Academic Letter in Support of FCC Investigation of the Future of Universal Service, August 15, 2022

A group of diverse telecom policy scholars signed the attached letter to the Federal Communications Commission in their proceeding on the Future of Universal Service. They observe:

“Due to the exponential growth of the internet, it is not fair or tenable that end users should shoulder the entire cost of USF through their monthly bills. This is harmful and inappropriate for important reasons.

It makes policy sense for funding to come from a broad range of sources and beneficiaries, not simply from those who purchase a monthly subscription for communications services themselves. As such, the cost of USF falls hardest on people of low and moderate income. In this way, USF has become, perversely, one of the most cruel and regressive taxes

“Moreover, it is unfair and inappropriate that the burden is shouldered by telecommunications providers and their customers alone. It makes their services more expensive when in fact end users simply access the internet to purchase a range of other services. In reality, a multitude of stakeholders benefit from the networks constructed with USF funds, while only consumers and telecommunications providers bear the financial burden. If universal service is accepted as a kind of social commitment to ensure that the most vulnerable Americans have access, then a range of other entities have the social obligation to participate, particularly those services accessed by end user consumers.

“We do not propose that every organization contribute to USF. However, from the perspective of fairness, common sense and decency, the handful of largest, richest, and most profitable corporations in America—Big Tech and particularly the Big Streamers—which directly derive their existence and success from access to the internet and to internet customers should contribute to USF.”

The signers include

  • Sally Broughton Micova, PhD
    • Center on Regulation in Europe Academic Co-Director University of East Anglia
  • Silvia Elaluf Calderwood, PhD
    • Adjunct Professor, Florida International University
  • Bronwyn Howell, PhD
    • Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Petrus Potgieter, PhD
    • Institute for Technology and Network Economics University of South Africa
  • James Prieger
    • Professor of Public Policy, School of Public Policy Pepperdine University
  • Joel Thayer
    • President, Digital Progress Institute
  • William Webb
    • CEO, Webb Search Limited
    • Former Director of Technology Resources, Ofcom
  • Roslyn Layton, PhD
    • Visiting Researcher, Center for Communication, Media and Information Technology Aalborg University, Denmark

Read about the hearing.

Read the letter.