The Federal Communications Commission once again has acted to reduce
the costs for family calls made to military people deployed to the
Middle East and other postings.
In an order adopted Jan. 8 but not released until yesterday, the FCC
"exempted from Universal Service Fund (USF) and Telecommunications
Relay Services (TRS) fund contribution requirements revenue from calls
covered by section 2(a) of the Call Home Act, including, but not
limited to, calls made using prepaid calling cards and post-paid
calling cards, and collect calls made by Armed Forces personnel."
The commission also says it will a issue a Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking "to propose and seek comment on additional steps the
commission might take to further implement the Call Home Act and thus
further reduce the cost to military personnel of calling home."
Comments from military families in particular are being solicited
regarding their experiences and "on the benefits and limitations of
the various services and the associated costs and fees."
In a joint statement, the five-member commission said, "This
forbearance action is intended to allow telecommunications providers
to offer immediate relief to our Armed Forces personnel stationed and
deployed abroad. However, the actions we take here are intended to be
interim in nature, and we recognize that the most effective and
appropriate relief may change, depending both on the commission's
resolution of other USF contribution issues in its 'Contribution
Methodology Proceeding' and on the record that is generated in
response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that we intend to
Responding immediately to the FCC's action, Sen. Ted Stevens
(R-Alaska) lauded the agency for acting quickly to begin implementing
the Call Home Act of 2006, which passed Congress late last year. That
bill was sponsored by Stevens and Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel
"As a former military pilot stationed overseas during World War II, I
know how much it means to be able to communicate with families and
loved ones at home," Stevens says. "American service members used to
rely on mail, but now our troops rely on the Internet and phone
calls. It can cost soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as much as
33 cents a minute to call their families in Alaska. [The] action by
the FCC will immediately provide our troops and their families with
access to more affordable communications services."
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: This action should have the effect of
reducing the cost of these phone calls to about five or ten cents
each, assuming all carriers play by the rules. PAT]