Ayotte Announces Bill to Reform Communications Program that Shortchanges New Hampshire
Granite State currently receives just 37 cents for every dollar it contributes to the "Universal Service Fund"
MANCHESTER, N.H. - U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced today that she has introduced legislation to reform a federal rural communications program that currently returns only 37 cents for every dollar that New Hampshire contributes to it.
Despite being a net "donor" of nearly $24 million to the Universal Service Fund (USF) each year, our state continues to have significant pockets that lack access to crucial communications services - including broadband technology. Ayotte's bill, the USF Equitable Distribution Act (S. 1766), would ensure that a rural state is guaranteed to receive at least 75 cents for every dollar it contributes to USF. She was joined at today's announcement in Manchester by representatives from telecommunications companies operating in New Hampshire, the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, and the New Hampshire High Tech Council.
"In our increasingly digital world, it's critical that rural communities be able to take advantage of the economic and educational benefits of high-speed Internet access. But in too many parts of New Hampshire, reliable broadband access can be hard to come by, making it more difficult for rural businesses to compete in a global marketplace," said Senator Ayotte, a member of the Commerce Committee.
She continued: "A portion of Granite Staters' telephone bills goes to the Universal Service Fund, and there's no reason why we should be shortchanged by a program that's supposed to help deploy critical communications services to every area of the state. The legislation I introduced would reform the Universal Service Fund to ensure that more of the money New Hampshire citizens contribute to the fund is invested in our state instead of subsidizing other states."
ABOUT NEW HAMPSHIRE AND THE USF:
USF is funded through contributions from telecommunications providers - wireless and wireline. The program was created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to meet the goal of promoting universal availability of quality communications service at reasonable and affordable rates for all consumers - including those in rural, insular, and high-cost areas. Initially, USF was meant just for telephones, but as technology has advanced over the past two decades, broadband has become a significant part of USF - which also aims to advance telecommunications services in schools, libraries and rural health care facilities.
In 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available, New Hampshire donated $37.9 million to USF, but received only $14.2 million through the program - a nearly $24 million shortfall. The state ranks 46th out of 50 states (and 50th out of 56 when factoring in the District of Columbia and territories) when comparing return on each dollar contributed to USF.
SENATOR AYOTTE'S BILL:
Provisions of Senator Ayotte's legislation - the USF Equitable Distribution Act - would:
• Ensure that a rural state is guaranteed to receive at least 75 cents for every dollar it contributes to USF.
• Define a rural state as having less than 200 people per square mile (New Hampshire has 147 people per square mile).
• Not increase the size of the fund.