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FCC Seeks Comments for Report to Congress

The Federal Communications Commission Jan. 5 solicited comments for a report it must submit to Congress on its implementation of the universal service provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Specifically, the commission is supposed to address the extent to which its "interpretations"

are "consistent with the plain language" of the Telecommunications Act. Among the issues it has been asked to discuss are its definitions of "information service," "local exchange carrier," "telecommunications," "telecommunications service," "telecommunications carrier" and "telephone exchange service," and whether those definitions are applied consistently, including with respect to Internet access for educational providers and libraries.

The commission is also supposed to address its policies for including and excluding certain kinds of providers from the list of those who must contribute to the Universal Service Fund and those who can benefit from it.

In addition, the FCC has been asked to review its decisions on who is eligible to receive universal service support. On Jan. 16, the FCC extended the comment period, giving interested parties until Jan. 26 to file comments, with reply comments due by Feb. 6. More specific details on the filing requirements are available on the FCC's Web site. The report to Congress, required by the FCC's fiscal 1998 appropriations measure, must be submitted by April 10.

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