Universal Service

The cable industry has long supported the goals and policies of universal service. Cable companies engaged in the provision of IP-enabled and circuit-switched telephony today contribute to the universal service fund (USF). NCTA supports clarifying the legal obligation for providers of IP-enabled telephony services to pay into USF.

The universal service program, as it stands today, is not sustainable. To address this problem, the cable industry has long advocated the adoption of a mechanism that collects universal service contributions based on assigned telephone numbers. This simple yet effective reform will sustain the long-term health of this fund while still adapting to the evolving technology and economics of voice telephony. Under a telephone numbers-based system, all that matters is whether or not the service uses a phone number. Adoption of this approach would promote competitive neutrality among all voice telephone providers – those who offer their services as a replacement for plain old telephone service (POTS) – and would avoid assessments on services that only include a voice component but are not a substitute for POTS.

The assessment of broadband service is unnecessary to the goal of a stable, sufficient and predictable fund, and would harm those whom policymakers are trying to serve. Instead, an easy solution is at hand – a numbers-based contribution mechanism which is administratively simple, addresses the current problems with declining interstate revenues and bundling of services, and captures new technologies and protocols such as IP-enabled telephony.