How It Works

The High Cost program provides support through more than a dozen separate legacy and modernized funds to eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) to deliver affordable voice and broadband service in rural areas that would otherwise be unserved or underserved. The legacy funds support voice service and the modernized funds that make up the Connect America Fund (CAF) program are bringing broadband to rural America.

Eligible Telecommunications Carriers

State utility commissions must certify that carriers under their jurisdiction are eligible to receive High Cost support in their states and use all support only to provide, maintain, and upgrade the facilities for which the support was intended. Carriers that self-certify (i.e., ETCs not subject to state jurisdiction) must certify that they use all High Cost support only to provide, maintain, and upgrade the facilities for which the support was intended.

Eligible Areas

The FCC designates unserved or underserved rural communities – places where the market alone cannot support the substantial cost of deploying network infrastructure and providing connectivity – as areas eligible for support.

The Process

The process for participating in the High Cost program—as well as the service obligations, broadband deployment timelines, network speed requirements, and reporting rules that carriers must meet—vary from fund to fund. While legacy funds that support voice service are not open to new carriers, key steps for participating in modernized funds that support broadband include:


FCC Identifies Areas Eligible for Support

The FCC determines that a rural area is unserved or underserved and eligible for funding.


Carriers Accept Offers or Submit Bids to Build Networks and Provide Service

Carriers accept an offer, or submit a bid, to receive a set amount of support to deploy broadband at certain speeds over a clear timeline—with interim and final deployment milestone deadlines—to a defined number of locations in eligible areas.


Carriers File Broadband Deployment Data with USAC

Carriers file data annually with the High Cost Universal Broadband (HUBB) portal showing where (by latitude and longitude) they are building out mass-market, high-speed Internet service with CAF support.


Carriers Participate in Verification Reviews

Carriers are subject to in-depth verification reviews to confirm that they are in fact building out service that meets the FCC’s performance standards at a statistically valid, randomly selected sample of locations reported to the HUBB.


Carriers Conduct Network Performance Testing

Carriers conduct network speed and latency pre-testing or testing at a USAC-generated random sample of CAF-supported broadband locations with active subscribers and submit the results to USAC as part of the annual compliance process.

Fund Distributions This Year

The High Cost program distributes funding though more than a dozen active funds. Navigate through each fund to find out more about its impact.

Explore the Data

Total Support Disbursements

Find out how the program distributes funding across the U.S.

Broadband Deployments

Find out where service providers are using High Cost funds to build out broadband networks.

As part of USAC’s open data strategy, anyone can freely use, re-use, and redistribute our data. To find out more and to see all of USAC’s available data, visit USAC Open Data.


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