Eligible Telecommunication Carriers (ETCs)
The Wisconsin Administrative Code (PSC § 160.13.) spells out the full requirements for an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC). Those requirements are located on the
Revisor of Statutes Bureau and Website.
Service providers designated as ETCs in Wisconsin are listed in the following PDF.
Eligible Telecommunications Carrier Designation Overview:
ETC means that the provider is eligible for federal, and possibly state, universal service funding. ETC status was created in the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Under the Act, the federal communications commission (FCC) is responsible for broadly defining federal universal service programs, and the overall rules for ETCs. States designate providers as ETCs, and have the authority to apply additional requirements and create additional universal service programs. Wisconsin has created such programs and requirements. These are set forth in Wis. Admin. Code ch. 160. Providers may apply for ETC designation. That designation may, at the choice of the provider, be limited in either geographic scope or in the types of programs and funding for which the provider is eligible.
Applying for ETC Designation:
Petitions for ETC designation must be filed through the Commission's website, using the Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system. Resellers and CLECs must have received the appropriate certificate of authority from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. CMRS and VOIP providers must be registered with the PSCW. Information on certification of resellers is here, certification of CLECs is here, and registration of CMRS and VoIP providers is here.
All petitions for ETC designation must contain the following:
- The provider's PSCW utility number.
- The provider's legal name, as well as any d/b/a names the provider will be using.
- The following contact information:
- Name, address, phone number and email address for the consultant, if any, filing the application.
- Name, address, phone number and email address for the company official signing the affidavits.
- Name, address, phone number and email address the Commission would contact to address regulatory inquiries and to address consumer complaints.
- Name, address, phone number and email address the Commission would contact with regard to annual financial filings.
- Name, address, phone number and email address the Commission would contact with regulatory inquiries.
- The phone number, email address or website which customers would use when seeking retail service from the company.
- The phone number, email address or website which customers would use when contacting the company with complaints or inquiries.
- Verification that the provider has registered with the Department of Financial Institutions.
- A description of the area for which designation as an ETC is being sought. If the provider is requesting ETC designation statewide, then a statement to that effect meets this requirement. If the provider is not requesting ETC designation statewide, then a list of the exchanges, by name and CILI code, for which the provider is requesting ETC designation. A spreadsheet listing all Wisconsin exchanges, including CILI codes, serving ILEC and whether the exchange is rural or non-rural, is here. If the provider is seeking designation for only portions of rural ILEC service territories, or for only portions of exchanges, then the provider must receive the appropriate FCC forbearance.
- A commitment that the provider will use the CARES database to verify eligibility for Lifeline customers. See Verification of Lifeline Eligibility for more info.
- Verification that the provider will advertise the availability of its services, including a description of and charges for lifeline service, as required by state and federal rules.
- Confirmation that the provider meets the federal requirement that it provide service, at least in part, over its own facilities. This requirement can be met by:
- A description of how company-owned transmission facilities would be used for calls placed by or to a Wisconsin customer. Such facilities need not be in Wisconsin. For example, if a company has local loops in another state, a call from a Wisconsin customer to the applicant's customers in that other state would travel over those local loops. This description must include identification of the facilities involved. The company should submit at least one invoice for the services in support of this claim. Invoices may be filed confidentially.
- For companies availing themselves of the federal forbearance for providers who have had compliance plans approved by the FCC, a link to the approved compliance plan and a link to the FCC order approving that plan.
- Verification that the provider will meets FCC requirements, including:
- Offering voice telephony service as currently defined by the FCC.
- Satisfying applicable consumer protection and service quality standards.
- Comply with the service requirements applicable to the support that it receives.
- Demonstrate its ability to remain functional in emergency situations.
- If the company is requesting eligibility for high cost support, if must also file the information which would be required to comply with 47 CFR § 54.101, 47 CFR § 54.201, 47 CFR § 54.202 and 47 CFR § 54.207. Specifically, providers requesting high cost ETC designation should file a five-year investment plan consistent with 47 CFR § 54.202(a)(1)(ii).
- Verification that the provider meets FCC requirements relating to financial and technical capability, including:
- Prior offerings of Lifeline service.
- Length of time provider has been in business.
- Whether the provider relies primarily or exclusively on Lifeline customers.
- Extent of revenue derived from non-Lifeline sources.
- Description and status of any FCC enforcement action involving the provider.
- Verification that the provider (except federal-only ETCs) will meet all state requirements found in Wis. Admin. Code PSC s. 160.13.
- Verification that the provider will respond to Commission data requests and file responses to the Annual Questionnaire.
- An affidavit, signed by an official capable of binding the provider, that the information in the application is true and complete.
Providers Seeking Designation Only for Low-Income:
A provider may seek ETC designation only for the purpose of receiving reimbursement for low income programs, such as lifeline. If the provider chooses to do so, their application must contain a clear statement that the provider is requesting ETC designation only for the purpose of receiving low-income program support. A provider may request low-income ETC designation under state rules or under the federal-only provision (see below) if applicable.
Providers Seeking Designation Contingent on Receiving CAF funding:
A provider may seek ETC designation contingent on receiving CAF funding. The application must be filed normally and meet all requirements, including the requirements for high cost ETCs. The provider should clearly state that the ETC designation will be contingent on the receipt of CAF funding. If granted, the provider should notify the Commission of whether or not they were offered CAF funding. If the provider received funding, the provider should specify the date on the ETC designation should become active. The provider will become an ETC on that date. If the provider does not receive funding in Wisconsin, the provider should tell the Commission whether it would prefer to have the ETC designation go into effect anyway, withdraw the request, or have the designation held in abeyance until the next round of CAF funding.
Wireless Providers Seeking Designation as Federal-Only ETCs:
Wisconsin Stats. S. 196.218(4)(b) allows commercial mobile radio service providers to request designation as a "federal-only" ETC. Federal-only ETCs may not seek reimbursement from the Wisconsin universal service fund, but are eligible for federal universal service funds.
If the provider seeks designation under this provision, the application must contain the following:
- A clear statement that the provider is requesting designation under s. 196.218(4)(b)
- An affidavit that the provider is a commercial mobile radio service provider.
- A statement that the provider will not request reimbursement from the Wisconsin Universal Service Fund.
Federal-only ETCs must only follow only federal ETC requirements. Requirements applied by state universal service rules do not apply, unless also applied by federal rules or regulations. (The use of the CARES database for Lifeline verification is an example of a state requirement that does apply, because it is also mandated by federal rules.) A wireless carrier may apply as a federal-only ETC as either a low-income ETC or as a full (e.g. high cost) ETC.
Wireless providers have the option of seeking designation as either a federal-only or more traditional ETC. At present, roughly two-thirds of the wireless providers designated as ETCs in Wisconsin are designated under state rules, and one-third are designated as federal-only.
Processing Petitions for ETC Designation
ETC applications must be filed using the Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system on the Commission website. All filings are electronic – the Commission no longer accepts paper filings. Once the application is complete and all data requests have been answered, the Commission will issue a notice requesting comments. Unless the comments raise new or unexpected issues, the order granting ETC designation will be issued shortly thereafter.
Changes of Information Contained in the ETC Petition
If a company makes changes which would change items contained in the ETC application, (e.g. contact names or numbers, address, markets served, etc.) either before or after receiving designation as an ETC, it must notify the Commission of those changes. Such notification can be by letter, filed electronically via the Commission's Electronic Regulatory Filing System (ERF). The letter should be filed under the docket number if ETC designation is still pending, or under the company's PSC Utility ID number if designation has already been granted.
The process for providers seeking to expand the area for which they are designated as an ETC, seeks to relinquish ETC designation in some or all area for which it is designated as an ETC or wishing to modify the number of free minutes of a prepaid plan for which it has obtained a waiver of the minimum monthly Lifeline charge are described elsewhere on this page.
Expansion of Territory for a Provider Already Designated as an ETC
An ETC already designated as an ETC in Wisconsin may file a petition for designation in additional wire centers, or for statewide designation. A petition for expansion is similar to an initial petition for ETC designation, but simpler. The petition need not repeat the information contained in the initial application, unless some of that has changed. A petition for expansion must identify the additional areas for which ETC designation is being sought, and a statement that the provider will perform as an ETC in the expansion area as it has in its existing area of designation.
A petition for expansion follows the same process as an initial petition for ETC designation. After the application is complete and any staff data requests have been answered, the Commission will issue a Notice of Investigation requesting comments. If no comments are received or if no significant issues are raised, the expansion order will be issued. If significant issues are raised, those will need to be brought before the Commission for resolution.
Transfer of ETC Designation:
ETC designation is not a transferable asset. It cannot be sold or transferred to another legal entity. If a company is purchasing the assets of a provider already designated ETC, including customer base and so forth, the company doing the purchasing needs to apply for ETC designation. The surrender of the prior company's ETC designation can be made contingent on, and effective only after, approval of the purchasing provider's request for ETC designation. If a provider designated as an ETC merges with another company, the surviving legal entity may retain the original provider's ETC designation.
Surrender of ETC Designation
An ETC may relinquish its designation for some or all of the areas for which it is designated. A petition for surrender must be filed through the Commission's website, using the Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system. The petition must include the following:
- Identification of the petitioner, including the PSC ID #.
- A clear statement that the petitioner is relinquishing its ETC designation.
- A description of the exchanges or wire centers in which ETC status is being relinquished. If the ETC is relinquishing ETC status statewide, then "throughout Wisconsin" or "all ETC areas" is an acceptable, and preferred, alternative to a list of wire centers.
- The date on which the petitioner would like the relinquishment to become effective. If not specified, then the relinquishment will become effective in ten days, or as described below.
Under Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 160.13, relinquishment happens without Commission action if at least one other provider is designated in each exchange affected by the relinquishment. At present, at least two providers are designated in each exchange.
The ETC surrender process may vary by wire center, depending on whether another ETC is designated for the wire center. At present, multiple ETCs are designated in each wire center in the state, so relinquishments will be automatic. Staff will issue a confirmation letter notifying USAC of the relinquishment.
Conversion from Federal-Only to State Designation
If a provider is designated as an ETC under Wisconsin Stats. S. 196.218(4)(b), and wishes to become eligible for state USF funding, the provider may petition for ETC designation under state law. The petition should clearly state that the provider is designated under the federal-only provision, and wishes to change to state designation. If the provider wishes to be designated only for the purposes of low-income support, the petition should state that as well. The petition must include an affidavit that the provider is willing to abide by all state requirements under Wis. Admin. Code s. 160.13.
All ETCs, including federal-only ETCs, are required to report assessable revenues information in the Annual Questionnaire System for Telecommunications Utilities. The due date for the annual questionnaire is April 1 of the following year. Check the Commission's Annual Report web page at for availability of the appropriate year's annual report program. Do not use a prior year's annual report program for reporting a subsequent calendar year's activity.
All ETCs must file copies of their Federal Form 481 filings with the Commission. Those forms should be filed electronically, using the Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system in docket 5-KA-[year] where [year] is the current year. For example, Form 481s filed in 2018 would be filed in docket 5-KA-2018. The forms may be filed confidentially.
ETC should also file copies of their FCC Form 555, if required to do so under federal law. Those forms should be filed electronically, using the Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system in docket 5-KB-[year] where [year] is the current year. For example, Form 555s filed in 2018 would be filed in docket 5-KB-2018. The forms may be filed confidentially.
Universal Service Administrative Co. has additional information on what ETCs must file with USAC and with the FCC.
Questions and comments related to ETCs and ETC designation may be directed to Peter Jahn at 608-267-2338 or via email at email@example.com. Questions and comments on using ERF may be directed to Becky Yoh at 608-261-8521 or via email at Rebecca.Yoh@wisconsin.gov.