FCC Reports to Congress on Future of the Universal Service Fund

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The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) has issued its Report on the Future of the Universal Service Fund (Report) as required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Report includes recommendations for Congress and the FCC to “build upon” the Act’s $65 billion investment in broadband, and to “improve the ability of the Commission to achieve its goals of universal deployment, affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access to broadband through the Universal Service Fund (USF or Fund) and other Commission programs ….”  Among other things, the Report recommends:

  • The FCC initiate a proceeding “to consider the future support needs of networks serving high-cost and other hard to serve areas.”
  • The FCC proceed with “additional support for mobile broadband through a competitive process” when it has better coverage maps.
  • The FCC “initiate a rulemaking to evaluate how the Lifeline program can best operate with the Affordable Connectivity Program.”
  • The FCC  “consider continuing Lifeline support for voice-only service.”
  • Congress expand the list of entities eligible for Rural Health Care Program funding.

In addition, the Report reviews the extensive record generated by comments on USF contribution reform.  The FCC does not make any recommendations, stating instead that it will “continue to evaluate developments … and consider further actions if necessary.”  It does recommend that the FCC, if it considers changes to USF contributions, “avoid raising the cost of broadband service and shifting the financial burden from corporations to consumers at a point in time when the federal government is working to address affordability challenges contributing to the digital divide.”  Further, the Report recommends that “Congress provide the Commission with the legislative tools needed to make changes to the contributions methodology and base in order to reduce the financial burden on consumers, to provide additional certainty for entities that will be required to make contributions, and to sustain the Fund and its programs over the long term.”

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