Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony complained Thursday that the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund subsidy program is collecting $110 million, 15 times higher than what it was 20 years ago.
He voted against increasing to $2.02-per-line a fee on phone customers’ monthly bills collected to fund what he called a “runaway” program. Commissioners Todd Hiett and Kim David voted to increase the monthly bills of telephone customers in the state.
A longtime critic of the secrecy of the expenditures of the OUSF funds that go to small telecommunications companies, Commissioner Anthony again pointed to the critical information that is withheld from the public, including the media. In a dissenting opinion filed with the Commission, he said some of the state’s independent phone companies are receiving subsidy payments of a million dollars a year without “having to publicly disclose the most basic fundamentals of their business.’
Anthony raised the same secrecy issue four years ago and asked in a letter to legislators, “”What if it were found that some of this $53 million annual subsidy enables $150,000+ compensation/benefit packages for numerous family members of an independent telephone company’s ownership?”
He again called for basic transparency and disclosure about the program so the public will know where the OUSF monies actually go.
“To network improvements, infrastructure build-out and modernization? Or to better salaries, higher profits and larger dividends for a few dozen independent telephone companies and/or their owners?”
Anthony said the entire $110 million for FY 2023 OUSF “canot be justified by the popular but relatively small $9 million component benefiting schools, libraries, hospitals and telemedicine.”