Effective August 1, 2022, HCTC telephone customers will notice an increase in their monthly bills due to a recent court order requiring the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) to fully fund the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF). The TUSF was created by the Texas Legislature to keep rural phone bills affordable by making the rates of rural service comparable to rates in urban areas. The funding of the TUSF program is made possible by the TUSF assessment rate that is set by the PUC and is applied to all taxable intrastate telecommunications receipts on consumers’ bills. Two years ago, the PUC chose to not take action to fully fund the TUSF, forcing rural telecommunications providers to sue the state. A recent court order now requires the PUC to take steps to fully fund the TUSF, paying back more than $200 million owed to rural telecommunications providers. In response, the PUC increased the TUSF assessment rate from 3.3% to 24% for all phone customers in the state – both urban and rural – to collect the money it owes. “HCTC is not happy to see this sharp fee increase. Although we simply collect the fee and forward it to the state, we are working closely with the PUC to encourage a plan that will reduce the surcharge and resulting impact on our customers,” said HCTC CEO, R. Craig Cook.