Satellite Ops Want Universal Service Cash

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Satellite-broadband providers Dish
Network, EchoStar Technologies, ViaSat/WildBlue
Communications and Hughes Network Systems say
they should be allowed to participate in the Connect
America Fund.

The Federal Communications Commission is
reforming the Universal Service Fund, which has
been supporting traditional phone, to subsidize
broadband in unserved areas via the new Connect
America Fund.

Satellite operators
said there are
no technical reasons
to exclude
satellite broadband
from obtaining
funds under the
revised regime.

“Greater reliance
on satellite
broadband to
achieve universal
service goals
is entirely consistent
with the
proposed principles,”
the satellite
providers said in
comments filed
April 18. “The Administration and the Commission
have made ubiquitous broadband a national priority,
and satellite broadband providers hold the key to
achieving these ambitious goals on a timely and costeffective basis.”

“No provider — terrestrial or satellite — currently
possesses infrastructure or capacity sufficient to extend
broadband service to every unserved household
… The relevant question is not whether satellite
broadband providers can solve the nation’s broadband
concerns with currently committed capacity,
but rather whether satellite broadband providers
should be permitted to compete on an equal basis
with other providers for funding to add the capacity
needed to serve the unserved. Unquestionably, they
should be allowed to do so.”

The satellite providers noted they support broadband
applications, including voice-over-Internet protocol,
streaming video and HD video conferencing.

The FCC will achieve its goals of universal broadband
access more cost-effectively by allowing satellite
broadband providers’ participation, Dish, EchoStar,
ViaSat/WildBlue and Hughes said. The commission
“should exercise its statutory authority to make support
available to non-common-carrier broadband
providers,” they said. “There should be federal procedures
to designate nationwide broadband providers
as [eligible telecommunications carriers] in all
states, consistent with the Commission’s authority
under section 214(e)(6).”

According to the satellite companies, it would be
possible to deploy enough satellite capacity to provide
broadband service with at least 4 Megabits per second
downstream and 1 Mbps upstream to all the unserved
household in the U.S. — estimated to be up to
24 million people — at an overall cost well below the
$24 billion estimated required funding for the Connect
America Fund.