If you have any further questions, please contact us. You can call us at (202) 776-0200 and ask for External Relations. You can also send an email to the outreach team. If you are a reporter, please send your questions to Media Requests. Please be sure to include your name, affiliation, and the best way for us to contact you.
Q1: What is universal service?
A1: Universal service is the policy of ensuring access to a baseline level of telecommunications services for everyone in the United States. The policy originated with the Communications Act of 1934. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 expanded the scope of universal service from individual consumers to include rural health care facilities, schools, and libraries.
The goals of universal service, as mandated by the 1996 Telecom Act, are:
The 1996 Telecom Act further defines “universal service” in Section 254 (c)(1) as “an evolving level of telecommunications that the [Federal Communications] Commission shall establish periodically… taking into account advances in telecommunications and information technology and services.” The public goods that universal service supports, as stated in Section 254 (b)(7), include, “protection of the public interest, convenience, and necessity.”
Q2: What is the universal service fund?
A2: The universal service fund (USF) is money collected from telecommunications companies and dedicated to fulfilling the goals of universal service. Telecommunications companies are required to make universal service contributions based on revenues gained from providing international and interstate calling services. Under the authority of the 1996 Telecom Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) in charge of administering the collection and disbursement of universal service funds. In 2011, universal service disbursements totaled $8.1 billion.
Q3: What are the universal service programs?
A3: The universal service programs are mechanisms for providing funding to organizations or companies eligible for support. These beneficiaries help fulfill the goals of universal service of providing affordable access to telecommunications services for all Americans.
Below are brief descriptions of each program, along with 2012 levels of universal service funding:
Q4: Who pays for universal service?
A4: As required by the 1996 Telecom Act, telecommunications carriers providing international and interstate service and earning above certain revenue thresholds make universal service contributions. Consumers may notice a "universal service" line item on their telephone bills. This line represents a charge by a telephone company to recover its FCC-mandated universal service contributions.
Below is an example of the quarterly collection and disbursement process, which is repeated each quarter:
|Carriers submit the FCC Form 499-Q (Quarterly Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet) with projected revenue|
|May 2||USAC submits quarterly fund size and administrative cost filings to the FCC|
|June 1||USAC files projected carrier revenue and a proposed contribution factor with the FCC|
|June 15||The FCC issues a Public Notice with the proposed contribution factor|
|July 1||The Contribution factor becomes effective and is used by carriers for billing|
|July 15||USAC sends invoices to contributors|
|August 15||Contributor invoices are due at USAC|
|August 30||USAC distributes funds through the four universal service programs|
Q5: How does universal service funding work?
A5: Universal service collections: All telecommunications carriers that provide international and interstate service make universal service contributions. The amounts of these contributions are determined by projections of the aggregate demand for universal service support, which USAC submits each quarter to the FCC. The FCC reviews these projections and determines the percentage of international and interstate revenues that carriers must contribute.
Universal service disbursements: Universal service contributions fund the High Cost, Lifeline, Rural Health Care, and Schools and Libraries Programs. Entities eligible for support from these programs submit information to USAC for processing and evaluation, leading to disbursement of universal service support to those approved for funding.
How program participants claim support in each of the programs:
Q6: What is USAC?
A6: USAC is an independent, not-for-profit corporation created in 1997 to collect contributions from telecommunications carriers and administer universal service support mechanisms (programs), designed to provide communities across the country with access to affordable telecommunications services.
Q7: What does USAC do?
A7: USAC's mission is to collect and distribute universal service funds. USAC administers the four universal service programs in accordance with the FCC's rules, orders, and directives. USAC does not set or advocate policy. USAC works to protect the integrity of the fund, promote compliance among program participants, and provide information about universal service to Congress, the FCC, program audiences, and the general public. In all of these tasks, USAC strives to provide efficient, responsible stewardship of the programs and the fund, a key national asset in making important telecommunications services and broadband access available to consumers, health care providers, schools, and libraries throughout the United States.
Since its creation in 1998 through December 2012, USAC has disbursed over $90 billion to support the goals of universal service and to help keep Americans connected. USAC performs a wide range of complex, large-scale operations. See highlights for 2012 on the USAC Fast Facts and Annual Reports pages.
NOTE: USAC is the neutral administrator of the universal service programs. USAC may not make policy, interpret unclear provisions of the statute or rules, interpret the intent of Congress, or advocate policy positions before the FCC or its staff, but may advocate positions on administrative issues related to universal service programs.
|2012 Disbursements (unaudited)||$8.7 billion|
|High Cost||$4.15 billion|
|Rural Health Care||$106 million|
|Schools and Libraries||$2.22 billion|
Q9: Where is the USAC Annual Report?
A9: You can view USAC Annual Reports in the "About USAC" section of our website, under "Publications."
Q10: Where are USAC Press Releases?
A10: You can view USAC Press Releases in the "About USAC" section of our website, under "Media Kit."
Q11: Where can I find more information about the four universal service programs?
A11: You can view annual reports, brochures, glossaries of terms, newsletters, tip sheets and other materials about the four universal service programs in the "About USAC" section of our website under Publications.
Q12: What resources are available to search for universal service commitments, disbursements, and other statistics?
A12: USAC has developed various online search tools to help you find the information you need when you need it.