WASHINGTON — Note to Internet telephone users: Your monthly bill is about
to go up.
In a long anticipated move, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
ruled Wednesday Voice over IP (define) services must contribute a portion
of their revenues to the Universal Service Fund (USF).
If VoIP providers follow the lead of local and long distance telephone
companies, wireless providers, paging firms and pay phone companies — who
already pay into the USF — the costs will be passed on to consumers.
The ruling only applies to VoIP services that interconnect with the public
switched telephone network (PSTN).
“Like public safety goals, universal service obligations transcend new
technologies and cannot be compromised,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said.
The USF subsidizes phone service in under-served and rural areas. Through
the E-rate fund, the USF also subsidizes Internet connections in schools and
According to Medley Global Advisors, the FCC order is likely to add
approximately $1.30 a month to each VoIP subscriber’s bill. An FCC spokesman
said VoIP consumers are likely to begin seeing the increase on their bills
as early as September.