Universal Service Fund Key to Connecting Rural Colorado

  • The federal Universal Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation (ICC) systems have helped ensure that rural Colorado consumers can access high-quality and affordable services on advanced communications networks.

  • New FCC regulations and further proposals now under consideration in Washington, D.C., are putting these programs - and, by extension, rural communications services, consumers and communities - at risk.

  • From the earliest days of telephone service, Congress enacted and enforced policies to ensure affordable access to reasonably comparable communications services throughout the nation. USF and ICC are the embodiment of that policy.

  • Washington's wrongheaded updates to these programs will result in higher prices and lower quality of service for rural Colorado consumers. That is not consistent with the vision of Congress or the longstanding goals of universal service for rural consumers.

Changes in Washington May Impact Rural Telecom Services

  • Although the FCC's goal is to ensure that all Americans have comparable access to advanced networks, and while federal law mandates such access, the FCC's new rules are poised to reduce support for smaller rural communications providers.

  • Several FCC actions have created regulatory challenges and fostered new uncertainties for Colorado's rural telecommunications providers. Some of the changes include:

    • New limits on recovery of investments made years ago in accordance with federal laws. These investments were done to expand and speed up telecommunications buildouts in rural areas.

    • Rules that will generate revised caps on USF support levels each year in unpredictable ways.

    • Mandates to raise consumer rates to qualify for USF support, regardless of the view of state regulators.

    • Reduced ICC payments from other (typically larger) companies that use rural networks, with no requirement that those larger providers share those cost savings with consumers.

    • A burdensome and costly waiver process that would allow massive increases in telephone or broadband prices and/or loss of broadband, and only provide relief if consumers would lose telephone service.

Future Proposals from Washington Bureaucrats Will Hurt Rural Communities

  • Even as the above new rules are being implemented and rural Colorado companies and consumers are still trying to assess and adapt to them, the FCC is considering yet more rule changes.

  • The FCC is now under considering further reductions (and ultimately eliminating) ICC payments that other telecommunications companies make to use rural networks and extending new limits and cuts just being implemented to other portions of USF support.

  • These dramatic changes are putting existing investments in rural broadband at risk, and they will discourage future investment in Colorado's rural broadband networks.

  • Further, these new rules and proposals have created a climate of regulatory uncertainty that hinders - rather than encourages - investment in rural Colorado telecommunications and broadband.
Copyright 2012, Colorado Community Access Alliance