FCC Commissioner Wants Big Tech to Pay for Internet Infrastructure and Maintenance

According to a press release issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday, Commissioner Brendan Carr’s recent op-ed for Newsweek explains why sites with heavy internet traffic like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime should pay into the Universal Service Fund (USF) to defray the mounting costs of maintaining high-speed internet networks currently borne by users.

The press release states that presently, the USF “relies on a charge that operates as tax on consumers’ monthly bills for traditional telephone services.” Under Carr’s new funding approach, so-called “Big Tech” would pay its proportional share instead of free-riding on internet infrastructure, the op-ed stated. Ending the companies’ long-standing and lobbied for “corporate welfare” is overdue and just, the FCC’s senior Republican commissioner argued in Newsweek.

In support of his proposal, Carr cited the results of a study showing that five of the most popular television and movie streaming services account for 75% of traffic on rural broadband networks, while 77-94% of network costs relate to capacity additions or delivery support for those streaming services. “Ordinary Americans, not Big Tech, have been footing the bill for those costs,” Carr wrote.

According to the press release, Carr has been discussing such changes with other members of the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service. The move, the release added, would help close the “digital divide.”

Carr called for an end to Big Tech’s “sweetheart deal,” asking Congress to pass legislation requiring the largest tech companies to “contribute[] an equitable amount” to the USF. Doing so, the commissioner explained, would place the federal government’s universal service program on stable footing.