On April 30, 2012, the FCC released the text of its Universal Service Fund ("USF") Contribution Mechanism Reform Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("FNPRM"). The 182-page FNPRM seeks comment on a wide scope of alternatives to the current revenues-based contribution mechanism, and does not propose the adoption of a specific plan. Among the issues raised for comment in the FNPRM are a set of alternative contribution mechanisms (including numbers-based and connections-based mechanisms), the expansion of the pool of required contributors, and the administration of the Fund.

Specifically the FCC seeks comment on:

  • The goals of USF contribution reform, with a particular emphasis on issues relating to efficiency, fairness, and sustainability;
  • Who should contribute to the fund, including:
    • whether providers of specific types of services should be required to contribute, including:
    • enterprise communications services providers;
    • text messaging providers;
    • one-way VoIP service providers;
    • broadband providers;
    • non-facilities based providers; and
    • machine-to-machine communications providers.
  • and whether the FCC has statutory authority to require contribution from such providers.
  • How contributions should be assessed, including comments on whether and how the Commission:
    • can revise and reform the current revenues-based system;
    • can instead adopt and implement connections-based contribution mechanism;
    • can instead assess contributions based on the use of telephone numbers; and or
    • adopt a hybrid-approach utilizing any combination of three approaches.
  • How the administration of the contribution mechanism can be improved, including whether the Commission should take steps to:
    • revise the reporting worksheet;
    • limit or increase the frequency of adjustment to the USF contribution factor;
    • implement a pay-and-dispute policy; and
    • provide additional oversight and accountability for the fund.
  • How contributors recover contributions from end users.

Comments are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register; replies due 60 days after publication. A full copy of the FNPRM is available here.

Recent FCC Updates

There have been several recent FCC updates: