Wireless firms skewed facts on Universal Service Fund

The Hill’s June 8 article “Committee to explore cap on rural wireless subsidies” provided a wonderful forum for the wireless industry to distort the facts on the urgent need for reform in the way wireless carriers receive support through the Universal Service Fund (USF).

These are the facts: The Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service has recommended that the Federal Communications Commission cap, at current levels, the payments to wireless carriers until it develops a long-term solution. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has reported that USF support payments to wireless carriers have been growing at the rate of 101 percent per year since 2002.

Wireline carriers have been operating within a cap for many years and system growth for this segment is under control. We support the joint board’s recommendation of a temporary cap because we know it is critical that the FCC bring runaway excessive funding for wireless carriers under control. But even with the cap, wireless should be able to operate within the same strict efficiency and public safety guidelines as wireline carriers.

At today’s hearing, we hope the wireless industry will end its obstructionism and participate in the bipartisan work that will ensure USF continues to offer all Americans access to the enormous benefits of telecommunications networks.

~From Shirley Bloomfield, vice president, Coalition to Keep America Connected, Arlington, Va.


Most favor OFC

The story “Insurance industry divided over federal regulation” (June 5) erroneously reports that the property/casualty insurance industry is “nearly united” against optional federal charter (OFC). According to the 2005 Market Share report, property/casualty insurers who are on record supporting OFC make up more than 50 percent of the national market.

Additionally, virtually 100 percent of the stakeholders in the debate over insurance regulation have said that the current system is broken and must be fixed. Moreover, nearly all of these stakeholders have supported some level of federal involvement.

Finally, this debate will not be about “PAC dollars,” as one industry stakeholder mentions in the story; such a claim is demeaning and wrong. Rather, the debate will be about what type of modernized regulatory system works best for consumers and what is the most efficient regime that will improve the overall competitiveness of the industry so it can best compete in today’s global economy.

~From Marc Racicot, president, American Insurance Association, Washington


Our highest priority

Thank you for highlighting healthcare issues in your June 6 special section. It’s time to put useful ideas on the table and work together to give all Americans access to affordable, quality healthcare. In your special section, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas) did just that.

As we all consider proposals for change, The Hill can provide an important forum for varying perspectives on and potential solutions to the problem of inadequate healthcare.

Congress will address several pieces of legislation this summer that will take us closer to providing affordable, quality healthcare to every American. But there is much more to do to reach that goal. On behalf of AARP’s 38 million members, we encourage every member of Congress to make healthcare a high priority. For our members and us, it is our highest priority.

~From Bill Novelli, CEO, AARP, Washington