Upton, Walden Concerned the FCC’s Math Doesn’t Add Up

July 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler ahead of the commission’s Friday vote on reforms to the Universal Service Fund’s Schools and Libraries Program. The leaders expressed concern at reports that Chairman Wheeler has amended his June proposal to now grow the size of the USF above its current $9 billion funding level on the back of rate-payers.

“As we wrote you earlier this year, the explosive and unconstrained growth of the Universal Service Fund is extremely troubling to us, and it is more important than ever that USF programs be structured to maximize value without growing the size of the fund. Last month, you announced a proposal to reform the E-Rate through streamlining administration of the fund and improving utilization of existing funds; this is an approach we support,” wrote Upton and Walden. “Unfortunately, recent reports raise concerns about your commitment to work within existing funds.”

The leaders continued, “We are also troubled by press reports that you have promised to increase the E-Rate budget in the ‘near term’ and recent allegations by Commissioner Pai that you are planning to grow the size of the existing $9 billion Universal Service Fund through commission action in a subsequent item. This would be an unacceptable course of action. We urge you to modernize the fund to bring our nation’s students the twenty-first century tools they need to succeed without increasing the ever-growing burden of USF on rate-payers.”

Highlighting this item as yet another example of bad process, the leaders concluded, “In addition to the financial considerations, recent reports have also raised red flags as to the procedural approach to this item. As you know, good FCC process has long been a priority for the committee. Engaging in bipartisan deliberation of all items should be the goal for every chairman, particularly when all parties should share the same goals: creating a fund that will appropriately serve schools and the students that rely on modern technology, and that is fiscally prudent and does not over-burden ratepayers.”

To read the complete letter online, click here.