Propping Up the Universal Service Fund

Senators back new broadband taxes

At a Tuesday hearing convened by the Senate Commerce Committee, several senators from largely rural states called for expansion of the Universal Service Fund (USF), a multibillion-dollar pool of money that’s currently used to subsidize telecommunications services in rural and other high-cost areas, schools and libraries.

Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican who counts himself among the fund’s staunch supporters, said Tuesday that “without Universal Service, just having a dial tone would average about $200 per month” for many residents in his home state.

Competing Rhetoric

Going to use this article in class today as an discussion element on the topic of policy formulation — particularly as related to the use of rhetorical forms to make arguments for legitimacy: Groups mobilize against fees for bulk e-mailings [pdf]

While everyone hates the unsolicited messages that clog inboxes, the plan has spawned a backlash from an unusual coalition of liberal and conservative political groups that rely on bulk e-mails to communicate with members and raise money.

”This represents a threat to an open Internet,” said Adam Green, civic communications director of Civic Action, a liberal lobbying group.

His conservative counterpart, William Greene, president of, agreed. ”It’s actually going to restrict or have a negative impact on the free-speech activities of so many people across the country,” he said.

[…] AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said the plan is a sensible way to provide more dependable e-mail deliveries. ”It’s not much different from going to the post office and choosing from the wide variety of options as to how you want the mail delivered,” he said. Standard Internet e-mail would be supplemented by a fee-based ”express mail” service that avoids spam filters, which tie up a significant number of legitimate messages.

Bulk e-mailers who want the premium service would be charged between a quarter-cent and one cent for each certified message sent. The revenue from the program would be split between the recipient’s Internet provider — either Yahoo or AOL — and Goodmail Systems Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., which developed a certified e-mail service.