The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, Commission) has issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) initiating a proceeding (WC Docket No. 21-476) and seeking comment for a report to Congress on the future of the Universal Service Fund (USF), as required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Section 60104 of the IIJA directs the FCC to report on “the options of the Commission for improving its effectiveness in achieving the universal service goals for broadband in light of this Act.” The FCC’s report is to be submitted to Congress by August 12, 2022.
In the NOI, the FCC briefly describes the IIJA’s broadband provisions and the FCC’s current USF programs, along with other federal programs supporting the FCC’s universal service goals, which the FCC proposes to define as “universal deployment, affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access to broadband throughout the United States.” The NOI seeks input on how to harmonize these various programs so they are complementary and avoid wasteful duplication, including specific recommendations for FCC action and recommendations to Congress. Notably, the NOI seeks further input on proposals to reform USF contributions, and Commissioner Carr issued a separate statement in support of “seeking comment on contributions reform and whether large technology companies should start to contribute.” Comments are due on January 18, 2022, and reply comments will be due on January 31, 2022.