A regional Bell telephone company, a rural carrier, a cable company and an Internet phone company disagreed Wednesday about the obligations and prices that communications companies must pay when they offer Internet telephony to rural America.
Speaking at a telecommunications forum hosted by a task force of the Congressional Rural Caucus, Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron said subsidies between long-distance and local telephone service must be eliminated.
Kevin Hess, vice president of federal affairs for the rural firm TDS Telecom, disagreed and said the current inter-carrier subsidization systems "remain the appropriate mechanism of compensation." Hess also said voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) providers like Vonage must contribute equally to the universal service fund (USF), which is designed to finance phone service to all Americans.
Reps. Charles (Chip) Pickering, R-Miss., and Rick Boucher, D-Va., also addressed the task force, and each outlined their bills to pre-empt state regulation of Internet-based services. Pickering's bill is focused on VoIP; Boucher's deals with all Internet services.[.....]
Both Citron and Boucher said USF should be revised to permit monies for broadband networks. Currently, the $6 billion fund subsidizes only traditional phone networks.
"I personally think that broadband should be part of that equation," Boucher said, adding that "the time may come in the not-too-distant future in which USF can be greatly restricted in scope, and perhaps eliminated altogether."
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