Congress returns tomorrow to do the one annual task required of it in the U.S. Constitution -- fund the federal government for another year. But Communications Daily (subscription required) is reporting today that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) may use this week to push through legislation addressing a recent FCC decision that changes the way in which Universal Service Fund fees are accounted. USTA, NCTA and others fear contribution costs will rise under the FCC's new rules.
Regardless of the merit of Stevens' proposed legislation (and not addressing the distaste one is left with at the idea of slipping it through in a lame-duck Congress), the controversy highlights the larger problem facing the USF -- namely its relevance in a completely transformed communications landscape. Ray recently argued that if USF is to be preserved in a digital world, it must be converted into "a transparent, non-bypassable tax where the net contributors will be able to trace their compelled largesse to the net beneficiaries."