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CMJ/CSI & TURN letter on USF High Cost and ICC

CMJ/CSI & TURN letter on USF High Cost and ICC

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Published by: MAG-Net on Dec 12, 2011
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09/07/2012

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CommissionerCoppsFederalCommunicationsCommission44512thStreet,S.W.Washington,D.C.20554CommissionerClyburnFederalCommunicationsCommission44512thStreet,S.W.Washington,D.C.20554October21,2011DearCommissionersCoppsandClyburn,Theundersignedorganizationsencourageyoutotakeintoaccounttheuniqueandcriticalconcernsofthecommunitieswerepresent,asyoupreparetovoteontheHighCostandInterCarrierCompensationelementsofUSFonOctober27
th
.CollectivelyweurgeyoutoconsiderthepotentiallydevastatingimpactUSFreformcouldhaveoncustomerswholackaffordabletelephone,broadband,andmobilewirelessservicesprovidedonequitableterms.Thoughreformisnecessary,wesubmitthechangescannotdisproportionatelyharmthemostvulnerableserviceusers.Theseincludemembersofanumberofhistoricallyunderservedandmarginalizedpopulationsandregions,suchas:personsincommunitiesofcolorandnon-Englishspeakingcommunities;residentsofruralareasandespeciallythoselivingonunderservednativelands;elderlyindividuals,aswellasyoungpersonsandstudents;job-seekers,lowincomeearners,andpublicbenefitsrecipients;andimprisonedindividualsandtheirfamilies.
Specificallyweaskyoutoconsiderthefollowing:
Ensurethatend-userratesarenotraised.
Despitetheindustry’spitchofitsICCchangesas“pro-consumer,”nosingleconsumeradvocacyorganizationhasexpressedsupportfortheseproposed“reforms.”Infact,thereisunitedconsumeradvocateoppositionintherecordtotheplan’sincreasesinend-userratesandsurcharges.
Ensureourcommunitiesdonotsubsidizecorporateenrichment.
Thereisnoevidenceintherecordforthetheorythattheproposedchangeswouldbebeneficialtoconsumers.Accesschargesforwirelessandlongdistancecarriersarealreadybelowcostandthereisnomechanismtorequirethesecarrierstopassonsavingsfromaccesschargereductionstocustomers.WeurgetheCommissiontomakeeveryattempttoquantifythecostsandbenefitsoftheserulechanges,andexaminetheimpactsonourcommunities--includingcontinuedprovisionofbasicphoneservicetoruralareas.Further,shouldtheABCplan’sICCreformsbeadopted,itwouldunjustlyenrichandrewardVerizonandAT&T–wirelesscarriersthatwouldreapbillionsin
net
savingsasaresultofFCC-mandatedloweraccesspaymentswhilealsoreapingbillionsmoreinhigherchargesfromvulnerableconsumers.
Ensurethatcommunitieswho‘self-provision’areeligibleforUSFfunds.
Currently,proposedUSFreformsexcludecommunity-basednetworksthathavedonethemosttobuildout
 
broadbandinfrastructuretoprovideessentialservicesinunderservedareas—urbanandrural.These“self-provisioning”projectsrangefrommunicipalnetworkstoprivatesectornonprofitnetworks.Yet,theyarenoteligiblefortheproposedConnectAmericaFund.Self-provisioningcommunitieshaveinvestedtheirsocialandfinancialcapitalinbroadbandinfrastructureandservices,andplayacriticalroleinshapingthesocioeconomicdestinyoftheircommunity.Itisessentialthatourcommunitieshaveallavailableoptionstobuildthenetworksweneed,andtoadvocatefornetworkownershipandoperationthatprovidescompetitiveoptionsandpricesthatareineveryone’sbestinterest.
Establishperformancegoalsforthereformedhighcostprogramsthatpromoteequity.
TheFCCmustincorporateexplicitgoalsandmeasuresrelatedtotheexpansionofbroadbandtocommunitiesofcolorandlow-incomecommunitiesinitsfinalplanforthereformedHighCostprograms.Toholditselfaccountableforachievingtrulyuniversalbroadbandaccess,theCommissionmustincludemeasurescapturingthedegreetowhichinvestmentsincreasedeploymentofmodernnetworkstozipcodeswherepeopleofcolorpredominateaswellasdeploymentofsuchnetworkstocommunitiesinwhichresidentsarelivingatorbelowthefederalpovertyline.WealsourgetheCommissiontoimplementdatacollection,transparencyandaccountabilityrequirementsnecessarytoassesswhetherfederaldollarsareinfactclosingsuchgaps.
Ensurestateaccountabilityforequity.
TheCommissionshouldrequirestatestoinstituteaccountabilitypoliciesandpracticesthatwillenabletheFCCandstateresidentsaliketoassesswhetherkeyreformgoalsarebeingmet.TheFCCshould,forexample,requirestatesreceivingUSFfundstoconductbaselineassessmentsofbroadbandavailability(includingdeployedtechnologies)andtodrawupontheseassessmentsinidentifyingpriorityareasforUSF-subsidizedbuild-out.Additionally,theCommissionshouldrequirestatestotrackactualpricesofbroadbandserviceprovidedbyuniversalservicesupportedcarriersandannuallycomparethesefigurestoraceandincomedatacollectedaspartofthebaselineassessmentinordertoidentifyaffordabilitychallenges.Finally,theFCCcouldincreasetransparencyandaccountabilitybycreatingopportunitiesforconsumers—andthosewhowouldliketobeconsumersofbroadband—toshapestatepolicyrelatedtobroadbandexpansion.ThisshouldincludethecreationofCitizenAdvisoryBoardsrequiredtosignoffonallplansforuseofuniversalservicedollars,regularconsultationofconsumersasthestatedevelopsplansandeligibilityrequirementsandverificationofcarrierclaimsaboutavailability,speedandpricingthroughperiodicconsultationwithconsumers.Ourcommunitiescannotaffordanyoutcomethatlimitsourabilitytoacquireaffordableanddependablecommunicationsservices.Itisimperativethat“UniversalServicereform”doesnotharmthecustomersitissupposedtobenefit.Sincerely,amaliadeloneyBrittnySaundersReginaCostaGrassrootsPolicyDirectorSeniorAdvocateTelecommunicationsResearchDirectorCenterforMediaJusticeCenterforSocialInclusionTURNMainStreetProjectMediaLiteracyProjectInstituteforLocalSelf-RelianceMayFirst/PeopleLinkCenterforRuralStrategiesHighlanderResearchandEducationCenter

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