Limited Waiver Granted for Federal USF Performance Testing Sample Size

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The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC, Commission) Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) has issued an Order waiving the requirement that carriers receiving federal high-cost universal service fund (USF) support conduct performance testing on 100% of the required sample size for the first two quarters of 2022, provided those carriers conduct tests for at least 70% of the required sample size. 

Recipients of high-cost USF funding must test the supported networks for compliance with broadband speed and latency metrics, and certify and report the results to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), with those results subject to audit.  These testing requirements come into effect on a schedule that is aligned with the carrier’s deployment obligations, and include a year of pre-testing during which testing must be performed but carriers are not subject to penalties for missing performance metrics.

Recipients of Connect America Cost Model II (A-CAM II), Connect America Fund Broadband Loop Support (CAF BLS), and Connect America Fund (CAF) II Auction support are starting pre-testing this year.  With the waiver granted in the Order, they will be required to submit pre-test results in the first two quarters of 2022 for 70% of the sample locations selected randomly by USAC.  If a carrier misses the 70% threshold, it may be subject to withholding of 5% of the associated USF support until it comes into pre-testing compliance.

Recipients of Alternative Connect America Cost Model I (A-CAM I) support, Rural Broadband Experiment (RBE) support, and Alaska Plan support completed pre-testing at the end of 2021. They are now required to submit actual test results in 2022 and are subject to varying and potentially substantial levels of withholding depending on the degree to which they fall short of their performance metrics.  With the waiver granted in the Order, however, they only need to submit results for 70% of the sample locations selected randomly by USAC in the first two quarters of 2022.  If they miss the 70% threshold, the missing locations will be deemed to have failed performance testing and the carriers may be subject to substantial withholding of USF support.

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