The Office of Investigations (OI) investigates alleged or suspected fraud and other misconduct related to FCC operations and programs. OI often focuses on conducting civil and criminal investigations and supporting prosecutions of fraud related to the FCC’s universal service programs — programs which disburse nearly $10 billion annually. Staff work routinely with the Department of Justice, the FBI, and other federal, state and local law enforcement partners. OI’s investigations, which are often large-scale and complex, have resulted in many successes, including civil settlements and criminal convictions.
OI initiates investigations based on information from a variety of sources, including complaints from whistleblowers and the public made to the OIG Hotline; information uncovered during OIG audits and reviews; and referrals from within the FCC, other state and federal agencies, and Congress. Although OI typically utilizes traditional investigative tools such as subpoenas and witness interviews, the office has also developed advanced data analytics tools to proactively uncover systemic fraud in FCC programs and build cases against wrongdoers.
In addition to seeking civil, criminal and administrative penalties against those who seek to defraud FCC operations and programs, OI frequently utilizes its investigative findings and proactive data analyses to make recommendations on ways to prevent and deter fraud and call attention to questionable practices to a variety of internal and external stakeholders, including FCC management and policymakers.
Information About Key Investigation Areas
The Schools and Libraries Program, also known as “E-Rate,” provides support to eligible schools and libraries in every U.S. state and territory to help fund telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections.
The Lifeline Program provides support to eligible telecommunications carriers that, in turn, offer discounts on telecommunications services to eligible consumers to obtain voice and broadband connectivity services.
The High Cost Program, which has been reformed and transitioned to the Connect America Fund (CAF), provides support to certain qualifying telecommunications carriers serving high cost areas, primarily rural. Telecommunications carriers receiving High Cost support must offer services to rural area consumers at rates reasonably comparable to the rates for services offered in urban areas.
The Rural Health Care Program (RHC) provides funding to eligible nonprofit or public health care providers for telecommunications and broadband services necessary for the provision of health care and to advance the quality of healthcare available to patients in rural communities. RHC funds two programs, the Healthcare Connect Fund and the Telecommunications Program. The Healthcare Connect Fund provides support for high-capacity broadband connectivity to eligible health care providers and encourages the formation of state and regional broadband health care provider networks. The Telecommunications Program ensures that eligible rural health care providers pay no more than their urban counterparts for telecommunications services.
The TRS fund compensates TRS providers for reasonable costs of providing interstate telephone transmission services that enable a person with a hearing or speech disability to communicate with a person without hearing or speech disabilities.
Additional information on TRS can be found on the FCC's TRS webpage.
All telecommunications providers are required to report revenues to USAC every year. These filings are used to determine contributions to the Universal Service Fund (USF). Telecommunications providers who pay into the USF are collectively referred to as contributors.
OIG investigates allegations of fraud, waste and abuse occurring in FCC operations, including matters of possible wrongdoing and misconduct involving FCC employees and contractors.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program provides $200 million in funding, appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help nonprofit and public eligible health care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Program provides immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by fully funding their telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services until the program’s funds have been expended or the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.