Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FCC chair would hike phone fees to help expand broadband; critic says rural bills would rise most

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commissions wants to raise fees to help get broadband access to unconnected regions of rural America. Kevin Martin is seeking to reform "intercarrier compensation," the fees one service provider pays another when connecting a call on the other's network, in plan that should be released in the next few days. The proposed rate increases would be covered by larger "subscriber line charges" and other fees passed on to the subscriber.

"The subscriber line charge appears on local phone bills, and is currently capped at $6.50 per month for consumers by the federal government," writes Martin is expected to suggest lifting that cap to $8 or $8.50." Ben Scott, policy director for the advocacy group Free Press, says Martin's plan will result in the largest phone bill increases being passed on to rural customers, since rural companies would have to recover more lost revenue.

Tessler writes that Martin "is expected to suggest that certain carriers be required to use Universal Service money to invest in and roll out broadband networks." The Universal Service Fund subsidizes telephone access is sparsely populated -- and thus, cost prohibitive -- areas of the U.S. (Read more)

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