File FCC Form 481

Eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) participating in the High Cost program must file FCC Form 481 with USAC on an annual basis. This form collects financial and operations information used to validate carrier support, fulfilling the annual 54.313 reporting requirement for recipients of High Cost funding.

Among other data, Form 481 gathers 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.

Who Must File

All eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) receiving High Cost program and/or Lifeline support.

When and What to File

Carriers must file and certify Form 481 by July 3, 2023. This year’s filing 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.

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.

How to File

Carriers must complete and submit Form 481 through USAC’s E-File system. Please see USAC’s Multifactor Authentication Troubleshooting Steps for help logging into E-File. Carriers may begin the filing and save it to edit or complete at a later time. Simply log in as usual to see a list of forms in progress and continue work.

Users must have one of the following Form 481 entitlements to access the Form 481 system:

  • Form 481 SPO (Service Provider Officer): allows the user to enter and certify data.
  • Form 481 SPU (Service Provider User): allows the user to enter but not certify data (typically provided to users inside the carrier).
  • Form 481 SPA (Service Provider Agent): allows the user to enter but not certify data (typically provided to agents outside the carrier).

The individual listed as the company officer on the carrier’s Form 498 can assign these entitlements. Company officers or general contacts with questions about logging into E-File or E-File passwords should contact customer operations via email or at (888) 641-8722. For E-File questions, customer service can only help the company officer or general contact listed on a carrier’s FCC Form 498. Others should direct E-File questions to the company officer or general contact who established the carrier’s authorized user entitlements. Please see USAC’s 498 ID webpage for help registering for a Form 498 ID, also called a Service Provider ID (SPIN).

Officers who encounter trouble adding system-specific entitlements to a user’s account should email hcquestions@usac.org with the following information: the carrier’s SPIN; the system (Form 481, HUBB, PMM) to be accessed; the email address the officer uses to log into E-File; and the email address and user role (SPO, SPU or SPA) of the person who needs the entitlement.

Late Filings

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].

Requesting Confidentiality

USAC provides public access to most Form 481 data submitted by carriers. This excludes trade secrets and certain proprietary or sensitive commercial and financial information covered by FCC rules listing records not routinely available for public inspection, or by FCC protective orders such as a 2016 order protecting certain information filed by privately held rate-of-return carriers from public disclosure. Carriers can also request nondisclosure of additional information not already considered confidential by the FCC through the Form 481 filing system.

Carriers will be required to provide the following:

  • Identification of the specific information for which confidential treatment is sought;
  • A statement of the reasons for withholding the information from public inspection;
  • Explanation of the degree to which the information is commercial or financial, or contains trade secrets or is privileged;
  • Explanation of the degree to which the information concerns a service that is subject to competition;
  • Explanation for how disclosure of the information could result in competitive harm;
  • Identification of any measures the party has taken to prevent unauthorized disclosure;
  • Identification of whether the information is already available to the public and the extent of any previous disclosure;
  • Justification for the period of time the party asserts the information should not be available for public inspection; and
  • Any other information that the party believes may be useful in assessing whether its request for confidentiality should be granted.

USAC will save all confidentiality requests and related information and share them with the FCC for review. Any information under review will remain confidential until the FCC makes a determination on the request. USAC will make all other information public.

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