WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today TechFreedom filed comments in response to the FCC’s Public Notice seeking public input on its implementation of the $3.2 Emergency Broadband Fund enacted by Congress as part of the last stimulus bill.
“The Emergency Broadband Fund provides much-needed assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said TechFreedom General Counsel Jim Dunstan. “Unfortunately, to properly administer the program, the FCC will have to work around some poorly drafted provisions of the Act. The FCC must make clear that all carriers capable of providing service anywhere in the United States as of December 1, 2020 are eligible to participate. A hyper literal reading of the statute could lock subsidized customers into their current provider and bar anyone without service from getting subsidies for new service. Unfortunately, the way ‘internet service offering’ is defined, one could read it to limit eligibility in a way Congress never intended.”
“The FCC also shouldn’t be in the business of choosing winners and losers; the Fund must be technology neutral,” Dunstan continued. “The Public Notice seems to suggest that only traditional wireline equipment will be supported, when Rural America relies on a combination of wireline, wireless, and satellite services for broadband delivery. All must be supported by the Fund. And the requirement that connections can qualify only if the customer equipment is a traditional computer or tablet ignores the capabilities of modern smartphones — devices that are the only onramp to the Internet for a significant portion of the most disadvantaged Americans.”
“Finally, the Fund is designed for this time of emergency, but when the Fund runs out, people will abruptly lose their connections,” Dunstan concluded. “The FCC must think now about how it will bring this program to an end without an abrupt crash. The more people who depend on the Fund for Internet connectivity, the higher the costs that everyone else will bear. The FCC just raised the ‘contribution factor’ to 31.8 percent, meaning that all Americans just above the poverty line are now paying a tax of almost one-third on their phone bills. This may be the most regressive tax in America; you’d have to earn $565,000 annually to pay an equivalent effective income tax rate. We can’t just keep kicking this can down the road when Internet access is so vital to all Americans. Congress must start rethinking how Universal Service works — and paying for it out of our overall progressive taxation structure.
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