Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Capitol Hill Briefing on Universal Service

Several of my Penn State colleagues and I briefed Senate and House staffers on universal service reform. Some of our papers are available at:

It's been quite some time since I last made the rounds on Capitol Hill, but remarkably the process and the environment have changed little. The staffers are remarkably young and typically are both earnest and qualified. They welcomed our viewpoints, in part because we have the luxury of being able to answer their questions without a fixed party line. Having limited financial sponsorship--with no strings attached--appears to be the exception.

Additionally the staffer had a keen interest in hearing from anyone other than the telephone companies, their trade associations and their sponsored academic researchers. Several staffers mentioned how carpet bombing the Hill can work against stakeholders' interests. On the other hand an issue such as universal service has a substantial political and employment component.

Staffers want to find a way to avoid stranding sunk wireline telco investment, but also transition to an environment that recognizes voice telephony as a software application typically available at little cost.