Washington, D.C. – RWA has endorsed the bipartisan, bicameral Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act that has been proposed in both the House (H.R. 6314) and Senate (S. 3236). As RWA explained in letters to the House and Senate sponsors, this legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to go beyond assessing the need to expand the Universal Service Fund (USF) contribution base by also mandating FCC completion of a rulemaking proceeding to reform the USF contribution system within one year of adoption. RWA has been at the forefront of efforts to reform the outdated and underfunded USF contribution system as conveyed in recent Comments and Reply Comments filed at the FCC. RWA appreciates the timeliness of these bills, particularly in light of implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directing the FCC to report on the future of the USF.
The USF contribution factor has averaged between 25% and 30% for several years because it only draws on interstate telecommunications revenues, and not broadband data revenues. This renders it unsustainable and misdirected as most USF is now used to support broadband. Simply expanding USF contributions to include broadband revenue, as proposed by USF expert Carol Mattey in her “USForward” report, could reduce the contribution factor below 4%.
At this time, RWA also recommends that Congress direct the FCC: (a) to develop a model-based 5G support mechanism based on costs to deploy 5G in rural high cost areas; and (b) to provide the essential ongoing support for the operation and maintenance of existing 4G networks in rural high cost areas while the transition to 5G occurs. Reverse auctions have proven to be a poor method for distributing high-cost USF support, producing numerous defaults and unsecure or suboptimal networks. Model-based support, however, would cover the actual costs of operating and maintaining mobile networks in rural high cost areas, rather than hoping to induce a carrier to take on the mission below cost.
Our country needs reform of USF contributions and distributions for 5G mobile networks in rural high cost areas. Without these reforms, we will continually be at a competitive disadvantage to other parts of the world where customers in rural areas enjoy higher broadband speeds, lower latency and sufficient throughputs at lower prices.