OPASTCOOPASTCO--the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Carriers–has the outlines of a plan to reform the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation programs for rural incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), one that it claims will ‘hasten progress towards the ubiquitous availability of affordable high-speed broadband service’ in rural areas.

Implementing such a plan would speed up progress toward making affordable, high-speed broadband ubiquitous across the nation, according to OPASTCO.

“Our nation needs a reformed, sustainable High-Cost universal service program that addresses our country’s growing thirst for high-speed broadband. OPASTCO’s plan gives rural ILECs the necessary resources they need to serve as fixed broadband carriers of last resort, and each carrier can choose when to opt-in to the plan,” said Stuart Polikoff, OPASTCO’s Vice President – Regulatory Policy and Business Development, in a news release. “This ensures that residents and businesses everywhere, no matter where they are located, have access to the same advanced broadband services.”

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Filing comments with the FCC yesterday, the industry association’s plan outline includes the following key components:

  • Creation of a new Universal High-Speed Broadband Fund that would support all major network components and both capital and operational expenditures;
  • Providing support for one fixed technology and one mobile wireless high-speed broadband provider in each rural service area with the amount of support based on a demonstration of actual costs that surpass a threshold level and quality of service;
  • Rural ILECs would be able to opt-in to the new Fund at any time during a 7-year transition period and initially receiving the same support amount they currently receive;
  • Scaling back all Intercarrier Compensation Rates to zero over the 7-year transition period as support from the new program fund scales up;
  • At the end of the 7-year–at which time the conversion from PSTN to an all digital, broadband network should be complete–carriers would recover broadband network costs by charging end-users and support from the new fund.

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