FCC Universal Service Fund reforms came under fire Wednesday from a panel of "largely Tea Party-affiliated" Republicans during a hearing of the Small Business Committee, according to a story posted by The National Journal.
The panel, which also included some Democrats, wanted to know from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski why the commission took steps to reform the fund and what was going to happen to the small telcos that are used to receiving the payments as subsidies for providing service to difficult-to-reach customers.
"This is going to affect these carriers today," Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.), told FCC Genachowski, pointing out that one telco spent $124,000 following a waiver process, "and $124,000 is not chump change."
Landry was joined in his criticism by Rep. Allan West (R-Fla.), who said that the government provided no "certainty and predictability" to USF recipients that might face future caps on subsidies.
Genachowski's answer was that the programs could have been eliminated completely and "the simplest way to have predictability and certainty is not to have the government in this business of helping private companies roll out broadband to rural America."
While Genachowski was defending the long-awaited USF reforms, another commissioner, Ajit Pai, was delivering a speech where he said the commission moves too slowly and thus stifles growth.
"The FCC must act with the same alacrity as the industry we oversee," Pai said in a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, according to The Hill. "Delays at the Commission have substantial real-world consequences: new technologies remain on the shelves; capital lies fallow; and entrepreneurs stop hiring or, even worse, reduce their workforce as they wait for regulatory uncertainty to work itself out."
Pai's answer to the slow process is to add another layer to the FCC via an Office of Entrepreneurial Innovation that he said would ensure action on new technologies within a year of when applications are filed.
"Entrepreneurs need an advocate at the FCC—one that will hold us accountable if we delay, rather than decide. And if the OEI succeeds on its mission, we will see faster innovation, greater investment and more job creation," he said in the speech.
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