The Federal Communications Commission (Commission) adopts this Report on the Future of the Universal Service Fund (Report) as required by Section 60104(c) of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Infrastructure Act or Act), which instructs the Commission to submit to Congress “a report on options of the Commission for improving its effectiveness in achieving the universal service goals for broadband in light of this Act . . . and other legislation that addresses those goals.” The Infrastructure Act includes the largest ever federal investment in broadband, totaling approximately $65 billion. This Report provides recommendations for further actions by the Commission and Congress to build upon that investment and improve the ability of the Commission to achieve its goals of universal deployment, affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access to broadband through the Universal Service Fund (USF or Fund) and other Commission programs, to ensure that all of us have the broadband needed to succeed and thrive today.
The Infrastructure Act and other legislation enacted in 2020 and 2021 provided unprecedented funding for broadband deployment, equity, affordability, and adoption. The Infrastructure Act directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) to implement a $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program that nearly matches the Commission’s universal service High Cost program disbursements from 2011 to 2020.20 This level of funding is even more striking because these three examples represent only a portion of the new broadband funding authorized by the recent legislation – there are billions of dollars more that are available for broadband programs now being implemented by the Commission, NTIA, the Department of Treasury (Treasury), and Department of Agriculture (USDA). . . .
Beyond broadband infrastructure, Congress appropriated $17.2 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, an amount exceeding Lifeline program disbursements from 2011 to 2020. The Emergency Connectivity Fund, funded at $7.171 billion, exceeds the past three years of E-Rate Program disbursement.
The Infrastructure Act directs the Commission to submit this Report “[n]ot later than 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act.” The Commission may make recommendations on further actions the Commission and Congress could take to improve the ability of the Commission to achieve the universal service goals for broadband” in the Report. The Commission may not make recommendations that “in any way reduce the congressional mandate to achieve the universal service goals for broadband” but may make recommendations “to expand the universal service goals for broadband, if the Commission believes such an expansion is in the public interest.”