Rep. Barton to VoIP providers: you shouldn't have to pay into Universal Service fund

The FCC's $5 billion Universal Service Fund funnels money from traditional phoneservice subscribers, throughstandard phonecompanies, and then to a kitty that subsidizesphone service torural areas and poor households.The program makes social and business sense.

The FCC's $5 billion Universal Service Fund funnels money from traditional phoneservice subscribers, throughstandard phonecompanies, and then to a kitty that subsidizesphone service torural areas and poor households.

The program makes social and business sense. The poor are sometimes transient, a fact thatincreases service churn and resulting overhead.With low populationdensity and considerable distances, rural telco service can be expensive to build and maintain.

Yet at least one influential Congressperson thinksthat because VoIP calls involve little distinction between rural and urban areas, VoIP service providers and subscribers should not have to pitch in to the fund.

House Commerce and Energy Committee chair Joe Barton (R-Texas)is firm on the matter. Last week's he told the IEEE Globecom 2004 conference that he may introduce a bill that would, with the exception of 911 service, block most regulations on VoIP.

"Let's keep you guys as unregulated as we can and let's see what you can do," Rep. Barton said. "Let's see how many people switch to VoIP."

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