Although the US General Accountability Office “report” titled “FCC Should Improve the Accountability and Transparency of High-Cost Program Funding” lacked any specific penalties, as is the usual, for tightening up the FCC’s monitoring of use of “High Cost Funds”, traditionally known as the Universal Service Fund or USF, it did make recommendations that the FCC heed earlier GAO recommendations to analyze the use of funds given to carriers for the stated purpose of bringing broadband and telephone services to areas where there is no expectation of profit due to high infrastructure costs. The FCC agreed to make this an item of higher interest.
There are two possibilities here. The first is this report will spur no more action than the original making the same basic recommendations. Other priorities within the FCC’s very broad realm, such as the hot “Net Neutrality” issue, may prevent these recommendations from seeing action even with the best of FCC intentions. The second possibility is less beneficial to the integrity of the redistribution system, but in the long run, perhaps better for consumers. The recommendations would create higher administrative overhead in both the carriers and the FCC ultimately raising the price of core carrier services and the tax burden needed to maintain the FCC’s oversight.
Are there any winners here? In theory the winners are those in areas that would not otherwise have communications services. But as always, the question becomes “At what cost?”