Phone bills may be going up

Lisa Napoli Jun 21, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: You think you’re so smart, getting around higher phone bills by only using a cell phone or some of that voice over the internet thing. Yeah well the Federal Communications Commission took a little wind out of your sails today. Everybody’s gonna pay a little bit more. From American Public Media, this is Marketplace.

From the Frank Stanton Studios in Los Angeles, I’m Kai Ryssdal. Today’s Tuesday, June the 21st. Great to have you with us on this first day of summer. This one’s for all the times you can’t get a signal on your cell phone or your landline goes dead. The Federal Communications Commission decided today your various phone bills will probably be going up. So that other people can have service. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli has all the details.

LISA NAPOLI: If you ever studied the fine print on your phone bill, you might have noticed you pay into something called the Universal Service Fund.

It’s something created a decade ago, initially to help hook up phone lines in poor and rural areas. The fund was facing a shortfall, so today the FCC found a way to offset it.

Now, Internet phone providers have to pay into the fund. Before they’d been making voluntary contributions.

Jeff Pulver’s a pioneer in the business.

JEFF PULVER:“At a time when America is flying behind the world in broadband deployment, makes no sense whatsoever.”

Pulver thinks the Universal Service Fund is outdated, and should be revamped to fund different technologies like universal broadband service.

The future of the fund was the focus of a House Energy and Commerce committee hearing today.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t just Internet phone providers that took a hit. The FCC also raised the rates paid into the fund by the wireless industry.

And Debra Wayne of the Telecom Information Group says you know what that means:

DEBRA WAYNE: “Just judging from such assessments from the past, it will show up somewhere on a bill.”

Just how much that adds up to isn’t yet clear.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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