The American Cable Association (ACA) is front-burnering its efforts to push the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move a little faster when it comes to Universal Service Fund reform, particularly when it comes to providing broadband Internet services in high-cost rural areas.

The group’s support for a major USF overhaul was included in comments filed yesterday at the commission, which is expected to adopt new rules later this year. 

"Under Chairman Genachowski’s leadership, the FCC is poised to create a new mission for the USF, which is to rely on high-cost fund money to support rural broadband deployment for the first time in our nation’s history," noted ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka in a statement. "With adoption of needed reforms proposed by the ACA in detail, the independent cable community fully anticipates the FCC’s new Connect America Fund (CAF) will make significant headway in bringing about universal broadband service. Clearly, the status quo is unacceptable."

Here’s what the ACA wants:

>> USF reform that is both fiscally responsible and competitively neutral, meaning the $4.4 billion high-cost fund should be capped and any monies garnered from crackdowns on inefficiencies be used for the CAF.

>> Elimination of high-cost support where broadband competition already exists. 

>> Any carrier receiving FCC broadband funding must meet the service requirements that are part of the award criteria. “ACA recognizes that many telecommunications carriers will need time to adjust to the CAF’s requirements,” it writes. “As a result, the FCC should provide a reasonable, but not unlimited, transition period for smaller incumbent telephone companies because of their greater reliance on support. This also will help ensure that no household currently receiving supported service will be stranded.”

In separate but related rural broadband news, Tenn.-based Highland Telephone Cooperative will be using Sorrento Networks’ GigaMux 3200 CWDM solution to deliver high-speed broadband services to rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

The $66.5 million “Fiber Forward” project will use WDM technology, and the GigaMux 3200 can provide SONET OC3 to OC48 and GigaBit Ethernet. The Highland network, which won broadband stimulus monies, will be expanded to more than 1,700 linear miles of fiber.

“We’re very excited to bring this broadband project to these areas of Tennessee and Kentucky, thereby bringing exciting educational and economic opportunities to schools, businesses, homes, and more,” notes Fred Terry, general manager at Highland Telephone Cooperative. 

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