Steve Goodman has been practicing telecommunications law since 1983, when he began working at the Federal Communications Commission. He now represents a wide variety of clients, including telecommunications equipment manufacturers, satellite service providers and international carriers.
When Congress injected competition into the communications market in its landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress recognized that the previous system of hidden subsidies was incompatible with a competitive marketplace.
Congress required the Federal Communications Commission to create a transparent, fair and non-distortive subsidy program, which became the Universal Service Fund. Over the last twenty-two years, the USF program has been expanded, updated and reformed significantly to reflect the significant changes in telecommunications technology.
But one aspect of the USF program that remains woefully out-of-date is the contribution requirements. While the Commission has done a little bit of tweaking to the contribution requirements since 1996 (such as requiring VoIP to contribute; and altering the percentage of wireless services subject to the contribution requirement), the Commission last proposed a major overhaul of the contribution system in 2006. And that proceeding has never been resolved. The Commission cannot keep kicking the contribution issues down the road indefinitely.