Rural phone providers to make case against overhaul of Universal Service Fund

U.S. Telecom President Walter McCormick is expected to testify before the subcommittee on behalf of broadband providers and argue that the legislation does not need many changes.

"As you well know, it is not uncommon in the legislative process for one stakeholder or another to seek a tweak here or a change there that will make the legislation 'just a little bit better' for them," he says in an early copy of his testimony.  

"But in this instance, we would respectfully caution that changes to this delicately balanced package potentially risk undermining the compromises you and Representative Terry have worked so hard to forge," he says in the remarks. 

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Rural telecom providers are less enthusiastic. Shirley Bloomfield of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association has prepared testimony that warns rural areas will get short shrift if high-cost subsidies are capped as the bill suggests.

"A typical self-sustaining business plan in an urban area is much more difficult to identify and implement in rural markets," she says in her testimony.

In these areas, she continues, universal service "remains critical to overcome the economic challenges of deploying communications networks." 

Scheduled witnesses for the hearing also include Kathleen Grillo, a senior vice president at Verizon; Carol Mattey, a bureau chief at the FCC; James Assey of NCTA; and Steven Davis, a senior vice president at Qwest Corp.