More groups are piling on with objections to changes the FCC is proposing to the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is expected to be put to a vote at next Tuesday’s FCC meeting.
The Rural Cellular Association (RCA) and a group of cellular carriers known as the Alliance of Rural CMRS Carriers (ARC) say they’re concerned, for one, that no one outside the members of the commission and their advisers has seen the proposal. They’re particularly irked that Chairman Kevin Martin’s office has been preparing the item for months, yet it was circulated “mere days” before the planned vote, and other commissioners haven’t had sufficient time to research and provide thoughtful input.
RCA and ARC argue that the FCC’s proposed changes would unfairly deprive rural consumers of critical communications tools that are essential to economic growth and the safety and well-being of rural residents. About $1.2 billion flows from the USF program to help provide service to customers relying on wireless carriers, according to RCA Executive Director Eric Peterson, via a press release.
Another industry sector is steamed about proposed changes as well. ATX Group, provider of telematics services to global automobile manufacturers, predicts location-based emergency communications services delivered to vehicles could be cut off under proposed changes in how the FCC collects universal service fees.
“In a rush to force dramatic changes to the universal service system, the FCC is on a course to make location-based emergency telematics services a casualty left for dead on the roadside,” said Steve Millstein, president of ATX, via a press release. “The United States has been leading in the deployment of this potentially life-saving technology and virtually every major automobile manufacturer is looking to deploy these services within the next three years, some on a global basis. Now, with the single stroke of the FCC chairman’s pen, the vision of the intelligent vehicle potentially stops. Let’s face it, the tax will be more than the cost of service.”
If the FCC plan is adopted, vehicle owners who have opted for cars with telematics would see their current assessment increase to a point where it exceeds the cost of airtime, the company said. The majority of vehicle owners use the service only in emergency situations.
Gary Wallace, ATX vice president of government relations, stated he finds it ironic that the FCC wants to add fees that raise the price of vehicles at a time when the U.S. auto industry is facing perhaps its worst financial crisis in history as well as have a chilling effect on intelligent vehicle technology that the U.S. Department of Transportation has been advocating for quicker deployment.
Filed Under: Industry regulations, Infrastructure