8:43 PM EDT
Bart Stupak, D-MI 1st

Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Chairman, I rise to offer this amendment on behalf of the Congressional Rural Caucus with my friend, Mr. Gutknecht from Minnesota. This amendment makes a good bill better. Our amendment is not controversial, it simply is a savings clause. It preserves the ability of the FCC to extend universal service fund and intercarrier compensation obligation to Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP providers.

The problem is that the underlying bill extends many new rights to VoIP providers, but extends only some of the responsibility. This leaves out the responsibility to contribute to the universal service system and pay appropriate compensation for use of the network.

These two funding mechanisms have ensured that we enjoy the ubiquitous phone coverage we have today, and USF funds provide affordable broadband access for low income schools, libraries, and rural health facilities.

During our hearings, Jeffrey Citron of the Vonage Holdings Company stated, and I quote: ``As a businessman, I don't get nor do I expect a free ride on anyone's network.'' Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telephone Association stated, ``The cable industry strongly supports the goals and purposes of universal service fund. Thus, cable operators that offer VoIP services already pay millions of dollars into the current system, and we support making that obligation to everyone.''