JANUARY 15, 2007 - Posted at 8:08 a.m. CST
LITTLE ROCK (AP) - For the past nine years, Arkansas telephone customers have contributed to a little known fund intended to help keep telephone service available in the state's rural areas. The surcharge for the Arkansas Universal Service Fund appears on monthly telephone bills. It's a small amount, maybe less than one dollar. But when collected from Arkansas telephone customers it amounts to nearly $16 million a year. State regulators acknowledge knowing little about the fund. A complaint filed by AT&T over how much the company has to pay into the fund was dismissed but it raised issues that state officials expect may be addressed in the current legislative session. The attorney general's office says more oversight of the fund should be built into the law. The Arkansas Telecommunications Association, which includes many of the rural telephone companies that benefit from the fund, has been discussing possible legislative changes.