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“According to the FCC's most recent report, nearly 14 million Americans lack any access to fixed broadband. In an effort to remedy this, in 2011, the Commission established the Connect America Fund (CAF) within the USF high-cost program to provide federal universal service support to private carriers serving high-cost parts of the nation. While progress has been made to implement various parts, thanks to the great work of staff, there hasn't been a sense of urgency at the Commission due to a lack of energy and commitment to complete the hard tasks that remain. Sadly, unless something significant changes, unserved Americans will have to wait even longer to get access to broadband.

Like many, I was pleased that, at recent Congressional hearings, Chairman Wheeler provided additional insight on the timeline for CAF reforms to Members of the House and Senate who want to see faster progress, as I have advocated for over a year. It's especially good news to hear the Chairman promise to complete a CAF not just for the larger rate-of-return (ROR) carriers but also for the smaller ROR carriers by the end of this year and to hold a CAF Phase II auction for price cap areas next year. I take him at his word that he intends to try to meet his commitments. The problem is that, when I mapped out the steps that would need to occur to meet these promises, it became obvious that it's extremely unlikely that the Commission will be able to adhere to that schedule. Many of the individual actions and program steps are interconnected. For instance, it seems unlikely that the Commission would set up a CAF for very small ROR carriers without knowing which carriers will opt-in to a CAF ROR model. I hope to be proven wrong about the timeline. In fact, I would welcome suggestions for ways to streamline and accelerate the remaining tasks. But it is important that all stakeholders understand the process and likely timing of reforms so that we can have that discussion.

Consequently, whenever people start to discuss reforming, modernizing or updating the current communications statute, one area that comes to my mind is the USF high-cost program. And it wouldn't necessarily take a lot of effort to generate tremendous progress. All that is needed would be to set deadlines and milestones for the Commission to act on the existing parts in a timely manner. That simple step – combined with a mandate not to increase the overall costs on American consumers – would likely have a demonstrable impact on broadband deployment in rural America.”

Excerpt from FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s blog post this week in response to Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent comments before Congress that the Commission will have revamped CAF Fund requirements in place by the end of 2015.

The above is a quote from the March 27, 2015, issue of the PTA Friday Report. To view the full issue, please log into the Active Members Only Section of this site (telcos only) or contact to be added to the distribution list (members only)



2015 Meetings
(must be a member & registered to attend)

APRIL 29 & 30
State College, Pa

PTA Small Company Meeting
State College, Pa

JULY 13-15
Hershey, Pa

PTA Small Company Meeting
State College, Pa

FALL 2015
PTA/NYSTA Showcase
New York - Time and Location TBA

PTA Small Company Meeting
State College, Pa


Pennsylvania Telephone Association
30 N. 3rd Street, Suite 300
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Phone: (717) 238-8311      Fax: (717) 238-5352