Eligible Telecommunication Carriers FAQs

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 ETC Service Providers.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions on ETC's

Select a question below in order to jump to the answer.

How do providers apply for designation as an ETC?

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 or registration can be found at Designation as a Telecom Provider​.

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 with regulatory inquiries.
    • The phone number, email address or website which customers would use when seeking retail service from the company. If the company has different contact points for different services (e.g. voice, broadband, low income offerings), provide each of these, and identify which customers should use which contact points.
    • The phone number, email address or website which customers would use when contacting the company with complaints or inquiries.
  • 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. If the provider is seeking designation on a census block basis, it must provide an electronic list of census blocks. If requesting designation on a census block basis, the provider must also request a waiver of Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 160.13(5)(b).
  • A commitment that the provider will use the National Verifier to verify eligibility for Lifeline customers. . 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. (Wis. Admin Code § PSC 160.13(2)(a)(2) and 47 CFR § 54.201(d)(2).)
  • 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 for ETCs, including:
    • Offering voice telephony service as currently defined by the FCC.
    • Offering broadband as required by the FCC.
    • Satisfying applicable consumer protection and service quality standards.
    • Complying 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.

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Can providers be designated as ETCs only for the purpose of receiving low-income support?

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, and will not seek high-cost support. A provider may request low-income ETC designation under state rules or under the federal-only provision (see below) if applicable.

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Can providers apply for ETC designation contingent on winning a federal support auction (such as RDOF)?

Providers Seeking Designation Contingent on receiving federal funding via auction of similar process: A provider may seek ETC designation contingent on receiving funding from a federal auction such as RDOF. 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 the funding in question. If granted, the provider should notify the Commission of whether or not they were offered the funding 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 such funding.

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What types of providers can opt for “federal-only” ETC designation?

Wisconsin Stats. §​ 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 follow federal ETC requirements. Requirements applied by state universal service rules do not apply, unless also applied by federal rules or regulations. 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, most of the wireless providers designated as ETCs in Wisconsin are designated under state rules, while only a couple are designated as federal-only ETCs.

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How long do petitions for designation as an ETC generally take to process?

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 requiring consideration by the Commission, the order granting ETC designation will be issued shortly after the expiration of the comment period.

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How does a provider designated as an ETC update information provided in its application?

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, or seeking to relinquish ETC designation in some or all area for which it is designated as an ETC are described elsewhere on this page.

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How does an ETC petition for an expansion of the territory in which it is designated?

Expansion of Territory for a Provider Already Designated as an ETC A provider 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 that requests additional wire centers or census blocks must identify, in an electronic spreadsheet, the additional areas for which ETC designation is being sought. The applications must also include 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.

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Are ETC designations transferrable?

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.

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How does a provider surrender its 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 the Commission's website, using the Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system ​.

The petition must identify which areas the ETC is surrendering, the effective date of the surrender, and whether the ETC has customers which may be affected by the surrender.  If customers will be affected, the ETC must provide evidence that the customers have been notified of the change at least 60 days in advance.

If other ETCs are serving the area to be surrendered, that surrender will become effective without formal Commission approval.  If no other ETC is serving part of that area being surrendered, the surrender of that area will be delayed, pursuant to Wis. Admin. Code § PSC 160.13, until the Commission can find a replacement ETC.    

An ETC may continue to provide telecommunications service in an area in which it has relinquished ETC designation.

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How does a “federal-only” ETC convert to a full ETC to become eligible for state support?

Conversion from Federal-Only to State Designation: If a provider is designated as an ETC under Wisconsin S​tats. 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.

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What annual filings are required of ETCs?

Annual Filings: 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 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.

High costs ETCs that are required to file FCC Form 481 with USAC are not required to file copies of those forms with the Commission. However, those ETCs are required to file an affidavit stating that the ETC has used all high costs support received in the prior year for the purposes for which it was intended, and that the ETC will use any high-cost support it will receive in the next year for the purposes intended. This affidavit must be filed electronically using the Electronic Records Filing (ERF) system in docket 5-KA-[year] where [year] is the current year. For example, information filed in calendar year 2021 would be filed in docket 5-KA-2021. A blank affidavit is here. The supporting information may be filed confidentially.

ETC must also file copies of their FCC Form 555 with the PSCW, 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 2021 would be filed in docket 5-KB-2021. The forms may be filed confidentially.

Universal Service Administrative Co. has additional information on what ETCs must file with USAC and with the FCC.

Certain ETCs may also be required to file information on ACAM and CAF II funding, and evidence that their residential rates do not exceed federal limits.

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Contact Information

Questions and comments related to ETCs and ETC designation may be directed to Peter Jahn at 608-267-2338 or via email at peter.jahn@wisconsin.gov.

Questions and comments on using ERF may be directed to PSCRecordsMail@Wisconsin.gov.