Boucher, Lee Charge Ahead, Again, on USF Reform

Two House representatives have released a draft Universal Service Reform (USF) bill that would broaden the contribution base to include broadband.

Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Lee Terry, R-Neb., who have collaborated before on USF reform legislation, on Friday unveiled the proposed changes. They want the FCC to adopt a competitive bidding process for wireless providers to compete for USF support. The Rural Cellular Association (RCA) took issue with that clause.

“To truly modernize the Universal Service Fund, legislation should encourage competitive bidding across technologies and make subsidies portable with consumers,” said Steven Berry, RCA’s CEO and executive director. “In addition, the legislation limits high-cost support to – at most – two wireless carriers in a service area, diminishing competition to the detriment of consumers.”

Boucher and Lee said the tactic would control costs. The two lawmakers also want to cap the total USF support and change the calculation methodology for the non-rural, high-cost portion of the fund from geographic to wire center averaging, Reuters reported.

Boucher and Lee further want the FCC to create and abide by performance goals for each program in the USF, and audit recipients accordingly.

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