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Federal Universal Service Fund

February 4, 2010

I’m about to pay my cell phone bill which is frustrating enough in itself but one thing that really bugs me is that it is never the same from month to month.  I have so many minutes and text messages that I never get close to going over and I have unlimited data so in theory shouldn’t my bill be exactly the same every month?  Well it isn’t.  Tonight I decided to finally look a little closer and here is the culprit…

Arkansas Universal Service: Last month ($0.46). This month ($0.50).
Federal Universal Service: Last month ($1.35). This month ($1.59).

There are also several taxes that went up slightly but I’m assuming they were just calculated as a percentage that included this service fee.

I called AT&T to ask them for more detail about these fees.  After waiting on hold for several minutes I was told to call the Washington state Department of Revenue.  Interesting since my account is still in Arkansas. Since AT&T was no help I turned to the internet.

The Federal Universal Service Fund (FUSF) is essentially a program created by the FCC to increase the availability of telecom services throughout the nation.  Telecom providers (AT&T) are required to contribute to this fund and may elect to pass that cost on to their customers (they do). What isn’t specified is HOW they are allowed to collect these fees, so I still don’t know why it cost me $0.24 more this month than last month. Arkansas has a similar fee called the Arkansas High Cost Fund (ARHCF) which I assume is the Arkansas Universal Service line item.

So what have I learned?  The federal government considers telephone service to be a “vital link” to our community. If you can’t afford to pay, then perhaps you qualify for one of the programs supported by the FUSF.

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