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FCC to Reform Universal Service Fund Contribution Methodology - EDUCAUSE Will Fight for Higher Education

A federal program called the Universal Service Fund (USF) collects money by “taxing” interstate and international telephone bills.  This spring, the FCC is likely to start a further rulemaking in WC Docket No. 06-122 to reform the USF contribution mechanism and it could have very large negative effects on colleges and universities.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) listed this effort as a major goal under USF reform.  See Recommendation 8.10 (the FCC should broaden the universal service contribution base) on P. 149 of the NBP (http://download.broadband.gov/plan/national-broadband-plan-chapter-8-availability.pdf).

For the purposes of the USF program, the FCC considers colleges and universities to be “end users” even if they have their own internal telecommunications networks.  Thus, the telecommunications service providers “pass through” the USF fees as a line item on your bills.

Under this reform effort, future USF fees might be based on a campus' number of active or reserved telephone numbers, on its broadband revenues, or conceivably on some measure of Internet access connections/capacity.  Some of these proposals would sharply increase campus communications costs. Accordingly, it is in our collective interest for EDUCAUSE to actively participate in this proceeding to minimize the impact on campuses.

EDUCAUSE Policy is preparing for this reform effort in order to advocate effectively on behalf of higher education.  Accordingly, we are monitoring and evaluating industry filings to determine whether there will be a common industry solution and we will engage in outreach and advocacy activities as needed.  Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.