October 04, 2012
USF Changes Have CLECs, VoIP Providers Wondering Whether They Can Benefit
By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor
You would expect an audience consisting of largely over-the-top VoIP providers and competitive local exchange carriers would have especially strong interests in understanding how the Universal Service Fund might change over the next several years, as the Federal Communications Commission shifts focus to supporting “broadband access,” rather than “voice” services, in rural and other high-cost areas.
That was clearly the case at an ITEXPO session on universal service featuring communications attorneys Toby Bargar of BillSoft, Barlow Keener (News - Alert) of the Keener Law Group and Mark O'Connor of Lampert, O'Connor & Johnston.
One clear requirement, the attorneys emphasized, was the need to build facilities in rural and other under-served areas, with downstream bandwidths of at least 4 Mbps, and offer two-way voice services (inbound and outbound) using public network phone numbers.
Attendees had questions about who can apply and how to apply for status as an “eligible telecommunications carrier,” how much it costs, how long it takes, and what obligations come with receipt of USF funds.
The attorneys emphasized that even with a new emphasis on broadband access, fund recipients still have to provide voice services and comply with all the other obligations that come with being a common carrier.
They emphasized that there likely will be some amount of declining opportunity for arbitrage by competitive carriers as well.
With a new emphasis on funding just one provider in each market, using a reverse auction process, the implications for would-be ETC providers are a little blurry.
On the one hand, that might be a negative if a potential ETC believes the incumbent is able to outbid the potential ETCs in an area. Those other potential ETCs also could include the major wireless carriers. On the other hand, the “one recipient per market” approach raises the potential gross revenue a competitive ETC could expect to receive.
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Edited by Braden Becker