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 undeserved. 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.
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 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's funding is distributed through nine active funds. Navigate through each fund to find out more about their impact.
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