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Universal Service Fund Still Broken, Said Terry

40 states receive nothing

Last year, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, introduced legislation (HR 1582) to address an inequity in allocations of the Universal Service Fund. Terry says that while Nebraska and South Dakota have since been added to the USF fund, 40 states still receive nothing.

The USF program was established by Congress to ensure that all rural residents have access to affordable, modern telecommunications services. However, in 2003, more than half of the money -- $120 million out of $235 million -- benefited customers in just one state, Mississippi, according to a release from Terry's office. Nearly 85 percent of the total funding went to carriers in only three states, Mississippi, Alabama, and West Virginia. Previously, only eight states received funding under this program.

"This is good news for Nebraska," said Terry, referring to an $8 million USF projection for the state. "This money is necessary for the improvement of the telecommunications infrastructure in our state and to help provide more advanced services like DSL. Unfortunately, many of the rural states that have been forgotten by the USF in the past still receive nothing under this new proposal. It's a ridiculous, arbitrary system.

"I'm encouraged that the FCC found a way to help Nebraska," said Terry. "However the system is still horribly broken. This will not deter me from moving forward with my legislation to fix the USF system for other rural states. We've still got a long way to go to fix this problem."
Wayne E. Hanson served as a writer and editor with e.Republic from 1989 to 2013, having worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and Digital Communities. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education.