This afternoon at COMPTEL PLUS in San Diego will be devoted to a keynote speech discussing the telecom policy changes floating throughout Washington, D.C. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, during the 25th Anniversary COMPTEL event, will highlight his work on and expectations for updates to the Telecommunications Act of 1996; he will be followed by special guest speaker FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin.
Stevens has been vocal during his committee hearings and at association speeches about matters he considers pertinent to a Telecom Act rewrite, especially intercarrier compensation and Universal Service Fund (USF) reform. Stevens is chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and has been spearheading a telecom rewrite. He also was one of the key authors of the 96 Act. As a staunch advocate for competition and consumers, attendees of COMPTEL PLUS will have a unique opportunity to hear firsthand his views on the issues that affect our industry, said Earl Comstock, president and CEO of COMPTEL.
For Stevens and Martin both, fixing the USF contribution mechanism is a top priority. The multibillion-dollar USF is the subject of much scrutiny on the Hill, in Congress and at the FCC. Policymakers are considering several approaches, including whether to assess all revenue intrastate and interstate alike; or assess phone numbers; or charge per connection. The current contribution mechanism is broken and it needs reform, Stevens said at the winter meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) in February.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin supports a numbers-based approach and Stevens told NARUC the Commerce Committee wants to examine that structure. The numbers-based system would assess USF fees of $1-$2 more per month to everyone with a landline telephone, regardless of whether consumers make long-distance calls. Martin is widely expected to begin tackling USF changes this spring.
Martins speech, meanwhile, also is likely to take on issues surrounding telecom reform. As the COMPTEL Show Daily went to press, President Bush had nominated Robert McDowell, COMPTELs senior vice president and assistant general counsel, to fill the FCCs remaining commissioners seat. If McDowell is confirmed, Martin for the first time in his tenure will be working with a fully staffed commission made up of three Republicans and two Democrats.
As someone COMPTEL previously recognized as a Champion of Competition, we are delighted and honored to have Chairman Martin at our spring show, said Comstock. We look forward to hearing what he has to say and continuing our dialogue with him on key issues for the competitive communications industry.