In light of efforts by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to plan and implement Universal Service Fund (USF) reforms, Alaskan Congressman Don Young and Rep. Collin Peterson (MN) have co-founded the House Universal Service Fund Caucus. The bipartisan USF Caucus’ main goal will be to provide Members of Congress and their staffs with the resources to better understand the complex and rapidly changing world of 21st century communications services. By examining the USF’s four programs, High Cost, Low-Income, Rural Healthcare, and Schools and Libraries (E-Rate); the Caucus will examine the challenges of constructing the communications infrastructure for the future.
“I am both proud and honored to be joined by my good friend Congressman Peterson in forming the Universal Service Fund Caucus,” said Rep. Young. “Rural or urban, every American ought to have access to the same level and cost of communication services as their fellow Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that as the FCC moves forward with reforms, we continue to hold true to this ‘universal service’ concept.”
“The Universal Service Fund has a history of connecting rural America to communications services, and my hope is that this caucus will help ensure that rural voices aren’t left out of the process as the FCC moves forward to implement reforms,” Peterson said. “Rural America has the same communications needs as their urban counterparts. However, in order to provide fast and reliable service, the government needs to assist providers to help defray costs.”
The idea behind all Americans having access to affordable communications services, commonly called the "universal service concept,” started in 1934 with the Communications Act. Ever since, universal service has been a basic principle of communications policy at the federal level, and Congress has historically played an active role in preserving this.
In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which not only codified the universal service concept, but also formed, in 1997, the federal Universal Service Fund (USF or Fund) to meet the universal service objectives and principles contained in the 1996 act.