With High Cost Loop Support continuing to be significantly reduced, many small Rate of Return RLECs – both those receiving legacy settlements, as well as those choosing the ACAM model – are experiencing interstate revenue shortfalls. Their ability to provide advanced broadband services in rural America is seriously challenged by ever-decreasing support imposed by past FCC policies.
Small RLECs themselves, their representatives and associations, members of Congress, and others have met with FCC staff and Commissioners, over many months, to discuss the need for additional funding. Absent a decision to increase high cost USF support, the Commission’s goals of bringing advanced broadband services, at affordable rates, to underserved and unserved areas of rural America, will not be fully accomplished.
Now it is time for the FCC to act. In a variety of forums, Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly – two thirds of the Republican majority — have seemed to agree that more high cost funding for RLECs is needed.
The simplest way to accomplish this NOW would be to distribute some amount of the more than ample $8 billion in USF reserves to high cost USF support for RLECs. To ensure that critical shortfalls will not occur in the future, the arbitrary FCC-imposed $2 billion USF cap should be raised to a level that promotes, rather than stifles, the growth of broadband in rural areas.
It seems easy enough. The FCC should take steps to make this happen very quickly.