On August 15, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission released a Report on the Future of the Universal Service Fund, a comprehensive report evaluating the goals of the Universal Service Fund and making recommendations for four USF programs and its contribution mechanism.
In its Report, the Commission adopted “universal deployment, affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access to broadband throughout the United States as the Commission’s universal service goals for broadband.” While recognizing that the recent Infrastructure Act provides a significant investment in broadband nationwide, the FCC noted that it “will not achieve all of the universal service goals for broadband, and as such, the Commission should not abandon its universal service programs.”
The FCC’s Report notes that E-rate “has been instrumental in providing students and library patrons access to essential communication services.” In contemplating the Infrastructure Act’s impact on E-rate, the Commission notes that “it is expected that funding for community anchor institutions through the Infrastructure Act may complement funding available under the E-Rate and ECF programs for special construction funding requests,” but also recognizes the possibility that “an influx of network construction funding may increase demand for E-Rate support for the recurring services provided over … newly constructed high-speed networks.” The FCC also stated that it should “evaluate the results of ECF and consider how to continue to support the connectivity for students and library patrons that has been provided by the program.”
The Report also makes numerous recommendations for changes to other existing USF programs, including reorienting support provided via the High Cost program, aligning the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs, and suggesting Congressional action to revisit “the list of entities defined as health care providers” in the Rural Health Care program.
The Report may be viewed here.