As if the rising inflation and costs of groceries and other goods weren’t enough, some Texans’ will see an increase in their phone bills after the Public Utility Commission of Texas raised the assessment for the Texas Universal Service Fund from 3.3 percent to 24 percent. 

The Texas State Universal Fund Surcharge is a fee that voice service providers assess to recover their required contributions to the Texas Universal Service Fund. The fee is based on the cost that those companies pay to provide long-distance service within the state. 

The fund supports a program that assists small telephone companies providing service in rural areas and the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program.  

According to the Houston Chronicle, Texans with individual cell phone plans will have to pay a few extra dollars, but the increase will mainly affect those with family plans and pay-per-minute rates. 

Patriot Mobile, a wireless provider that donates to conservative causes, sent out an email to their customers explaining that this new fee is not the result of their company but of the Public Utility Commission of Texas and unelected bureaucrats:

As a result, you will see an increase on that line item of your bill. This is not a Patriot Mobile fee increase. This affects all cell phone customers regardless of the service provider. While this is an example of how unelected bureaucrats affect hard-working Americans, those bureaucrats were given this authority in 1996 by Congress. Elections have consequences.

Patriot Mobile also stated they are not supported by the programs that assist small telephone companies. 

The amount of the surcharge has been the subject of litigation in Texas; smaller telephone companies and co-ops have expressed grievances against the PUC, accusing them of underpaying their Universal Service Funds. 

Recently, a court ruled in favor of the small companies and ordered the PUC to repay the businesses, resulting in the extreme surcharge rise. The court also ordered that the commission restore $200 million in overdue money to the fund.

The PUC says they anticipate the rate hike to be temporary, stating, “Once the outstanding obligations are fulfilled, the Commission anticipates lowering the rate to a level that maintains the fund balance going forward.”

Emily Wilkerson

Emily is a summer fellow for Texas Scorecard. She is a senior at the University of Oklahoma, studying journalism with a minor in political science. She enjoys investigative journalism and making sure that every side of a story is being told.

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