The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to gather additional data on how its program that helps ensure universal access to broadband service in rural, remote, and other areas of the country is working, and data to help drive decisions on effective use of available funds, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said.
The FCC program – known as the high-cost program – provides billions of dollars each year to telecommunications companies to help them deploy broadband services.
“Although the performance goals for the high-cost program reflect principles in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, not all of the goals are expressed in a measurable or quantifiable manner and therefore do not align with leading practices,” the GAO report said. “Furthermore, FCC’s measures for its performance goals do not always align with leading practices, which call for measures to have linkage with the goal they measure and clarity, objectivity, and measurable targets, among other key attributes.”
According to the report, the FCC faces several key challenges to accomplish the program’s performance goals: accuracy of the agency’s broadband deployment data; broadband availability on tribal lands; and maintaining existing fixed-voice infrastructure and attaining universal mobile service.
GAO made four recommendations to FCC, which the agency agreed to. The four recommendations are:
- Revise the high-cost performance goals to ensure they are measurable and quantifiable;
- Ensure the high-cost performance measures align with key attributes of successful performance measures, including having measures that link clearly with performance goals and have specified targets;
- Ensure high-cost performance measure for the goal of minimizing the universal service contribution burden on consumers and businesses considers user-fee leading practices; and
- Have the FCC Chairman publicly and periodically report high-cost program performance goal progress.