In a recent meeting with the FCC, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, asked again that the Commission waive application of its budget control mechanism to certain kinds of universal service support.
NTCA correctly pointed out that such cuts in support would be extremely harmful as small USF recipients and their customers face the economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Relief from USF reductions now, it said, is particularly critical as small carriers may be facing increased budget control cuts in the next few months.
The very active and effective rural association also observed that waiver of the USF budget mechanism would be consistent with many other actions granted by the Commission to offset harmful effects of the pandemic.
Those small local carriers with universal service obligations should certainly be entitled to the requested relief. RLECs are required to provide service to all customers in their franchised areas. Large, multistate, multinational providers have no such obligations.
If the Digital Divide is to be eliminated – or at least reduced – RLECs must not be punished by arbitrary revenue reductions caused by FCC policies that cannot be changed or altered in extraordinary situations.