FCC Urged to Consider Community Media When Reforming High-Cost Fund

The program is designed to ensure that consumers in rural, insular and high-cost areas can access telecommunications services at affordable rates.
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A group of Democratic members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the commission “to remain mindful” of community anchor broadband users—including community media—as it considers reforming the Universal Service High-Cost Fund.

Reps. Michael Doyle, Pa.; Anna Eshoo, Calif.; Edward Markey, Mass.; and Doris Matsui, Calif., signed the Oct. 17 letter sent to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The letter says, “As the FCC considers adopting an order to reform the Universal Service Fund’s high-cost fund, we urge you to address the unique needs of community anchor institutions that depend on affordable, high-capacity broadband.”

The Universal Service High-Cost program is designed to ensure that consumers in rural, insular and high-cost areas have access to telecommunications services at rates that are affordable and reasonably comparable to those in urban areas, according to the FCC. The program fulfills this universal service goal by allowing eligible carriers who serve these areas to recover some of their operating costs from the federal Universal Service Fund, the commission says.

The representatives’ letter says, “Community anchor institutions provide essential services to their communities, especially to the vulnerable and ‘at-risk’ members of the population. Community anchor institutions also play an important role for our nation’s seniors, often providing their primary means for accessing the Internet.

“Anchor institutions—which include libraries, schools, community colleges and four-year colleges, health care centers, community media, public safety, and many other anchors—require high-capacity broadband networks to fulfill their missions,” the letter says.

In addition, the representatives’ say, “We understand that the FCC may require broadband providers to serve anchor institutions. Most community anchor institutions operate 10, 50 or even 200 computers at a time, all sharing the same broadband connection. To better serve these institutions, the FCC should recognize the unique needs of these institutions and should consider ways to require broadband providers that receive USF support to build-out broadband networks in rural areas to deploy high-capacity broadband to anchor institutions. This will ensure anchor institutions have the high-speed Internet access they need to enrich their communities and stimulate economic growth across the nation.”