Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the FCC's plans to reform the Universal Service Fund (USF)- the government program designed to connect every American to basic telephone service.
The announcement comes one day after the Center for Media Justice and Main Street Project hosted FCC Commissioner Copps for a Community Roundtable in Minneapolis, MN. The roundtable brought together twelve community-based organizations to discuss with the Commissioner a range of concerns, including USF reform and the proposed AT&T takeover.
Center for Media Justice's Media Policy Field Director, amalia deloney made the following statement:
"The announcement today means one thing-your phone bill is going to go up. Just yesterday an unemployed individual told us that even a $1 increase could mean the difference between maintaining a phone line to look for employment, or being permanently disconnected. People on fixed incomes or out of work can't afford any price increase, yet the proposed plan out there now would take money out of their pockets and hand it to the companies. At CMJ, we don't call that reform. We call it taxing the poor."
"There's no question USF needs to be fixed and re-purposed to support broadband expansion, which is critical for all communities and especially Rural America," said Niel Ritchie, Executive Director of the League of Rural Voters. "Unfortunately, the proposed reform plan reads like a play-book written by the phone companies. Corporate interest and public interest isn't the same thing."??
Among those most concerned are HOPE Community Development Corporation, First Person Radio, Main Street Project, Center for Media Justice and the League of Rural Voters-all of whom asked FCC Commissioner Copps to reject the industry designed ABC plan. These groups believe the proposal will harm the rural, Tribal, and low-income community members they work with daily-forcing them to bear the burden of increased costs while allowing the companies to grow their profits.