[ Text Version | WordPerfect Version ]

fcclogo NEWS

Federal Communications Commission
1919 - M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

June 12, 1998

Press Statement
Commissioner Susan Ness

Re: Fifth Order on Reconsideration and Fourth Report and Order, Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, CC Docket No. 96-45.

Today's decision is a difficult one for me. I am respectful of the concerns that have been expressed by several of the leading Members of the United States Congress concerning the FCC's plans to provide universal service support for schools, libraries, and rural health care. We have taken their concerns to heart. I am also respectful of the dozens of Senators and scores of Representatives who have urged us not to jeopardize the interests of the thousands of institutions that are now prepared to move forward. I share these Members' commitment to the vision embodied in the Snowe-Rockefeller-Exon-Kerrey provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

I believe these competing concerns can be accommodated, and I am determined to do everything in my power to safeguard these programs, while squarely addressing the concerns of the critics. Today's decision is but one step in that process. Ensuring the completeness and accuracy of consumer bills will be another.

I embrace the universal service provisions of the Communications Act. For over two years, the FCC has worked diligently with our partners, the state commissions, to promote all of the universal service. High-cost support is in place, and it is working. Low-income support is in place, and it is working. The school, library, and rural health care systems are in place, and ready to begin working. And all of the funds for all of these efforts have been collected at the same time that aggregate costs for long distance carriers -- who carry about 90 percent of the burden -- were decreased.

On July 1, the costs of universal service for long distance companies will not rise by a single cent. At the same time, the prices the long distance companies pay for "interstate access services" will decline by approximately $800 million (in addition to last year's decline of $1.7 billion). In a competitive market, lower costs means lower prices. Consumers have every reason to expect them -- and to demand them. But let's not begrudge the fraction of one percent that is going to a brighter future.