New FCC process invites lobbyists to sign up online

The ex parte effort comes as the FCC moves to bring more transparency to the lobbying process, upping disclosure and covering new forms of communication.

The online process could improve access for small community organizations that don’t know how to navigate the FCC bureaucracy – unlike regular interest groups that file dozens of ex parte documents per year. This lobbying process is devoted specifically to the commission's Universal Service reform plan, which is on the radar screen of small communities who benefit from the current subsidy structure.

The Universal Service Fund (USF) proposal would convert the $7 billion fund that subsidizes telephone service for poor households to funding broadband buildout and fees. The proposal has significant momentum as it's backed by big service providers like AT&T, which could benefit from the new subsidies.

But rural phone companies and towns have pushed back on the transition and are asking for it to occur slowly. Forty-two House members from rural areas echoed the concerns last month in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, signaling their opposition to the reform effort and hailing the current fund structure as successful.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the USF proposal reflects a commitment to "smart and fiscally prudent" policies.