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Telecom Coalition Launched to Keep America Connected; Must Ensure Every American Has Access to Affordable Telecom Choices, Group Says


ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 6 -- Uniting in an effort to ensure that all consumers have access to affordable telecommunications services and the latest technologies -- no matter where they live -- four rural telecom organizations announced today the formation of the Coalition to Keep America Connected.

Founding members of the coalition include The Independent Telephone & Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA), the National Telephone Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) and the Western Alliance (WTA). Together the associations represent more than 700 telecommunications providers serving 40 percent of the landmass across America.

During a press conference today, members of the coalition provided insight on the potential effect of changes in telecommunications policy on consumers’ ability to access affordable, modern telecommunications services and technologies. The average annual phone bill of an American living in a rural community would increase by $123. Two billion dollars of the portion of the fund that helps connect schools and libraries to the Internet could also be threatened by a change in USF, as could an additional $43 million in rural health care support.

“The Coalition to Keep America Connected was created to serve as the collective voice for rural telecommunications consumers, who may be negatively impacted as Congress rewrites the Communications Act,” said Randy W. Houdek, general manager of Venture Communications.

“The stakes in telecommunications reform are high, especially for consumers. Certain proposed policy changes would result in dramatic increases in the prices consumers pay for telecommunications services and the latest technologies,” said Mike Urdahl, director of government affairs, Great Plains Communications.

“Many rural telecommunications companies provide the only broadband network connection to rural consumers. New services, such as voice over Internet protocol, can’t reach rural consumers without riding a rural broadband network,” said Robert Williams, president of Oregon Farmers Mutual Telephone Company.

“By nearly a 3-to-1 margin Americans overwhelmingly support the USF and Congress’ continued commitment to keep all Americans connected,” said Gene Johnson, chairman and CEO, FairPoint Communications. “This support speaks volumes for the positive things that the USF program has done and all that it can continue to do to keep Americans connected.”

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