Decision to Limit Federal Support Will Compromise Economic Development and
Severely Limit Public Safety Resources
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2007 – [Milwaukee, Wisconsin] – Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) signaled its intent to cap the Federal Universal Service Fund (USF) “very soon” – most likely by November 1, 2007. This is especially dangerous for Wisconsin as the USF provides critical support for wireless companies to build new cell towers in high-cost areas across the country, including rural communities across Wisconsin.
Congress created the USF to make sure that telecommunications technology doesn’t leave rural communities behind. The USF has enabled wireless carriers like U.S. Cellular to build hundreds of towers in rural communities nationwide and bring new service to areas that would not have otherwise had access.
“We can’t understand why the FCC is moving forward with the cap in the face of resounding opposition from rural citizens across the country,” said John Rooney, President and CEO of U.S. Cellular. “I was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in June because this is such an important issue for Americans. Fourteen members of Congress have submitted letters to the FCC opposing the cap, and this ill-informed political agenda will only compromise rural communities across the country.”
Since becoming eligible to receive federal support in 2002, U.S. Cellular has invested almost $50 million in USF funds statewide in Wisconsin, in addition to millions of internally generated capital. With USF funding, U.S. Cellular has built towers in Bailey’s Harbor, Muscoda, Colgate, Brodhead, Sparta and St. Francis, all towns with populations less than 10,000. If the FCC succeeds in capping the USF, Wisconsin could lose as much as $7 million annually and as many as 20 new towers could be jeopardized.
Without reliable wireless coverage, first responders like police officers and firefighters cannot quickly and reliably deal with critical safety issues. Also, E-911 technology is useless in areas without wireless coverage, and in high-cost rural areas, wireless companies rely on federal support to make these resources available to smaller communities.
“We have to make sure that rural residents in Wisconsin don’t get left behind,” said Richard Stadelman, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Towns Association. “Limiting federal support for wireless growth will not only widen the technological gap faced by Wisconsin’s rural residents, it will hinder economic development and jeopardize public safety.”
U.S. Cellular is calling on Congress and the FCC to protect universal service funding for wireless carriers serving rural America. Rural consumers pay into the fund and deserve access to the same reliable wireless service and choices found in urban America. With universal service support, U.S. Cellular stands ready to deliver high-quality wireless service in rural parts of Wisconsin- everywhere that Wisconsin customers live, work and play. For more information, please visit www.connectingruralamerica.org.
U.S. Cellular is the nation’s sixth-largest wireless service carrier, providing wireless service to six million customers in 26 states. The Chicago-based company employs 8,000 associates and operates on a customer satisfaction strategy, meeting customer needs by providing a comprehensive range of wireless products and services, superior customer support, and a high-quality network.