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ACA’s Polka Reserves Final Judgment On New USF Proposals

American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued a statement on news in late July that AT&T, Verizon and a group of medium-sized telephone companies reached an agreement on needed changes to the Universal Service Fund (USF), a program that provides subsidies for telephone services in rural areas, and to the intercarrier compensation system, which establish rates that telecom carriers pay to send traffic to another network.  The new USF proposal - called America's Broadband Connectivity (ABC) Plan - was presented to the Federal Communications Commission on July 29.

"ACA is pleased that the plan submitted by large and mid-size telephone companies appears to seek to ensure that the USF is fiscally responsible, particularly by curbing its runaway growth, and by limiting, if not prohibiting, funding in areas where competing systems provide broadband service.  These two positions, along with ensuring that ACA's members that fall within the smaller telco category are given sufficient time to adjust to changes in the system, have been our association's main pillars throughout this process," Polka said. 

The ABC plan came in response to FCC proposals designed to direct billions of dollars in USF money to broadband deployment for the first time in the program's history in light of the Internet's rapid rise as an indispensable tool of commerce, learning and communication.

Key Capitol Hill lawmakers who have been concerned about USF's historic inefficiencies and lack of funding for broadband facilities and services expressed delight that this plan might lead to USF reform.

ACA's Polka said he looked forward to learning more about the AT&T-Verizon plan.

"As we all know, the specific terms and conditions of these proposals are critical. Until ACA has reviewed them in detail and discussed them with the ACA Board, ACA is reserving final judgment. ACA intends to file comments with the FCC on the new proposals, providing feedback from the perspective of ACA's nearly 900 independent video, telephone and broadband providers serving smaller markets and rural areas, more than half of whom do so without any government assistance," Polka said.

Three trade groups representing small carriers -- the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA)  -- expressed support for the proposal.  It is expected that these associations will push for additional USF reforms at the FCC that are specific to rural telephone carriers, would fit into the ABC plan, and would be supported by large and mid-sized carriers.

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