FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, in a recent Newsweek op-ed, suggested that large online streaming service providers – Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Microsoft – should begin paying their fair share of Universal Service costs.
He pointed out that these five companies account for 75% of all traffic on rural broadband networks and almost 78% of total costs. But “Ordinary Americans, not Big Tech, have been footing the bill” for the costs associated with these network costs.
“Ending this corporate welfare is more than fair,” he opined, calling it “consistent with the network compact that has prevailed since the earliest days of the Ma Bell telephone network. Historically, the businesses that derived the greatest benefits from a communications network paid the lion’s share of the costs.”
Mr. Carr pointed out that the Universal Service Fund is on the verge of collapse with the contribution factor climbing above 30%, and policymakers having to consider a number of reforms, including direct appropriations. His proposal would simply require the large streaming service providers to pay their fair share of network costs, in return for the substantial revenue they receive.
He concluded by urging Congress and the FCC to ensure that “Big Tech starts abiding by (historical) precedent and contributing an equitable amount. Doing so would put the federal government’s universal service efforts on stable footing.”
It sounds to us like a fair and reasonable way to take pressure off the USF, while helping to close the Digital Divide.