Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller has written a letter to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission saying the present universal phone service has failed to provide the kind of ubiquitous service the law requires. Rockefeller wants the FCC to overhaul a fund designed to ensure universal telephone service to make sure broadband deployment moves forward. He points out that inadequate communications infrastructure in places like rural America can worsen the impact of floods, hurricanes, tornados and terrorist acts.
The fund is financed by a long-distance telephone service tax and was created to ensure all Americans had access to landline telephone service. The FCC has recommended the Universal Service Fund be overhauled and redirected to subsidizing broadband. The recommendation is the focus of the FCC's National Broadband Plan. The FCC is working on various regulatory proceedings in order to reach that goal and the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications Chairman Rick Boucher released legislation last month that would expand the use of the fund.