National Association of the Deaf

Universal Service

Section 254 of the Communications Act created a national policy that all Americans should have full and equal access to telecommunications services. The term “all” includes, of course, Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The Universal Service Fund makes it possible for people residing in remote and rural locations, as well as in the inner cities, to receive telecommunications services at affordable rates. Two programs supported by the Universal Service Fund of interest to our community are the “Lifeline” and “Link-Up” programs.

The “Lifeline” program makes monthly phone service feasible, even in high-cost areas. Lifeline assistance provides discounts on basic monthly service at the primary residence for qualified telephone subscribers. These discounts can be up to $10.00 per month, depending on your state. Residents of Native American Indian and Alaska Native tribal communities may qualify for enhanced Lifeline assistance (up to an additional $25.00) and expanded Link-Up support (up to an additional $70.00).

The “Link-Up” program helps income-eligible consumers obtain telephone service. This program pays one-half (up to a maximum of $30) of the initial installation fee for a traditional, wireline telephone or activation fee for a wireless telephone for a primary residence. It also allows participants to pay the remaining amount they owe on a deferred schedule, interest-free.

For more information about Universal Service Life Line and Link-Up programs, see the FCC factsheet at

The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) has proposed changes to Universal Service Fund programs. These proposed changes are in the universal service section of proposed legislation called the “Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.” That legislation, when passed, would allow people with disabilities to use their Lifeline and Link-Up support for broadband services. It would also allocates up to $10 million per year from the Universal Service Fund for telecommunications equipment used by people who are deaf-blind.

The NAD is also part of the Keep Universal Service Fund (USF) Fair Coalition working to make sure the USF remains viable, and that collection for the fund remains fair. The current funding mechanism charges a usage basis, where long distance users are charged based on the minutes of long distance they use. A proposed new funding mechanism would charge by subscriber. This means that each long distance customer would pay their long distance carrier the same amount regardless of minutes used. The Keep USF Fair Coalition believes that such a drastic shift in USF funding support would disproportionately hit low-income, residential and low-volume long distance users. Through the adoption of a flat monthly connection charge, residential customers would pay the same as business customers and low volume callers would pay the same as high volume callers. This is NOT fair! We oppose this proposed change due to the negative impact it would have on low-volume users.

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National Association of the Deaf | 8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3819