According to TR Daily [subscription required], the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council has weighed in on the dispute between telcos and AT&T Corp. over the latter's prepaid calling card services, urging the FCC to preserve universal service and access charge mechanisms by declaring that the offerings in question are telecommunications, not information, services.
The MMTC says: "It should be axiomatic that if a service is regarded and actually used by consumers as telecommunications, providers of that service should pay their USF [Universal Service Fund] and access charge obligations."
There are, of course, very fundamental questions concerning the extent to which the rationales underlying the high-cost and low income Universal Service funds remain valid in today's marketplace. For a PFF report that helps elucidate those fundamental questions, click here. But, the MMTC is on to something, of course, in presuming that in a rational regime, the focus for regulatory purposes should be on how consumers actually perceive and use services in the marketplace, and not on the techno-functional characteristics of the service.