Now that the 1996 Telecommunications Act is celebrating its tenth anniversary, Members of Congress are beginning to review whether or not specific provisions need updating. Over the next year Congress will hold hearings on how to strengthen Universal Service and continue to keep it solvent, and reforming the E-rate may be a part of those overall discussions.
Senator Burns (R-MT) introduced legislation (S. 2256) on February 8 and stated on the Senate floor that “…my central focus will be encouraging broadband deployment in every corner of the U.S. and preserving and improving universal service…. And for those who say universal service no longer makes sense, or that it should be repealed or scaled back, I encourage them to visit my State and see the fund in action…”
Senator Burns’ bill calls for USAC to be the permanent administrator for the Universal Service programs as well as for the FCC to create performance goals and measures to ensure that the funds are being spent effectively. The legislation further directs the FCC to develop strict enforcement actions for applicants or service providers that repeatedly and willfully violate program rules. The FCC is already working on these issues and reviewng E-rate stakeholders’ responses to the NPRM that was issued last year.
Senator Burns legislation can be viewed at NetUSA Bill – Final 2-08-06.pdf