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Public Statements

Letter to Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman

U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today joined a bipartisan effort to ensure that proposed telecom reforms by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) do not have unintended consequences for rural Americans' access to quality, affordable services. Johnson has continually worked to expand broadband service in South Dakota and is committed to maintaining the intended purpose of the Universal Service Fund, which provides affordable telecom service to rural and underserved areas.

"We believe strongly robust broadband networks will lead to increased adoption, job creation and economic opportunity. However, as the regulatory reform effort moves forward, we must also ensure new rules and regulations do not have unintended consequences and hamper our investment in our rural communities," Johnson and 28 of his colleagues wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The Universal Service Fund (USF) collects contributions from telecommunications carriers and uses the funding to subsidize services in high-cost rural areas where economies of scale would otherwise make it cost prohibitive to provide affordable service.

In February, the FCC outlined proposals to modernize the intercarrier compensation (ICC) and the USF and has been accepting comments on the proposals. Johnson supports modernizing these programs, including making them more accountable and broadband-focused, but also believes that reform should maintain the effective elements of the programs that have played a vital role in ensuring rural Americans have access to affordable, quality telecommunications services.

A copy of the letter is below:

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

We write to you regarding the FCC's current efforts to reform the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation system. We support modernizing these programs, including making them more accountable and broadband-focused to meet the goal of providing affordable and comparable communications service to all Americans. However, we also encourage the development of a support mechanism framework that does not jeopardize current or hamper future private sector and federal lending program investment.

Over the last three decades, communications carriers in rural areas have invested millions of dollars in communications networks supported not only by universal service, but also by private investment and federal telecommunications and broadband loan programs. As part of the ongoing reform effort, the FCC now proposes a number of new program restraints, benchmarks and formulas intended to make universal service more efficient and implement a new intercarrier compensation system. Telecommunication providers will be expected to adapt and manage their investments and businesses to those new standards and rules. Consequently, we believe these reform proposals must strike a balance to protect the investments that have already occurred and the need to overhaul the programs.

We believe strongly robust broadband networks will lead to increased adoption, job creation and economic opportunity. However, as the regulatory reform effort moves forward, we must also ensure new rules and regulations do not have unintended consequences and hamper our investment in our rural communities. Thus, we request that you seriously consider these concerns.

We look forward to working with you to address these matters.

Sincerely,

Sen. Akaka (D-Hawaii)

Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyoming)

Sen. Baucus (D-Montana)

Sen. Begich (D-Alaska)

Sen. Blunt (R-Missouri)

Sen. Boozman (R-Arkansas)

Sen. Chambliss (R-Georgia)

Sen. Conrad (D-North Dakota)

Sen. Crapo (R-Idaho)

Sen. Enzi (R-Wyoming)

Sen. Franken (D-Minnesota)

Sen. Harkin (D-Iowa)

Sen. Hatch (R-Utah)

Sen. Hoeven (R-North Dakota)

Sen. Johanns (R-Nebraska)

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota)

Sen. Klobuchar (D-Minnesota)

Sen. Levin (D-Michigan)

Sen. McCaskill (D-Missouri)

Sen. Merkley (D-Oregon)

Sen. Moran (R-Kansas)

Sen. Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska)

Sen. Pryor (D-Arkansas)

Sen. Risch (R-Idaho)

Sen. Roberts (R-Kansas)

Sen. Tester (D-Montana)

Sen. Thune (R-South Dakota)

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado)


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