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FCC Takes Steps to Prevent Misuse of Federal Funds for Telecom Services

November 25, 2019

The Federal Communications Commission has started the process to protect federal funds from misuse from “bad actors”. The FCC wants to bar these “actors” from participating in its Universal Service Fund (USF), but also in its Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) Fund, and the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program. The FCC said the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks to provide the agency with more powers and greater flexibility to prevent fraud, including the ability to consider a broader range of misconduct and to immediately suspend entities when necessary to protect the public interest.

Under the proposed rules, programme participants would have to make sure themselves that they are not excluded from participating in federal programmes. They would also have to make sure they are not cutting deals with excluded third parties. The FCC said this will keep the “bad actors” out of its programmes and help prevent them from using other companies to shield them from accountability and let them access federal support.

The covered USF-supported programmes would include Lifeline (making communication services more affordable for people with low-incomes), the High Cost program (with subsidies for rural broadband and voice services), E-rate (connectivity support for schools and libraries), and the Rural Health Care programme (with subsidies for rural health care facilities). The TRS Fund supports relay services, which enable individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or who have speech disabilities to engage in communications with other individuals, and the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, which provides equipment needed to make phone, internet, and advanced communications services accessible to low-income individuals who have both significant vision loss and significant hearing loss.

Source: Telecom Paper