Rep. John Dingell Letter to FCC Chairman Kennard.
Re: Universal Service Support for Schools and Libraries.
Date: June 4, 1998.
Source: House Commerce Committee/Committee Democrats Website.
June 4, 1998
The Honorable William E. Kennard
Federal Communications Commission
1919 M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Dear Chairman Kennard:
I am writing with respect to the Commission's announcement this week that it intends to hold a special meeting on Tuesday to vote on Orders concerning the implementation of the Universal Service provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Had this announcement represented a realization that the Commission blundered badly in creating an extravagant, expensive, improper, and illegal entitlement program for schools and libraries, I would have been appreciative. Unfortunately, our telephone conversation on this matter provided little comfort. To the contrary, the "solution" under discussion will only compound your problems by raising once again the telephone bill of every American. The new charge to be considered on Tuesday is designed to collect more than one billion dollars of additional money to wire schools and libraries to the Internet this year, on top of a separate surcharge ordered three weeks ago for number portability cost recovery.
This is asinine.
The 1996 Act, of which I was a primary author, contained Universal Service provisions designed to achieve several goals. First among these is to keep local telephone service affordable. In addition, Congress required that telecommunications carriers offer schools and libraries advanced telecommunications services at a discount. The Commission's Universal Service program has failed miserably at achieving either of these goals. Instead of a discount program the Commission has created an off-budget grant program costing telephone ratepayers nearly $2 billion per year and increasing the cost of telephone service.
The new Commission should simply pull the plug on its discredited Universal Service program. The Commission should commence a rulemaking that will establish a new program consistent with its statutory mandate and the intent of Congress. Anything less may force the Congress to address this problem with a legislative remedy that would very sharply circumscribe your authorities in this area.
You also should anticipate receiving a separate letter from me containing questions regarding the Commission's authority to implement the Universal Service program in the manner it has chosen.
JOHN D. DINGELL
cc: The Honorable Tom Bliley
The Honorable W.C. "Billy" Tauzin
The Honorable Edward J. Markey
The Honorable John McCain
The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings
The Honorable Conrad Burns
Commissioner Susan Ness
Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth
Commissioner Michael Powell
Commissioner Gloria Tristani