Universal Service Fund Facts

  • The Universal Service Fund (USF) helps provide communities across the country with affordable telecommunications services.
  • Congress established the principal of universal service - fair, affordable access to communications services for all Americans - more than 70 years ago with the Communications Act of 1934.
  • The USF was created to protect every Americans' right to access affordable telecommunications service, no matter they live. It ensures consumers in rural and remote areas receive the same quality communications services as those in urban areas, at comparable prices.
  • The fund is maintained by contributions from telecommunications providers throughout the country, including long distance companies, local telephone companies, wireless telephone companies, paging companies, and pay phone providers.
  • There are over 1,000 independent rural carriers in the United States. These providers rely on universal service funds to help recover the extremely high costs of connecting rural and geographically isolated areas of the country.
  • USF funds help these independent carriers build and maintain the broadband-capable network infrastructure necessary to deliver the advanced communications services necessary to meet commerce, national security, health care and entertainment needs.
  • Two variables make serving rural areas expensive: distance and density. For example, about half of all rural telcos have fewer than 10 customers per square mile. To put this into perspective, metropolitan areas have over 10,000 customers per square mile! USF support means that anyone, anywhere, can receive communications service at a reasonable cost.
  • USF has four programs that help all Americans:

    • High Cost Fund - Offsets the higher cost of network deployment for carriers that make the commitment that serve high cost, sparsely populated areas.
    • Low Income - This program consists of two mechanisms to help lower income Americans get connected and stay connected to the communications network.
    • Schools and Libraries - This program helps lower-income school districts all across the nation ensure their students have access to high tech educational tools.
    • Rural Health Care Program - This program helps to ensure that rural Americans have access to top-notch urban medical care via tele-health initiatives.

Read more about the critical role USF plays in the every day lives of Americans.