USAC and the FCC remain committed to the Universal Service Fund’s (USF) mission of connecting communities and people to the information, resources, and services they need in response to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. This includes supporting USF participants by enacting COVID-19 Orders, alerting them to other Federal funding opportunities, and launching the FCC Chairman’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge. USAC continues to administer the Universal Service Fund, including processing and reviewing program applications, collecting contributions, disbursing payments, and implementing program guidance from the FCC. The information below summarizes the specific relief available to USF program beneficiaries.
- Additional time. The FCC has extended a number of E-Rate deadlines giving applicants and service providers more time to file their applications, submit appeals, deliver services, and file invoices.
- More flexibility. The FCC has waived the gift rules allowing service providers to give schools and libraries Wi-Fi hotspots and additional bandwidth to support Internet access at home for students and library patrons.
- Support for remote learners. The CARES Act provided $13B of funding to schools to purchase hardware, software, and connectivity to support home-based connectivity and remote learning. An additional $3B is available to Governors to provide block grants to support remote learning techniques and technologies.
- Support for library patrons. The CARES Act also provides funding through State Libraries to expand digital network access, purchase internet-accessible devices, and provide technical support services to citizens to address digital inclusion efforts and related technical support.
Rural Health Care (RHC)
- Additional time. The FCC extended the FY2020 RHC program application filing window and granted additional relief to RHC program participants by extending invoicing deadlines/information request deadlines and allowing participants to carry over evergreen contacts from FY2019.
- More flexibility. The FCC has waived the gift rules allowing service providers to offer–and HCPs to solicit or accept–free upgrades, connected devices, networking equipment, services, and other things of value.
- More funding opportunities. The FCC has created more funding opportunities through the Covid-19 Telehealth Program and Connected Care Pilot in addition to the rollover of unused funds from prior years to cover the higher demand for FY2019 (no longer accepting applications as of June 25, 2020).
- More flexibility for consumers. The FCC and USAC temporarily adjusted the income and identification documentation requirements to allow recently unemployed or social distancing consumers to more easily complete their Lifeline application.
- Continued service for consumers. The FCC temporarily paused recertification, reverification, and general de-enrollment requirements, to ensure consumers are not involuntarily de-enrolled from the Lifeline program during the pandemic. Note: Automated eligibility database checks to verify the eligibility of subscribers due for recertification in 2022 have now resumed for all non-Tribal subscribers. Learn more on our Recertification webpage.
- State agency access to the National Verifier. The FCC and USAC expanded access to the Lifeline National Verifier to enable state agencies to assist consumers with the Lifeline application process, much like Lifeline service providers do today. Additionally, USAC created a Lifeline Resources for State and Federal Partners page, which includes more information and materials that users may share with their stakeholders.
- Relief for rural, Tribal consumers. The FCC temporarily waived its rules to allow Lifeline providers to begin offering service to consumers residing in rural areas on Tribal lands, even if those consumers have not yet submitted specific supporting documentation to complete their Lifeline application.
See Lifeline response (including expiration dates and waivers)
- More flexibility. The FCC has permitted support to extend beyond a particular service area.
- Updates to Testing Requirements. The FCC has allowed carriers to test less than the required number of subscriber locations during the pre-test period.