A group of Republican senators have introduced legislation directing the Federal Communications Commission to see if they can collect fees from Big Tech corporations to fund its broadband subsidy, Axios reports.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Todd Young, R-Ind., introduced the Funding Affordable Internet with Reliable Contributions Act, or FAIR Contributions Act, in order to help pay for the Universal Service Fund, a telecommunications subsidies program.
The bill states that it would "require the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a study and submit to Congress a report examining the feasibility of funding the Universal Service Fund through contributions supplied by edge providers, and for other purposes."
Wicker said in a statement that "as online platforms continue to dominate the internet landscape, we should consider the feasibility of Big Tech contributing to the USF to ensure rural areas are not left behind as we work to close the digital divide."
In addition to forcing the agency to consider charging fees, the bill would also require that the FCC look at Big Tech company’s possible revenue sources, such as user payments and advertising, and whether the FCC is able to collect fees from companies that it has not historically regulated.
The president of the Internet Association, a lobbying group that represents internet companies, K. Dane Snowden told Axios in a statement: "We recognize there are USF funding challenges, however we do not believe that new fees on internet companies are the solution."
Republican FCC commission Brendan Carr previously introduced a plan to charge Big Tech companies as a way to pay for the broadband subsidy programs back in May. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Axios at the time that the proposal was "thought-provoking," and a spokesperson for his office said, "any conversation about building out broadband for unserved Americans should include a Big Tech user fee that corresponds to their use of that infrastructure. Funding for the Universal Service Fund — which is increasingly at odds with the principle of user pays — needs to be updated and reimagined."
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