Of late there has been substantial buzz surrounding the details of last year’s Universal Service Fee recipients, or USF, and none of it has been particularly flattering. We have Verizon and AT&T raking in billions of dollars of course. Then there is this year’s poster child for excessive spending: Weavtel, which serves 14 customers in a remote corner of Washington and raked in an obscene $17,763 per line. And over on ConnectedPlanet today, there is a detailed look at a variety of other USF insanities such as identical support for wireless carriers and tons of cash allocated to more than a dozen providers serving the same small area which is obviously not so hard to reach.
All I can say is, despite all the outraged noises … are we really surprised? Really? The longer a government program exists beyond its original design, the larger and more frequent will be the trucks that are driven through its now numerous and spacious loopholes. It’s a law of nature, or of bureaucracy I guess. There’s really no way around it other than to periodically tear the old construct down and build a new one – thus starting with new but smaller and less familiar loopholes.
But we’re not doing that of course, we’re pretending that the USF still has something to do with ensuring universal service. Well, it does in some cases still of course, but that has ceased to be its primary purpose on a practical level. Just wait until the FCC applies it to broadband…
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