Hutchison Opening Statement for Universal Service Reform Hearing – Nov 22 2011
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, made the following opening statement today at the Universal Service Reform – Bringing Broadband to All Americans hearing:
“Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. Thank you for calling this hearing because clearly so much good has happened since we established the Universal Service Fund in 1996. I think about every area of our country is covered today with telephone service. Now is the time, with all of the options available, for a clear reform of the program.
“The FCC has recognized the problem and I am pleased that their reform efforts seem to be beginning to move forward. I don’t know what’s in their proposal, but I’m glad they are seeing this issue as something that needs reform.
“I’m just going to lay out the things that I hope are in the FCC reform proposal. I believe that we need to ensure the fund does not keep growing unsustainably. Consumers can’t afford the constantly increasing fees and I hope that we will be able to fully utilize what is there without further raising the rates.
“The high cost program needs to focus on supporting carriers only where no one else is providing subsidized services. I think it should be clear that we don’t want to get in the way of free enterprise.
“While we’ve been subsidizing broadband indirectly through the USF for years, it’s time for the Universal Service Fund to officially become a broadband-centric program. As Chairman Rockefeller said, we’re in a digital age now, no longer in an analog age. We need to adapt to that. This will lead to more efficient and effective use of USF dollars.
“Americans get broadband from a variety of technologies: telephone lines, cable TV wires, wireless communications, and satellites. The USF needs to be technology neutral so it reflects today’s broadband marketplace.
“And last, the rates the telephone companies charge each other needs to be rationalized, but the transition needs to be done in a gradual manner. Providers who have made investments under the current system must have adequate time to plan for and adapt to the new system and use what they have invested in. Otherwise consumers could get a disruption during the transition.
“I hope the FCC will stay on course and I hope they will be measured in the reforms that they put forward and I am looking forward to working with you are experts, but also with the FCC to try to address this problem in the right way.
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison made the following comment today regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) vote to reform the Universal Service Fund (USF):
“The FCC should be commended today for reforming the USF and the intercarrier compensation regime. These programs have needed to be updated for many years, and today’s action is a major step toward modernizing both regimes for the broadband era. While I have not seen the order, I am glad to hear that it keeps the USF focused on bringing critical communication services to unserved parts of the nation. I also appreciate the FCC’s emphasis on halting the USF’s unsustainable growth.
“I understand the FCC still has more work to do on completing the USF reform process. To avoid any disruption to consumers, it is critical for the FCC to ensure that the transition to the new regime is predictable and gradual so providers have adequate time to plan for and adapt to the new system. I hope the FCC will move quickly to provide the regulatory certainty that broadband providers need so they can invest in rural America. That also means addressing the contribution side of the USF program. I look forward to working with the FCC and other stakeholders to ensure that the USF continues its important role in connecting our rural communities in Texas and throughout the country.”