8:38 PM EDT
Gil Gutknecht, R-MN 1st

Mr. GUTKNECHT. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 1 1/2 minutes.

Mr. Chairman, I rise on behalf of the Bipartisan Congressional Rural Caucus. The amendment we offer tonight is real simple: It preserves the right of the FCC to require VoIP providers to contribute to the universal service fund and pay appropriate intercarrier compensation fees.

Today, VoIP providers do not contribute to the USF, which is the mechanism that helps build and maintain the communications network that we all rely on, especially in rural America. All other voice providers contribute. Regardless of where you live, we all depend on a vibrant, strong communications network.

So why are we doing this on this bill? Title 3 of the COPE Act is a VoIP title. The language grants VoIP providers all the benefits of being telecommunications carriers, such as the right to interconnect with networks and access to right-of-way. It also gives VoIP providers some of the same responsibilities, such as providing the E-911 service, complying with regulations for the disabled, number portability, et cetera. However, H.R. 5252 does not classify VoIP providers as telecommunications

carriers, and therefore they do not have all the same social responsibilities such as USF contributions and intercarrier payments. Our amendment would not mandate that VoIP providers contribute to USF or pay intercarrier compensation fees, nor would

it require the FCC to force them to do these things; it merely preserves the FCC's authority to do so. We need to assure the FCC that it is not congressional intent to exempt VoIP providers from the duties required under other communications networks.

Mr. Chairman, I urge passage of this amendment and the underlying bill.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.