WASHINGTON - The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation today praised a proposal by six of the nation's leading broadband providers to expand access in rural communities. The proposal, filed at the Federal Communication Commission, would reform the Universal Service Fund (USF) Program and Inter-Carrier Compensation System (ICC) to expand broadband access.
"The 'America's Broadband Connectivity' (ABC) Plan is a bold and significant step forward in the ongoing quest to improve our nation's rural communication networks. The ABC Plan lays out a precise timeline for the phasing-out of the subsidies for the rural telephone network and for the simultaneous phasing-in of broadband service in its place. Upon completion, the Plan will provide robust broadband service throughout rural America of sufficient quality to support Voice over IP (VoIP) as a substitute for 'plain old telephone service' (POTS) as well as advanced applications for commerce, health care, and education.
The Plan is built on a sound economic model that normalizes intercarrier compensation fees and ends current practices that artificially inflate both costs and prices of rural telephony such as 'traffic pumping' and 'phantom traffic.' At a time when urban consumers are shifting their interpersonal communication from the legacy telephone network to broadband-enabled VoIP, the Plan ensures that rural consumers will not be left behind.
The Plan caps prices that will be paid to providers of rural broadband to sensible and sustainable levels, employs reverse auctions to leverage competition, and alternative wireless technologies where they're most appropriate. ABC represents a broad industry consensus that is technically savvy, consumer-friendly, and fiscally prudent. It's the most significant concrete step toward the full transformation of the Universal Service Fund into a broadband stimulus program that we've seen.
ITIF applauds the plan and endorses the principles and timelines it articulates."