After unrelenting pressure by the Alaska Congressional Delegation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today announced it will be suspending cuts to small rural Alaska telecommunication companies for nearly two years. This suspension will finally force the FCC to reexamine how its new Universal Service Fund (USF) reforms will impact residents of Alaska. For the last two years the Alaska Congressional Delegation has written nearly a dozen letters to the FCC critical of the FCC's reforms to USF.
In addition, the Congressional Delegation has held and participated in several hearings on USF reform and has hosted trips for current commissioners and the previous chairman to visit rural Alaska.
"In far too many of Alaska's rural communities, things are not measuring up -- leading to our communities suffering from the lack of an even playing field," said Senator Murkowski. "Some of our small telecommunications companies in rural Alaska are really feeling as if they are on the ropes because of the FCC's expensive data errors, which fail to actually take into account the unique needs of Alaska. I brought this issue directly to Commissioner Clyburn in the Indian Affairs Committee last year, and I appreciate the fact they have heard this message from Alaskans loud and clear and will rethink their work."
"I'm pleased with the order circulated by the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau to suspend cuts to our small rural telecom providers in Alaska. Alaska has a unique set of challenges when it comes to telecommunications and I'm glad the FCC has realized they need to do more homework on how to best manage those needs," said Senator Begich. " As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I have been pressing the FCC on the Quantile Regression Analysis (QRA) for over a year. The fact that they have acknowledged that this national QRA model doesn't work for Alaska is welcome news. I look forward to welcoming Commissioner Pai to Alaska next week and showing him around our great state."
"Any good craftsman knows the saying, "Measure twice, cut once.' Unfortunately, two years ago the FCC jumped the gun, and in terms of Alaska, they measured once and cut a half dozen times. The reforms they are suspending today is great news for rural Alaska, and is confirmation of what we have been trying to tell them this whole time: Alaska is different," Rep. Young said. "In my role as Chairman of the American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee, I have held numerous oversight hearings on the FCC reforms and their impact on rural America, and going forward I will continue to work with them to reform the USF and help expand broadband deployment to rural Alaska rather than constrict it."
"This order is a positive step that provides temporary relief to those of us serving high cost, remote rural Alaska communities. It is encouraging in that it demonstrates understanding and cooperation on a critical, long-term issue," said Brenda Shepard, CEO of TelAlaska, Inc. "We look forward to working with Commissioners, their staffs, and the Alaska Congressional Delegation to return stability to USF so that we can fulfill our commitment and obligation to serve rural customers."
"AFN is pleased with the FCC's decision to restore critical funding to Alaska's rural carriers until 2015," said Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka. "This outcome is a positive example of what can be accomplished with a dedicated Congressional Delegation and stakeholder advocates, like AFN. We will continue to work with the FCC and Congress to ensure that USF reforms reflect Alaska's unique needs."
At the invitation of the Alaska Congressional Delegation, Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai will travel to Alaska next week to meet with telecom companies, village leaders, and the University of Alaska, among others, to tour several rural Alaskan communities, including Barrow, Fort Yukon, and Tatitlek. The focus of the trip will be to highlight the unique ways in which Alaskan use broadband and the need for more robust bandwidth and more ubiquitous broadband infrastructure.