Looking Toward the Future of Universal Service

Joan Marsh, EVP, Federal Regulatory Relations
February 17, 2022
AT&T Policy Statements, Broadband Access and Affordability


Looking Toward the Future of Universal Service

We welcome today’s opportunity to offer recommendations to the FCC for its upcoming report to Congress on the future of the Universal Service Fund (USF). This proceeding calls on us to be bold – to take a comprehensive look at the USF and best position it for the broadband future while avoiding the temptation to offer only incremental fixes. While the FCC should examine what is needed to fully modernize the program for the 21st Century, the most important challenge is addressing how to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish a stable funding system.

The best solution is for Congress to build on the precedent it established during the pandemic by using direct Congressional appropriations to fund essential broadband connections.  If direct appropriations are not forthcoming, alternatively, we strongly encourage legislative solutions that will give the FCC the authority to expand the contributions base to include entities whose business models rely upon and most benefit from the availability of universal broadband. At the same time, the Commission can and should utilize its existing authority to expand the contributions base to include revenues from providers of ‘telecommunications’ that don’t currently contribute. These steps are essential to addressing the overwhelming problems facing the fund today and would put it on sustainable footing.

One thing is very clear: The status quo is no longer acceptable. Bold reform is necessary to put the USF on solid financial footing for future generations.  We look forward to working with the Commission on this important endeavor.