High Cost Program

The High Cost program provides funding to telecommunications carriers to deliver service in rural areas that might otherwise go unserved. While the program has historically subsidized voice service to ensure that rates in rural and urban areas are reasonably comparable, the FCC is modernizing the program to support broadband with the Connect America Fund (CAF). The CAF aims to close the digital divide in rural America by requiring carriers to meet defined broadband build-out obligations with a series of modernized funds that rely on incentive-based models to give carriers a set amount of support to build out broadband to a certain number of locations.

  • Tribal Engagement Reporting: Eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) that receive High Cost support must complete the Tribal reporting section of FCC Form 481 when they submit their annual FCC Form 481 filing every July. All ETCs that receive High Cost support (except for carriers that receive Mobility Fund Phase I support only) must annually file FCC Form 481, which collects financial and operations information to validate carrier funding. As part of this annual filing process, ETCs that serve Tribal lands must submit information about their engagement with Tribal governments, including details on deployment to Tribal community anchor institutions, culturally sensitive approaches to marketing and compliance with rights of way processes, land use permitting requirements, cultural preservation review processes, Tribal licensing requirements, and other obligations. For more information, see details about Tribal lands reporting in the OMB-approved FCC Form 481 Instructions on the High Cost website.
  • Request Tribal Access to the FCC Form 481: Tribal governments can access the annual FCC Form 481 filing submitted by ETCs that serve their lands with support from the High Cost program through the online 54.314 Certification Filing System. To obtain access privileges to the 54.314 system, Tribal governments should contact the High Cost program at Form481@usac.org to request an authorization form. Once granted access, Tribal officials will be able to log in to the 54.314 system and view Form 481 data filed by the carriers serving their lands.

Tribal Land Definition: For the purposes of High Cost support, “Tribal lands” include “any federally recognized Indian tribe’s reservation, pueblo or colony, including former reservations in Oklahoma, Alaska Native regions established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688) and Indian Allotments, see § 54.400(e), as well as Hawaiian Home Lands – areas held in trust for native Hawaiians by the state of Hawaii, pursuant to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, July 9, 1921, 42 Stat 108, et seq., as amended, and any land designated as such by the Commission.” (See 47 CFR 54.5 Terms and definitions.)