Wireline Competition Bureau Deputy Chief Carol Mattey testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet Thursday regarding H.R. 5828, the Universal Service Reform Act of 2010. Here are her written remarks.
Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the important subject of universal service and H.R. 5828, the Universal Service Reform Act of 2010.
Following the introduction of H.R. 5828, Representative Terry stated that the bill’s goal is to ensure “everyone in America is connected into the 21st century telecommunications world.” That objective is broadly shared by the FCC as we undertake the process of considering the recommendations included in the National Broadband Plan submitted to Congress in March.
The National Broadband Plan recognized the important role that the private sector has played and must continue to play in investing in broadband facilities as well as promoting investment and innovation in broadband technologies and services. But, as Chairman Boucher and Representative Terry noted when introducing H.R. 5828, some Americans live in areas for which there simply is not an economic case for any provider to build, upgrade and maintain vital communications infrastructure. That is why we have what is known as the high cost program in the Universal Service Fund.
Universal service historically has been a significant success story in the United States. In addition to incenting the private sector to bring affordable voice service to virtually all reaches of the country, the existing high cost program has played an important role in strengthening communities and our economy by supporting modern networks capable of delivering broadband as well as voice services to millions of rural Americans who would not otherwise have such access. For example, the National Exchange Carriers’ Association reported that a sampling of small telephone companies made approximately $5 billion of gross investments, mostly to modernize their networks, between 2006 and 2009.
But, as I’m sure many of your constituents tell you, the current system, which wasn’t designed to explicitly support broadband, is not working for everyone.