FCC programs

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and operates as an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress. The commission is committed to being a responsive, efficient and effective agency capable of facing the technological and economic opportunities of the new millennium. In its work, the agency seeks to capitalize on its competencies in:

  • Promoting competition, innovation, and investment in broadband services and facilities;
  • Supporting the nation’s economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution;
  • Encouraging the highest and best use of spectrum domestically and internationally;
  • Revising media regulations so that new technologies flourish alongside diversity and localism;
  • Providing leadership in strengthening the defense of the nation’s communications infrastructure.

The Universal Services Fund

Created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Universal Service Fund (USF) is money collected from telecommunications companies dedicated to fulfilling the goals of universal service through four programs: High Cost, Low Income, Rural Health Care, and Schools and Libraries. Telecommunications companies make contributions to the USF based on revenues from providing international and interstate communications services.

Back in 2006, the FCC has initiated a unique, one-time (5-year) pilot funding program to facilitate the creation of a nationwide broadband network dedicated to health care, connecting public and private nonprofit health care providers in rural and urban locations. The FCC Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP) was a unique stand alone program, and was also funded by the USF totalling $417 million. OHN received the fifth-largest award amongst 62 projects nationwide.

In the past, only long distance companies made contributions to support the federal Universal Service Fund. In 1996, Congress passed a law that expanded the types of companies contributing to the Universal Service Fund.

Currently, all telecommunications companies that provide service between states, including long distance companies, local telephone companies, wireless telephone companies, paging companies, and payphone providers, are required to contribute to the federal Universal Service Fund. Carriers providing international services also must contribute to the Universal Service Fund.

Telecommunications companies pay contributions into one central fund. USAC makes payments from this central fund to support the four Universal Service Fund programs.