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Congress expected to address telecommunications issues

Telecommunications issues are expected to confront the newly elected United States Congress that will take office in January 2007.

Watershed changes in the telecommunications industry and the rapid introduction of emerging technologies mean that the U.S. Congress is likely to consider a broad telecommunications bill that could mean sweeping changes for consumers, according to the nationwide Coalition to Keep America Connected.

Through the congressional process, one important element that should not change is the access that Americans currently have to telecommunications services, indicated the national coalition.

Due to the universal service fund, 94 percent of Americans are currently connected to telephone service - the highest level reported in the history of the United States, continued the coalition.

The universal service fund is a mechanism designed to help offset the cost of building, maintaining and provisioning communication networks operating at locations in the Castle Valley region, across Utah and throughout the country, explained the Coalition to Keep America Connected.

Rural Americans living in approximately 40 percent of the land mass of the United States are effectively served by more than 700 small and mid-size communications companies that offer advanced universal services, pointed out the Coalition to Keep America Connected

Many of the telecommunications companies operating nationwide are similar in size to Emery Telcom.

The local telecommunications firm is the parent company of Carbon/Emery Telcom, Hanksville Telcom and the cooperative Emery Telcom.

The three local companies provide telephone service to more than 16,000 customers in Carbon, Emery, Wayne, Sevier and Grand counties, noted the Coalition to Keep America Connected.

"We are confident that members of Congress will recognize the importance of universal service to millions of Americans who rely on it to receive affordable telecommunications services," commented Shirley Bloomfield, coalition representative. "Universal service benefits telephone customers across the country, in both rural and urban areas."

The Coalition to Keep America Connected's broad membership includes educators, doctors, entrepreneurs, farmers, small business owners, communications and high-tech industry leaders, civic groups and private individuals.

Many members of Congress have expressed strong support for universal service, added the coalition's spokesperson.

The group expects other elected officials, especially the officials representing sizeable rural constituencies at the federal level, to voice similar support.

"Many new members of Congress were elected because they care about rural issues," noted Bloomfield. "Supporting universal service is one of the most important steps they can take to demonstrate their commitment to rural Americans."

In addition to providing telephone service to rural areas, universal service enables hospitals, schools, libraries, and other vital institutions in these regions to be connected to high-speed Interne.

The universal fund also provides assistance to low-income consumers at locations across the U.S. who order basic telephone service, concluded the Coalition to Keep America Connected representative.





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