A plan by six major carriers to alter the Universal Service Fund won the support of seven Republican and Democratic senators in a letter they sent to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday. In the message, the group urged the FCC to approve a plan that "maintains key elements of the ABC and Joint Rural Association framework." The carriers offered their plan under the banner of America's Broadband Connectivity.
To give lenders more confidence about providing loans to small telecoms, the Rural Utilities Service told the FCC that it would help the agency administer changes in the Universal Service Fund contained in the national broadband plan. The RUS offered to provide data and analysis to the FCC in order to bring more certainty to the process.
Rural telecoms, in their comments to the FCC about a National Broadband Plan, said ISPs should contribute to the Universal Service Fund, which would subsidize the network buildout. The FCC is trying to determine the exact meaning of the term "broadband."
The FCC may at some point in the near future require VoIP providers that use public-switched phone networks to pay into the Universal Service Fund. Many big VoIP providers such as Vonage already impose charges linked to the USF, but smaller providers have been able to avoid the fees because the FCC hasn't clarified the issue.
Major technological changes are placing new strains on the nation's Universal Service Fund. The debate over whether to revise the USF model is expected to heat up in coming months as lawmakers mull possible changes to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.