COVID-19 Update: USAC remains open for business—Washington, DC office closed. Learn more about USF program responses.

FCC Orders and Resources

USAC administers the Universal Service Fund under the guidance and policy of the FCC. This page includes Orders, Public Notices, and Notices of Rulemaking pertaining to the Rural Health Care (RHC) program.

Program Rules

FCC Order 19-78

Promoting Telehealth in America

Released on August 20, 2019 and effective August 1, 2019, this Order reformed the RHC program and increased transparency, predictability and efficiency of RHC program funding decisions.

FCC 12-150

Healthcare Connect Fund Order

Released December 21, 2012 and effective on April 1, 2013, this Order launched the Healthcare Connect Fund to expand health care provider access to broadband.

FCC Orders Affecting FY2021

DA 21-394

FCC Releases Order 21-394: Waives Use of Rates Database for Telecom Program Applicants for FY2021 and FY2022

On April 8, 2021, the FCC released Order DA 21-394, waiving the requirement that health care providers and service providers participating in the Telecommunications (Telecom) Program use the Rates Database to calculate urban and rural rates for funding years 2021 and 2022.

In addition, the Order grants the following extensions for all RHC program applicants:

  • Grants a one-year extension of the service delivery deadline for FY2020 to June 30, 2022.
  • Grants a 120-day extension of the invoice filing deadline for FY2020.
  • Directs USAC to grant an extension of 28 days for the deadline to respond to USAC’s information request if an applicant requests the extension before the expiration of the initial 14-day deadline. This relief applies to information requests issued from April 8, 2021 through December 31, 2021.

Order DA 21-168

Filing Window Close Extended to June 1, 2021

Extends the close of the FY2021 filing window to 11:59 p.m. ET June 1, 2021

PN DA 21-83

Waives Use of Telecom Program Rural Rates Database for Alaska Applicants

Waives the requirement to use the Telecom program Rates Database for determining rural rates for health care providers in the State of Alaska. This action will ensure that telecommunications service providers in Alaska will receive sufficient Telecom program support for the next two funding years, thereby providing a reliable telecommunications marketplace for Alaskan health care providers, while the FCC further examines how to apply the Rates Database to Alaska in light of its unique and challenging geography.

This waiver is in place for FY2021, for which competitive bidding has already begun, and for FY2022 unless the FCC has separately addressed the pending petitions for reconsideration within the year (i.e., by January 19, 2022).

DA 20-1479

Gift Rule Waiver Extended to June 30, 2021

The FCC extends through June 30, 2021, the temporary waiver of the RHC program gift rule to enable health care providers to receive free upgraded services from service providers. Extending the gift rule waiver will enable these health care providers to continue to receive, on a temporary basis, free telecommunication services and equipment that would otherwise be prohibited, thereby enhancing the delivery of quality medical care across the country. The gift rule waiver is limited to health care providers involved in the screening and treatment of patients for COVID-19 and in providing service to other patients in an effort to both help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and devote limited on-site medical resources towards treatment of COVID-19.

FCC Orders Affecting FY2020

DA 20-1420

Certain Rule Changes to be Implemented in FY2020

On November 30, the FCC released Order DA 20-1420, implementing certain rule changes in funding year (FY) 2020 that were slated for FY2021. The Order accelerates the effective date of the following rules:

  • Site and service substitutions for the Telecom program
  • Amending the SPIN change process to allow for corrective and operational changes across both the HCF and Telecom programs
  • Establishing a service delivery deadline of June 30 while permitting a one-year extension of the service delivery deadline
  • Permitting a one-time 120-day invoice filing extension

While the December 2019 Public Notice pushed back the effective dates for all rule changes requiring PRA approval to FY2021, the PRA approval has now been obtained and in light of the COVID-19 emergency, the FCC recognizes that making these rules effective for FY2020 could provide helpful flexibility to health care providers during the current funding year. Accordingly, earlier action is amended in the December 2019 Public Notice so that the updated site and service substitution rules, corrective and operational SPIN change rules, and service delivery deadline and invoicing deadline extension rules became effective March 15, 2021.

DA 20-1233

All Qualifying FY2020 Funding Requests to be Funded in Full

On October 19, 2020, the FCC released Order DA 20-1233, waiving section 54.619(a) of the Commission’s rules to eliminate the cap on upfront payments and multi-year commitments for FY2020 to ensure that all RHC program requests for support can be funded in full. This waiver responds to the unique set of circumstances presented by COVID-19. The far-reaching effects of the pandemic lead the FCC to conclude that funding all RHC program requests in full will promote the public interest by enabling the widespread delivery of vital communications-based health care during the pandemic.

DA 20-1021

Certain COVID-19 Relief Waivers Further Extended

On September 3, 2020, the FCC released PN DA 20-1021, further extending some waivers granted in March for COVID-19 relief. Due to ongoing disruptions caused by COVID-19 to program participants and the need for robust connectivity, the FCC has extended the gift rule waiver and information request deadline to December 31, 2020. These waivers were originally set to expire on September 30, 2020.

PN DA 20-688

Increase in Rural Health Care Program Funds for FY2020

On June 30, 2020, the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau directed USAC to carry forward up to $197.98 million in unused funds from prior funding years to the extent necessary to satisfy funding year (FY) 2020 demand for the Rural Health Care program. The total amount of support available to eligible health care providers for FY2020 will be $802.74 million, the most in the program’s history.

Order 20-345

COVID-19 Relief Order

On March 26, 2020, the FCC released Order 20-345, granting additional relief to RHC program participants to ensure that health care providers (HCPs) have the resources they need to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the Order takes following actions: (1) extends the FY2020 RHC program application filing window until June 30, 2020; (2) eases competitive bidding requirements for HCPs with expiring evergreen contracts; and (3) provides an extension of several procedural deadlines, including information requests and the HCF program invoicing deadline. The RHC program will provide additional information about these actions over the next week. Read the Order here and download the Tip Sheet.

Order DA 20-290

Waiver of the RHC Program Gift Rules

On March 18, 2020, the FCC issued Order DA 20-290, waiving the RHC program’s gift rules to provide assistance to rural health care providers (HCPs) responding to COVID-19. In the Order, the FCC recognizes that the pandemic will increase the need for connectivity and broadband services. The gift rules waiver removes regulatory obstacles that would otherwise prevent a service provider from voluntarily offering equipment or services to HCPs to help them improve connectivity and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic more effectively. Specifically, the Order:

  • Allows service providers to offer, and for HCPs to solicit or accept, free upgrades, connected devices, networking equipment, services and other things of value.
  • Waives the requirement that prohibits a service provider from reducing the unsubsidized portion of charges for services paid by HCPs.
  • Waives the requirement that HCPs pay the urban rate for services provided in the Telecom program.

These waivers are limited to HCPs involved in the screening and treatment of patients for COVID-19 and for providing services to other patients in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The waivers are in effect through September 30, 2020.

PN DA 20-263

FY2020 Funding Cap Announced

On March 12, 2020 the FCC released Public Notice DA 20-263, announcing the RHC program funding cap for funding year (FY) 2020. The RHC program funding cap for FY2020 is $604,759,306. The cap for upfront payments and multi-year commitments under the HCF program is $152,700,000. These new caps represent a 1.8% inflation-adjusted increase in the $594,066,116 RHC program funding cap and the cap on multi-year commitments and upfront payments from funding year 2019.

FCC Orders Affecting FY2019

DA 20-1092

Certain FY2019 HCF Program Invoice Deadlines Waived

On September 16, 2020, the FCC released Order DA 20-1092 to provide relief to applicants and service providers who received funding year (FY) 2019 funding commitment letters (FCLs) after or within 180 days of the invoice filing deadline. The Order allows these entities to submit invoices to USAC within 180 days from the later of the release date of this Order or the issuance of an FCL by USAC.

The Order includes an appendix identifying applicants that USAC already knows fall into this waiver category.  These, plus any other applicants and service providers subsequently identified by USAC that fall into this category, may benefit from this waiver.

Applicants and service providers who miss invoice deadlines that fall within these parameters do not need to submit individual requests for a waiver.

Order 20-30

Increase to Rural Health Care Program Funding for FY2019

The total Rural Health Care program demand for FY2019 was $719.48 million, which exceeded the $677.29 million in previously available funding. The Order permits USAC to carry forward additional unused funds from prior years to cover this funding gap and waives the cap on multi-year commitments and upfront payments that would result in unnecessary reductions in support for rural health care providers and their patients absent the action the Commission took today. The FCC recognizes that COVID-19 presents serious challenges to healthcare providers, and they need enhanced connectivity to provide vital services to Americans. Read more.

FCC Orders Affecting FY2018

FCC Order 19-45

Fully Fund HCF Program Multi-Year and Upfront Payments

On May 20, 2019, the FCC released FCC Order 19-45 affecting HCF program participants with multi-year and upfront payment funding requests. For FY2018, multi-year and upfront payment funding requests exceeded the $150M cap; in the Order, the FCC takes necessary steps to fully fund these requests by directing USAC to process these as single year funding requests. Without such direction, the multi-year funding requests were facing a significant proration.

Read the summary and watch the webinar here.

To mitigate any additional administrative burden on affected applicants expecting a three year commitment, all FY2018 FCC Forms 461 will be rolled over so FY2018 competitive bidding can be used for FY2019 requests. Additionally, the contracts associated with these funding requests that met evergreen requirements have been designated as such. More information about completing your FY2019 funding request is below.

The Order also extends the FY2019 filing window for affected HCF program applicants to Sunday, June 30, 2019.

On Wednesday, May 29, all account holders of affected HCPs received their FY2018 FCL. The FCL will reflect a single year of funding for FY2018.

FRN Lookup tool

USAC provided the following lookup tool to identify if a Funding Request Number (FRN) for your HCP is affected: FY2018 FRN Look-up Tool .

How to Use the Look-up Tool:

Consortia Leaders: Type your Consortia HCP into the “Lead Entity” search bar and click “Search” to show your FY2018 FRN with corresponding FY2019 USAC-Created Draft FRN.

Member HCPs: Type your Individual HCP Number into the “Member HCP” search bar and click “Search” to show if your HCP was affected.

FY2019 USAC-Created Draft Placed My Portal for Submission

As a courtesy to applicants impacted by this change, USAC created a FY2019 Funding Request draft in your My Portal queue for easy review and submission.

  • This FY2019 draft contains the remaining funding periods and funding amounts from the original FY2018 request, so all you need to do is review, certify, sign and submit.
  • Draft is located in the Form 462 tab and has a “last edited” date of 5/29/2019 listed
  • You must review the draft carefully prior to certifying and submitting.
  • While using the USAC-created draft is optional, if the USAC-created draft is deleted, it cannot be retrieved.

FCC 18-82

FY2018 Cap Order

On June 25, 2018, the FCC issued an Order that adopts rules to: (1) increase the annual RHC program funding cap to $571 million and apply it to FY2017; (2) annually adjust the RHC program funding cap for inflation, beginning with FY2018; and (3) establish a process to carry-forward unused funds from past funding years for use in future funding years. As noted in the FCC’s RHC 2018 Funding Cap Order, the RHC program funding cap for FY2018 will be $581 million, adjusted for inflation.

Read and download the Order  and FAQ sheet .

What this means for FY2017

Due to the increase in the RHC program funding cap for FY2017, all previously approved FY2017 funding requests will receive 100% of their approved funding amount. The proration that was previously applied to FY2017 funding commitments will be removed, and revised FCLs were issued via email.

What this means for FY2018

As noted in the FCC’s RHC 2018 Funding Cap Order, the RHC program funding cap for FY2018 will be $581 million, adjusted for inflation. As a reminder, the FY2018 filing window closes on Friday, June 29, 2018. To be considered eligible for funding, you must submit your funding requests (FCC Forms 462 for the HCF program and FCC Forms 466 in the Telecom program) by the close of the FY2018 filing window on June 29, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Funding requests submitted after the close of the FY2018 filing window will not be accepted. Submit your funding requests as soon as possible to avoid experiencing any last-minute challenges.

Past Orders

FCC's EDOCS System

You can find more information about these policies on the FCC’s Electronic Document Management System (EDOCS). EDOCS is a searchable database of FCC orders, Notices for Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), public notices, news releases, statements and other documents posted to the FCC’s website since March 1996.