the USF should ensure that distribution and funding are done in a more economically rational manner than with today’s system.The USF also should continue to support carriers that serve as the carrier of last resort - specifically, those that agree to serve areas that otherwise would be unserved.

In today’s global economy, staying connected is more important than ever. Reliable broadband and voice services are precursors to economic development and job creation in rural communities. Policymakers in Congress, the White House and the Federal Communications Commission have embraced the task of reforming the Universal Service Fund. Eliminating the USF in favor of economic bromides would be a serious mistake.

CURT STAMP

President

Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance

Washington

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