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Clyburn Advocates Transforming the Universal Service Fund

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WASHINGTON, June 17, 2010 – Federal Communications Commission member Mignon Clyburn spoke at the Mid-America Regulatory Conference in Kansas City about the National Broadband Plan’s goal to have every American have access to affordable, dependable broadband service at home.

She advocated transforming the Universal Service Fund, which helped connect 95.6 percent of American homes through telephone service. She stressed the importance of the FCC understanding what is going on at the state and local levels. She reviewed the history of the National Broadband Plan, focusing on its goal of giving every American the opportunity to access broadband regardless of background.

The plan estimates that 7 million households, or 14 million people, do not have broadband at home. Clyburn said, “For those families, it matters little whether broadband is available to 95 percent of Americans.  What matters to them is that broadband is not available at their home.”

She said that of the plan’s recommendations for expanding broadband service to all Americans, the most significant is the overhauling of the Universal Service Fund to expand support to fund broadband. The USF has been essential in providing telephone service, and the fund currently provides broadband support indirectly, which Clyburn says is not the most efficient manner.

Clyburn also said the USF “historically has been part of a social compact between the government and private sector firms, which both are required to serve all customers at some basic level.”  The plan recommends that firms receiving universal service support must be the provider of last resort for both broadband and voice services – and accept all the obligations that entails, including providing broadband speeds of at least 4 megabits per second download and 1 megabit per second upload.

In April, the FCC began the first phase of reform, and has asked the states for their input. Clyburn hopes that the FCC will continue to receive ideas and concerns about the best means to reform the fund.


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