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USF versus the Universal Service Fund

A proposal to change the fees applied to long distance phone calls made on college campuses could end up costing the nation’s universities thousands of dollars.

The Federal Communication Commission wants to change the existing Universal Service Fund fee, which is based on the number of long-distance calls a line makes, to a flat rate for each telephone and data line an entity operates, according to its Web site.

Based on a report from, which used data from the American Council on Education’s review of the fee, the change in the Universal Service Fund would result in a university’s phone bill increasing an average of 892 percent – using an assumed rate of $1 per phone line. The report also estimates USF’s Universal Service Fund payment will go from $18,000 to $180,000.

While the report mentions USF as one of a “growing number” of schools united against the fund, some university officials aren’t aware of its existence.

Chief Financial Officer Carl Carlucci said he would not comment because he wasn’t familiar with the Universal Service Fund. Media Relations Director Lara Wade also said she was not familiar with the possible fee increase.

Dionne Speer, an accountant in USF’s Information Technologies Department, is quoted in a release that accompanied the report.

“The contribution factor for the universal service program has been stable for the last three quarters, which calls into question the need for immediate reform of the current revenue-based approach,” Speer said. “We hope that the Commission modifies its universal service policies in a manner that reflects the potential impact on colleges and universities.”

According to the FCC’s Web site, the goals of Universal Service Fund are to “promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable and affordable rates (and to) increase access to advanced telecommunications services throughout the nation.”

It also states that “all providers of telecommunications services should contribute to federal universal service in some equitable and nondiscriminatory manner.”

If the fee is changed, the report cited four areas where a university might cover the increase in costs: cuts in university phone service, reduced student safety, diversion of resources from technology investments and tuition increases.

“Somebody will have to pay for it,” said Blair Henderson, a junior accounting major.

Henderson disagrees with the application of the fee and said he hopes students won’t have to shoulder the brunt of the costs.

“I think it should be on how much the students really use the phone services,” Henderson said. “They should look at the department that’s using phones more than anyone else and reflect their usage with the bill that they get.”

But some, like engineering graduate student Melody Nocon, aren’t concerned whether the entire estimated fee increase ($162,000) is passed along to USF’s 40,000 students.

“Well, if it’s like three more dollars, I really don’t mind.”