Annual ETC Certification
In order to participate in the High Cost program and receive High Cost support, a provider must be certified as an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) annually under 47 CFR Section 54.314.
This federal regulation requires state utility commissions to certify that carriers under their jurisdiction are eligible to receive High Cost support in their states and used all support collected in the proceeding calendar year only to provide, maintain and upgrade the facilities for which the support was intended and will do the same in the coming calendar year.
Carriers that self certify – ETCs not subject to state jurisdiction – must certify that they used all High Cost support collected in the proceeding calendar year only to provide, maintain and upgrade the facilities for which the support was intended and will do the same in the coming calendar year.
State utility commissions and carriers that self certify must typically complete this annual ETC certification, and submit it to both USAC and the FCC, no later than October 1 every year.
Who Must File
- State regulatory commissions must certify that carriers under state jurisdiction are eligible to receive High Cost support in their states.
- Carriers not under state jurisdiction must self-certify.
What and When to File
- The ETC certification is due annually by October 1.
How to File
States may submit the annual ETC certifications to USAC through the 54.314 system, which is accessible through USAC’s E-File system. State officials may also submit certifications to USAC by email, fax or mail, although USAC highly recommends filing online through the 54.314 system. Once logged into the system, users can complete the required certification online and then print a PDF copy of the certification to mail to the FCC.
Carriers that self certify must submit the annual ETC certification to USAC using the 54.314 system.
In order to obtain access privileges to the 54.314 system in E-File – or change the representative who has access – state officials and carriers that self certify should contact the High Cost Division at HCCerts@usac.org to request an authorization form. Please note that USAC grants access to the 54.314 system to only one representative in each state. See USAC’s Multifactor Authentication Troubleshooting Steps for help logging into E-File.
States and carriers that self certify must also submit certifications to the FCC online at fcc.gov/ecfs or via mail the following address:
Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary
Federal Communications Commission Office of the
9050 Junction Drive
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
Delivery by hand or messenger will be accepted between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
States that file by mail must submit a letter stating that ETCs under their jurisdiction used all support received in the proceeding calendar year only to provide, maintain and upgrade the facilities for which the support was intended and will do the same in the coming calendar year. Carriers that self certify must submit a letter stating that they used all High Cost support received in the proceeding calendar year only to provide, maintain and upgrade the facilities for which the support was intended and will do the same in the coming calendar year. Certification letters should include each carrier’s study area code (SAC), the unique six-digit number assigned to each carrier to identify it based on its service area.
Access To Carrier Data
To inform the 54.314 certification process, state officials may access the most recent FCC Form 481 filings and attachments for carriers under their jurisdiction through the 54.314 system in E-File. FCC Form 481 collects financial and operations information used to validate carrier support. This includes information about a carrier’s holding company, operating companies, affiliates and branding designations (doing-business-as or DBA); ability to function in emergency situations; terrestrial backhaul; Tribal lands engagement; and comparability of voice and broadband service rates in rural and urban areas. Form 481 also includes a supply chain certification, which requires carriers to certify that no universal service support is being used to purchase, rent, lease, obtain or maintain any equipment or services produced or provided by any company designated by the FCC as posing a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain.
The most recent Form 481 filing – submitted and certified by carriers as of July 3, 2023 – is for Program Year 2024 because the information in the filing will be used for disbursements for 2024. The data filed is from 2022, which is the most recent full calendar year for which data is available.
The 54.314 system allows state officials to download a zip file containing a copy of the most recent certified Form 481 filing data and related attachments for carriers in their state by individual Study Area Code (SAC). Carriers are no longer required to submit separate copies of the Form 481 filing to the FCC, state utility commissions or Tribal communities that they serve. (Note that USAC has decommissioned the USAC State Access Tool, which it used in previous years to provide state officials with access to Form 481 and carrier deployment data).
State officials may also access state-level deployment data for broadband service supported by the Connect America Fund (CAF) through the Connect America Fund Broadband Map (CAF Map), an interactive online map that shows the impact of the program on broadband expansion to close the digital divide in rural America. The dataset that serves as the foundation for the map is available through the USAC Open Data platform. The CAF Map displays the geographic areas that are eligible for CAF support, as well as the specific fixed locations where carriers participating in the program have built out broadband service. The dataset reflected in the map includes address, latitude and longitude coordinates, carrier name, deployment year and available speeds meeting FCC obligations. The information in this map comes directly from carriers, which submit broadband deployment data annually through USAC’s High Cost Universal Broadband (HUBB) portal. The latest version of CAF Map is based on data certified in the HUBB as of March 10, 2023, to reflect broadband deployment as of Dec. 31, 2022. USAC independently verifies deployment to a random sample of locations reported in the HUBB each year to monitor carrier compliance with CAF build-out obligations.
Eligible telecommunications carriers will see a reduction of at least seven days of support for late certifications. After the first seven days, USAC will continue to reduce support on a day-by-day basis, plus an additional seven days, until the required certification is complete. A carrier would lose seven days of support for a certification that is four days late, for instance. And a carrier would lose 21 days of support for a certification that is 14 days late. [Report and Order (FCC 14-190), section C, numbers 131-132].
The FCC grants a one-time, three-day grace period for late certifications. This means that carriers will see no reduction in support for a late certification submitted within three days of the filing deadline if it is the first time that the certification is late. [Report and Order (FCC 14-190), paragraph 133].
This one-time grace period applies at the holding company level and across filing obligations. This means that if a carrier takes advantage of the three-day grace period for any filing, the grace period will not be available for any filing in subsequent years to other operating companies that serve different study areas but are owned by the same holding company. [Report and Order (FCC 14-190), paragraph 134].
Trainings and Resources
- Use One Portal to certify online.
- 54.314 Certification FAQs
- Use the Certification Search tool to confirm a carrier’s certification has been received.
- FCC Connect America Fund information – FCC web page that lists Orders, Public Notices, and other information related to the Connect America Fund
- USF/ICC Transformation Order (FCC 11-161) – Order updating this certification requirement
- FCC Executive Summary – Summary of the USF/Transformation Order
- Report and Order (FCC 14-54) – Order implementing adjustments to certification requirements
- Report and Order (FCC 14-190)