USAC's Latest News Archive gives you access to all announcements related to the universal service programs as they were made throughout the years.
New legislation signed by the President on June 22, 2016, amends the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to include skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) among the list of eligible health care providers (HCPs) in both the Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) and Telecommunications Programs.
SNFs can begin applying to the program on January 1, 2017, by submitting their FCC Form 460 (HCF Program) or Form 465 (Telecom Program) to determine eligibility.
Getting Started in the RHC Program
To confirm that your facility is eligible, start the RHC Program application process by filing an FCC Form 460 (for the Healthcare Connect Fund) or FCC Form 465 (for the Telecommunications Program). You can also call the RHC Help Desk at (800) 453-1546 for help getting started with the program.
To receive RHC Program funding, in addition to being an eligible facility type such as a skilled nursing facility, the facility must be:
The 09/22/2016 Special Edition issue of the News Brief is now available. Receive E-rate Program tips, deadline reminders, and answers to your questions in this weekly newsletter. Subscribe to it and receive it each week in your inbox.
The FCC issued a Public Notice (DA-16-1052) announcing that to implement Connect America Fund Broadband Loop Support. All carriers are required to file (with USAC) forecasted cost and revenue data for the first six months of 2017 by October 1, 2016.
The forecasted cost and revenue data associated with consumer broadband-only loops, in addition to the previously collected common line data, will be collected on a revised version of FCC Form 508.
The updated FCC Forms 507, 508 and 509 and their instructions can now be accessed on the High Cost Program Forms page.
USAC launched a new tool to display information about funding request numbers (FRNs) for FY2016 and future funding years.
The FRN Status Tool, has a look and feel similar to that of the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), but it provides more choices than the DRT of information that can be retrieved.
This tool will be rolled out in two phases:
Usefulness for Service Providers
Service providers can type in their 498 ID/SPIN and from there, will be able to see committed amounts and the FCC Form 486 service start dates. This information will be helpful for invoicing purposes. You can also find instructions on using the FRN Status Tool to perform a "Standard Report" on the USAC website. Note that the search results are always returned at the FRN level, one line per FRN. The tool instructions also include the list of FCC Form 471 review statuses together with their definitions.
Through the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, $400M per year is available to health care providers for reduced rates on telecommunications services and broadband access! By participating, health care providers can save an average of 65% on eligible services.
Join us for a beginner-level webinar on October 11, RHC 101: Intro to the Rural Health Care Program, where you’ll learn about the funding available through the Healthcare Connect Fund and Telecom Programs, the differences between the programs, how to apply, and tips for successful participation.
State commissions and carriers receiving High Cost Program support must submit the Section 54.314 Certification to USAC and the FCC by October 1, 2016, to fulfill the annual certification requirements pursuant to 47 CFR Section 54.314.
Since October 1 falls on a Saturday this year, submissions received by Monday, October 3, 2016 will be considered timely.
Section 54.314 Certification Resources
More information about the Section 54.314 Certification is available at the bottom of the High Cost Program Forms page. Resources available include frequently asked questions (FAQs), filing guides, sample letters, and the Section 54.314 Online Video Series.
In the Rate of Return Reform Order (released March 30, 2016), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted limits on operating expenses (OpEx) eligible for support under the High Cost Loop Support (HCLS) and Connect America Fund Broadband Loop Support (CAF-BLS) support mechanisms. We recently notified carriers subject to the limits beginning in January 2017 via email.
An Operating Expense Limitation Worksheet (.xls) that contains the FCC's OpEx limitation formula that will be used for HCLS and CAF-BLS (formerly ICLS) payments beginning in January 2017, as well as Notes on FCC OpEx Limits are now available on USAC's High Cost Program Search Tools page.
The worksheet allows carriers settling on a cost basis to calculate potential OpEx adjustments by entering expense data for any 12-month data period to be evaluated.
Average schedule companies can use the worksheet to see their maximum allowable OpEx, but any potential cost adjustments will be calculated through the average schedule formulas similar to the existing corporate operations expense limits.
In the Rate of Return Reform Order (released March 30, 2016), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted limits on operating expenses (OpEx) eligible for support under the HCLS and CAF-BLS High Cost Program support mechanisms.
USAC has completed the determination of OpEx limits on a carrier basis. If your carrier is affected, you should have received an email with details about your OpEx limits.
Need help? Contact us.
An updated API Specification document which reflects the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Reform Order changes is now available in the pre-production environment. The updated document can be found under the "Reports and Tools" section when logged in to NLAD.
The pre-production environment can be accessed using your NLAD login credentials.
This document is designed to prepare NLAD API users for upcoming Lifeline Program enhancements, as described in the Lifeline Reform Order. These enhancements are highlighted in this document, under the "API Changes" section.
The updated document should only be used for API planning/development purposes. This should not replace the current Specification document; version 2.8.3, available in the production environment.
Join us for a webinar on September 8 to learn more about the RHC Program's filing window periods, and what the November 30 deadline means for you.
Register Now: New Funding Request Filing Window Periods + Other Program Updates Webinar
Thursday, September 8, 2016, 2:00 PM ET
During the webinar, we'll also share updates about newly-eligible Skilled Nursing Facilities, funding information, and changes to the FY2017 application forms.
Join USAC at an all-day Applicant Training for schools, libraries, and consortia that apply to the Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Program. Each training is identical; please select only one.
Register early to secure your spot - these complimentary events are very popular and have limited space.
Due to rapid and unprecedented growth in the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, USAC and the FCC believe demand for funding may exceed the $400M cap of available funding in Funding Year (FY) 2016. Demand for support has been growing steadily, and requests in FY2015 were at an historic high of $377.64M. As such, the FCC has announced a schedule for two additional filing window periods for FY2016 and an initial filing window period for FY2017.
While these filing window periods will not affect the $400 million cap, they do provide a greater opportunity for HCPs filing within a filing window period to get some support, rather than none at all, even at the point where demand exceeds the cap. Absent such filing window periods, all RHC funding requests would be subject to the “first-come, first-served” approach that is currently in place and, should the $400 million cap be met, subsequently filed HCP requests would be cut off from RHC Program funding. Such a flash cut may be particularly difficult for those RHC participants who have relied on RHC Program funds for many years. With the filing window period approach in place, all qualifying funding requests received within a filing window period are guaranteed some funding even if the $400 million cap is exceeded during the filing window period. In this way, the use of filing window periods facilitates the distribution of future funding in an equitable manner.
Next Filing Window Period for FY2016
The next Filing Window Period for FY2016 will take place September 1, 2016 – November 30, 2016. Submit your funding requests during this filing window period to ensure full or partial funding. There are two funding scenarios possible for this second window:
Status of Requests Received Before the Next FY2016 Filing Window Period Begins
Funding requests (i.e. FCC Forms 466 and Forms 462) submitted before September 1, the opening date of the next filing window period, will be considered received on a “first-come, first-served” basis.
Read the FCC’s Public Notice and visit the Filing Window Periods for FY2016 web page for more information. The RHC Program is also holding a webinar to explain factors and scenarios in the new filing window period system. Register for the webinar today.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the RHC Help Desk at RHC-Assist@usac.org or (800) 453-1546.
On August 10, 2016, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing a preliminary list and map of census blocks that have been deemed initially eligible for the Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II auction. The list and the map are on the FCC website. Notifications of additional coverage data are due by August 31, 2016.
FCC Issues Compliance Guide for RoR USF Obligations, Reporting
On August 11, 2016, the FCC issued a Small Entity Compliance Guide describing the service and reporting obligations for rate-of-return (RoR) carriers that voluntarily elect, on a state-level basis, to receive CAF A-CAM model-based support or that choose to remain on legacy mechanisms. The guide details various performance, deployment, and reporting obligations for all RoR carriers receiving High Cost Program support, including speed, latency, data usage, buildout, reporting, certification, recordkeeping, interconnection, and pricing.
FCC Releases Minor Corrections to A-CAM
On August 15, 2016, the FCC released a Public Notice with minor changes to the reports showing the model-based Connect America Fund support amounts offered to rate-of-return carriers originally released on August 3, 2016. Specifically, the report now includes a revised support amount for Fremont Telecom and corrections to the short names previously assigned to seven study areas. No other changes were made and all other companies’ support amounts remain the same.
Beginning August 16, 2016, USAC will host weekly webinars for service providers each Tuesday from noon to 1:00 PM ET.
These webinars replace the weekly Tuesday conference calls (currently held from noon to 1:00 PM ET) and the monthly webinars (currently held on the first Wednesday of the month from 3:00 to 4:00 PM ET).
All service providers are invited to attend the weekly Tuesday webinars, which will cover E-rate Program updates and information relevant to service providers. Registration each week is complimentary, and required. We look forward to having you join us!
How to Register for a Webinar
Visit the Service Provider Webinar page on our website, or use the link in your reminder/agenda email to register. You must register separately for each week’s webinar. Doing so will allow you to submit questions and receive the agenda in advance. If you don't have a question to submit in advance, you can simply register at the time that you log in and view the agenda at that time.
After you register, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the webinar, including a personalized URL. Please do not forward your confirmation email to others; the URL it contains is unique to you. To share the event with others, forward the entire reminder/agenda email from USAC or direct them to the Monthly Webinars web page.
Tips for Joining Your First Webinar
USAC recommends logging in a few minutes early for the first webinar to allow extra time to connect to the webinar service.
When you join for the first time, you'll be prompted to download and run a file called "CitrixLauncher.exe." After you download this file, it will be faster to join future webinars. For more details, visit instructions to download the launcher file on the GoToWebinar support website.
To join the webinar on your mobile device, download the free GoToMeeting App (available for iPhone, Android, and Windows) in advance for quick access.
Mark your calendars! Registration will be opening soon for the E-rate Program Applicant Trainings. These full-day trainings are intended for schools, libraries, and consortia that apply to the Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Program.
More details and registration will be available soon in the Training & Outreach section of our website. To be notified when registration is available, make sure you're subscribed to the SL News Brief.
2016 training locations and dates:
Starting today, all subscriber to the "E-rate Program Service Providers" list, will receive news updates and guidance for service providers from USAC in addition to the webinar reminders.
We hope you find the emails about the E-rate Program to be informative and helpful with your program participation!
The 08/08/2016 Special Edition issue of the News Brief is now available. Receive E-rate Program tips, deadline reminders, and answers to your questions in this weekly newsletter. Subscribe to it and receive it each week in your inbox.
Please stay up to date with your regulatory filings. USAC reminds rate-of-return carriers that it will withhold funding from carriers that do not submit data needed to calculate High Cost Program support.
In the Rate of Return Reform Order released on March 30, 2016, the FCC created a model-based funding mechanism for rate-of-return carriers and is asking carriers to choose between the new cost model and a modified version of the existing support system.
Carriers that elect the new Alternative Connect America Model (A-CAM) will receive a set amount of monthly support over 10 years and will need to meet defined build-out obligations. Carriers that choose to stick with the modified legacy funding mechanism, Connect America Fund Broadband Loop Support (CAF-BLS), will receive funding - and be required to meet deployment obligations – that are calculated using data submitted by carriers.
Specifically, the FCC and USAC will use FCC Form 477 data to conduct competitive overlap analysis and calculate deployment obligations; study area boundary data to calculate study area density and set operating expense limitations; and data to determine the capital investment allowance. Without this information, USAC will be unable to calculate carrier support, including support for carriers that elect the CAF-BLS path, and will withhold funding until this information is submitted.
Carriers should therefore be certain that all data filed with the FCC, including FCC Form 477 data and study area boundary data, are up-to-date and accurate. Any data revisions should be filed as soon as possible. These filings are in addition to the FCC Form 481 (54.313), the annual use certification (54.314) and deployment data (54.316) that carriers are required to submit in order to receive High Cost Program support (as specified in 54.903).
The first submission of the FCC Form 497 using the new snapshot date requirement will be for the August 2016 data month.
Filers should use the September 1 snapshot when submitting the FCC Form 497 for August. Any August FCC Form 497s submitted prior to September 1 will not be accepted by USAC for processing.
|When filing for the month of:||Use the snapshot of subscribers taken on:|
|August 2016||September 1, 2016|
|September 2016||October 1, 2016|
|October 2016||November 1, 2016|
|November 2016||December 1, 2016|
|December 2016||January 1, 2017|
The snapshot can be taken at any time on the first day of the month, and it must be taken on the 1st regardless of whether it falls on a weekend or holiday. The 1st of the month snapshot does not have to actually be pulled on the 1st; however, your systems and/or processes must be able to report data as of the 1st day of the month.
For more information regarding other changes, please visit the 2015 Lifeline Order page on our website.
During the NLAD migration process for Puerto Rico, USAC identified subscribers who were living at the same address and are identified as potential household duplicates.
Only one Lifeline Program benefit is allowed per household, so these subscribers must undergo the duplicate address resolution process.
Carriers must complete this process and de-enroll subscribers by December 2, 2016.
How to Pull the Duplicate Resolution De-Enroll Report from NLAD
Follow these instructions to access the report in the National Lifeline Accountability Database:
Subscribers identified as household duplicates will appear as "Duplicate Address" in the "Duplicate Type" field of this report.
How to Determine if a Household is Eligible
To determine if the household is eligible, carriers may use the Lifeline Household Worksheet, also known as the Independent Economic Household (IEH) Worksheet. In providing household worksheets to subscribers, the communication must comply with the requirements of paragraph 78 of the Lifeline Reform Order.
If the subscriber completes the IEH worksheet and is deemed eligible, they will need to be de-enrolled, then re-enrolled into NLAD with the IEH flag.
If the subscriber does not complete the IEH worksheet or their household is not eligible, they will need to be de-enrolled from NLAD.
For more information, please visit the Duplicate Address Resolution page.
De-Enroll Duplicates by December 2
Carriers will have until December 2, 2016, to resolve any duplicate address records found on their Detail Duplicate Subscriber Report. On December 2, 2016, USAC will de-enroll any remaining subscribers found on the Detail Duplicate Subscriber Report and carriers will not be allowed to claim support for these subscribers after this date.
The 07/21/2016 Special Edition issue of the News Brief is now available. Receive E-rate Program tips, deadline reminders, and answers to your questions in this weekly newsletter. Subscribe to it and receive it each week in your inbox.
In preparation for the new snapshot date reporting requirement that takes effect on September 1, 2016, a "Subscriber Snapshot Report" will be available in NLAD, which can be viewed at the summary and detail level.
The new report will be deployed in NLAD on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Users will be able to download their first snapshot report for the June 2016 data month beginning Friday, July 1, 2016.
Reminder: ETCs are not required to use NLAD to capture their monthly snapshot data.
Information Available in the Report
The Subscriber Snapshot Report can be downloaded as a CSV file and will include:
The Subscriber Snapshot Report will be generated on the first day of each month at 6:00 AM ET, and will be available for download after 7:00 AM ET on the same day.
Snapshot reports for prior months will be available to users for a period up to 24 months; the June 2016 data month will officially kick off the snapshot reports retention period.
For more information on the snapshot date requirement, please visit the 2015 Lifeline Order page on our website.
The FCC released a Public Notice specifying Funding Year (FY) 2015 annual reporting requirements for Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) and Pilot Program consortia.
For FY2015, RHC Program consortia are required to submit additional information for annual reports using an Excel template available for download on the USAC website to supplement information collected on RHC Program application forms. HCF and Pilot Program consortia must submit to USAC the types of telehealth applications supported by the RHC Program. Pilot Program consortia must also report to USAC the number of competitive bids received and an explanation of how each winning bid was selected. Learn more about annual report requirements and download the Excel template you need to fill out and submit:
Why Annual Reports?
Consortia must submit annual reports to help USAC and the FCC understand the progress made each year in meeting the program’s performance goals to:
Increase broadband access for healthcare providers, particularly those serving rural areas,
Foster development and deployment of broadband healthcare networks, and
Maximize program cost-effectiveness.
Need Help? Contact Us!
For immediate assistance, contact the RHC Program Help Desk via email or call us at (800) 453-1546.
The 06/16/2016 Special Edition issue of the News Brief is now available. Receive E-rate Program tips, deadline reminders, and answers to your questions in this weekly newsletter. Subscribe to it and receive it each week in your inbox.
The FCC issued a Public Notice (DA 16-629) directing USAC to fully fund all eligible FY2016 category 1 and category 2 service requests. The FCC stated that there is sufficient funding available to fully meet the E-rate Program’s estimated demand under the current FY2016 cap of $3.939 billion and the $1.9 billion in unused funds from previous funding years.
The Rural Health Care Program has an annual cap of $400 million in total support available for telecommunications and broadband funding for the Telecommunications and Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) programs. As part of the total funding cap, there is also a $150 million cap for upfront payments and multi-year commitments. Requests for funding for both the Telecommunications and HCF programs may be submitted beginning during the initial funding request filing period, March 1 – May 30 prior to the beginning of the funding year, and through the end of funding year. USAC will process all requests until funding is exhausted.
To view the most current funding information as of May 31, 2016, check out the funding information pages for the Telecommunications Program and HCF Program.
In order to keep you informed about progress towards reaching the funding caps for Funding Year (FY) 2013, FY2014, FY2015, and FY2016, RHC Program staff will continue to update these funding cap progress web pages. Estimated commitments are based on HCP funding requests, and are subject to change after USAC review of forms.
As announced in a Public Notice (DA 16-601), released on May 31, 2016, the FCC Form 481 has been OMB-approved. As such, the certify button and bulk certification options are now active and carriers can make their final certifications.
This filing is required for all ETCs participating in the High Cost and/or Lifeline programs with the exception of participants in Phase I Mobility Fund [section 54.313(k)]. FCC Form 481 is due Friday, July 1, 2016.
FCC Form 481 Templates and Resources
Eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) can log into E-File and access the FCC Form 481. USAC has also posted the FCC Form 481 Template (PDF version), filing instructions, and all necessary upload templates to our website.
While the names of these files on our website have been updated to reflect the approval of the form, the content has not changed as a result of the approval. These can all be found on the High Cost Forms and Lifeline Forms pages.
In addition, a recording of the webinar held about this year's FCC Form 481 submission may be accessed on the USAC website.
To claim RHC Program funding for Funding Year 2015 (July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016), healthcare providers (HCPs) must complete their funding request forms by Thursday, June 30, 2016.
Submit the Form by June 30
To meet the deadline, you must submit a complete form by June 30. USAC highly recommends submitting the form as early as possible.
USAC’s FY2016 Demand Estimate for the E-rate Program is $3.609 billion. Under this estimate, $2.330 billion is for Category 1 services and $1.279 billion for Category 2 services. This estimate is based on total funds requested during the first FCC Form 471 filing window, $3.175 billion, and a projected amount of $434 million for the second filing window.
Funding Year 2016 runs from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017.
On June 3, 2016, the FCC released a Public Notice (DA 16-618) providing guidance to price cap carriers that accepted Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase I incremental support regarding upcoming validation of compliance for Phase I incremental support. In response to informal inquiries from CAF Phase I incremental support recipients, the FCC provided guidance about the types of documentation that recipients should be prepared to produce upon request. Examples of potentially relevant documentation would include, but not be limited to:
• Engineering studies,
• Construction schedules,
• Records of plant placed in service,
• Network maps,
• Advertising materials, and/or
• Customer subscription records.
Carriers should be prepared to produce their capital improvement plan from the time period immediately pre-dating the acceptance of CAF Phase I incremental support for either round. Carriers also should be prepared to produce documentation demonstrating the steps taken to determine an area was not already served according to the then-current National Broadband Map or slated to become served as a BIP or BTOP project, to the best of their knowledge. Carriers that accepted funding in the second round to deploy to locations shown on the then current National Broadband Map as already served by them with 3 Mbps/768 kbps should be prepared to produce documentation that those locations were served at the time of acceptance through a copper-fed digital subscriber line access multiplexer.
Join us to hear updates about the Lifeline Program, including the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order and the National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD). During the webinars, you can ask questions and participate in a collaborative dialog with USAC and carriers throughout the industry.
Register now for the Lifeline Program Update Webinar on June 8, 2016 @ 3:00 PM ET.
During the webinar, the Lifeline Program staff will discuss:
We look forward to hearing your questions and comments!
Q&A and Event Resources
If we don't have time to answer your question during the live event, or need to conduct research to provide an answer, we'll post a list of questions and answers next to the recording. Visit the Lifeline Program Update Webinars page to find the webinar recording, slide deck, and list of questions and answers for each event.
More information is available on the Lifeline Program Trainings & Outreach section of our website. Please submit questions and comments in advance to the Lifeline Program. For webinar assistance, email USAC Outreach.