Universal Services Fact Sheet

The CPUC is responsible for ensuring consumers have safe, reliable, affordable, and universal access to telecommunications services. The CPUC has oversight responsibilities for several Public Purpose Programs that ensure universal access to telecommunications services:

  • California Low Cost Internet Plans: Find Internet providers in your area offering free or low-cost options.
  • California LifeLine: Provides discounted landline basic telephone and mobile phone service to low-income consumers.
  • California Advanced Services Fund (CASF): Provides grants to broadband service providers, public housing and regional consortia to help provide broadband in underserved areas, in order to bridge the “digital divide.”
  • California Teleconnect Fund (CTF): Provides discounted communications services to schools, community colleges, libraries, government-owned hospitals and other non-profit organizations.
  • Deaf & Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP): Provides assistive telecommunications equipment, speech generating devices, and relay services to consumers with hearing, vision, speech, cognitive, and mobility disabilities.
  • California High Cost Fund-A (CHCF-A): Provides subsidies to small independent telephone corporations serving consumers in rural high-cost areas, in order to reduce landline phone service rates for rural consumers, allow access to 911 and other public interest services (e.g. 811, government offices, etc.) and improve deployment of broadband-capable facilities.
  • California High Cost Fund-B (CHCF-B): Provides subsidies to “carriers of last resort” for providing phone service in rural high-cost areas, in order to keep rates affordable for consumers in rural high-cost areas and allow access to 911 and public interest services.

The CPUC has various administrative committees, which function as advisory boards to the CPUC regarding the development, implementation, and administration of their respective programs. Currently, these programs are funded by surcharges assessed on landline, wireless, and VoIP intrastate revenues. Telecommunication service providers collect surcharges from consumers, and remit the surcharge monies to a financial institution working on behalf of the CPUC. Program equipment vendors and service providers also submit claims to the CPUC for reimbursement of costs incurred to implement these programs. For more information on the surcharges, see: Surcharges, Fees and Taxes.