The Connect America Fund transitions the focus of universal service from supporting voice networks to supporting and expanding broadband availability. To this end, Legacy High Cost Program support has been replaced by a frozen level of support for price cap carriers, with additional Connect America Fund resources available to support fixed location broadband expansion.
The Connect America Fund provides support to carriers in two phases. Phase I, which began in 2012, provides immediate funding for fixed broadband to unserved areas. This funding – known as incremental support – is available in addition to frozen support. Incremental support is distributed to carriers using forward-looking cost estimates based on wire center and census block.
Carriers accepting Phase I incremental support are required to deploy broadband to unserved locations. Specifically, carriers must provide broadband with actual speeds of at least 4 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, with latency suitable for real-time applications and services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and with monthly usage capacity reasonably comparable to that of residential fixed-location broadband offerings in urban areas.
The recipients and support amounts of the first round of Phase I funding were announced in April 2012. The second round funding process is underway.
Phase II funds are expected to be released in 2014.
Price cap carriers are eligible for Phase I support and there are a few important forms and deadlines to be aware of:
The Carrier Annual Reporting Data Collection Form, the FCC Form 481, is due annually on July 1, pursuant to Section 54.313. For more information on the purpose of the form and online submittal instructions, review the form and read the Online Filing Instructions and the official FCC form instructions on the High Cost Program Forms page.