Florida Public Service Commission Chairman Lisa Edgar said today the Federal-State Joint Board’s recommended decision on universal service avoids placing more financial burdens on Florida’s consumers who already pay for, directly or indirectly, a significant share of the Federal Universal Service Fund (USF). Chairman Edgar is urging the Federal Communications Commission to consider and take action on the recommended decision quickly.
The USF ensures affordable access to telecommunications services for telephone customers with low incomes and for those who live in areas where the cost of providing telephone service is high.
In its decision released November 20, the Joint Board urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revise its universal “high-cost” support mechanisms, saying that using federal universal service support to subsidize competition and to build duplicate networks in high-cost areas is no longer in the public interest. To avoid increased costs for consumers paying for universal service contributions, the Joint Board recommended a $4.5 billion cap per year on the total distributed through high-cost support mechanisms.
“The Joint Board’s recommended decision will put an immediate halt to unfettered growth in the fund and provide the opportunity for fundamental and much needed reform,” Chairman Edgar said. “This is a victory for consumers who rightfully expect their federal government to be fiscally responsible with money collected from their monthly telephone bills.”
The Joint Board was established in March 1996 to make recommendations to implement the universal service provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Chairman Edgar is one of four state public utility commissioners on the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service that also includes three FCC Commissioners and a consumer advocate representative. The FCC, as directed by Congress, further developed the USF, which also provides discounts on telecommunications and Internet access for schools and libraries and advanced communications services for rural health care providers.
The PSC is committed to making sure that Florida's consumers receive their electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater services in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner. The PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in the areas of rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitors safety, reliability, and service.
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com.