Government Accountability Office criticizes FCC’s handling of the USF’s High-Cost Program

A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticizes the Pai FCC’s handling of the Universal Service Fund’s High-Cost Program, which ensures universal access to broadband service in rural, remote, and other areas of the country that are costly to serve. The GAO report is timely as the FCC prepares to auction $16 billion dollars for broadband deployment to telecommunications companies. 

“I requested this report because I had profound concerns about the Trump FCC’s handling of the Universal Service Fund, and today’s report validates those fears,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). “GAO has found that the high-cost program has been woefully maintained, with basic governance structures either wholly missing or outdated, effectively being left to rot under Chairman Pai’s leadership.”

The GAO made the following four recommendations to FCC:

  1. The FCC Chairman should revise the high-cost performance goals so that they are measurable and quantifiable.

  2. The FCC Chairman should ensure high-cost performance measures align with key attributes of successful performance measures, including ensuring that measures clearly link with performance goals and have specified targets.

  3. The FCC Chairman should ensure the high-cost performance measure for the goal of minimizing the universal service contribution burden on consumers and businesses takes into account user-fee leading practices, such as equity and sustainability considerations.

  4. The FCC Chairman should publicly and periodically report on the progress it has made for its high-cost program's performance goals, for example, by including relevant performance information in its Annual Broadband Deployment Report or the USF Monitoring Report.

The full report is available HERE.

Links:

Pallone releases GAO report uncovering fundamental flaws in Trump FCC’s handling of Universal Service Fund (US House, Oct. 30, 2020)

FCC should enhance performance goals and measures for its program to support broadband service in high-cost areas (GAO, Oct. 1, 2020)