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FCC Reminds Lifeline Providers of ETC Designation and Compliance Plan Requirements

Posted on July 25, 2014

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) has issued a Public Notice to remind communications providers of a number of requirements that must be met in order to receive Lifeline support from the universal service fund (USF).  First, the Bureau reminds all communications providers that they must be deemed an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) pursuant to the Communications Act and the FCC’s rules before they are eligible to receive Lifeline support.  Next, the Bureau reminds entities of the requirements that must be met if they are seeking designation as an ETC for purposes of providing Lifeline service only.  Specifically, providers that are seeking to operate as Lifeline-only ETCs that are not offering service over their own facilities, or a combination of their own and “resold” facilities must submit and have the Bureau approve a Lifeline compliance plan that meets the requirements set forth in the Lifeline Reform Order.  Those providers that are providing service as Lifeline-only ETCs pursuant to an approved compliance plan “must adhere to the terms laid out in their compliance plans” at all times.  According to the latest data on the FCC’s website, there are currently 58 Lifeline compliance plans pending before the Bureau.  The site shows that 20 compliance plans have been approved by the Bureau.  Finally, the Bureau reminds providers that the “transfer of control of licenses and other authorizations from an entity already designated as an ETC to another entity that has not been designated as an ETC is insufficient for the transferee itself to assume the ETC status of the acquired ETC.”  The transferee must obtain its own ETC designation in order to receive USF reimbursements for providing Lifeline service.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

FCC Denies RWA Petition to Block AT&T Purchase of Aloha AWS-1 Spectrum

Posted on July 25, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has issued an Order denying a petition filed by the Rural Wireless Association, Inc. (RWA) which sought to block a proposed sale of AWS-1 spectrum from Aloha Partners II, L.P. (Aloha) to AT&T Mobile Spectrum LLC (AT&T), or in the alternative, postpone the Commission’s review of the transaction until such time as the FCC had released an order in the Mobile Spectrum Holdings proceeding, WT Docket No. 12- 269.  On January 7, 2014, AT&T and Aloha filed an application seeking Commission consent to assign the subject licenses from Aloha to AT&T.  Specifically, AT&T is seeking to purchase between 10 and 20 megahertz of AWS-1 licenses in 280 counties in 19 states.  In its petition, RWA raised general concerns that the proposed transaction would contribute to excessive spectrum aggregation on the part of AT&T.  The Commission determined that there were no “specific facts or evidence to support a finding that the transaction is likely to cause competitive or public interest harms.”  Furthermore, the Commission noted that it also adopted its Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report and Order on May 15, 2014 and released it on June 2, 2014.  Because of these determinations, the petition was denied.

For additional information, please contact Daryl Zakov.

FCC Waives Bright-Line Trigger of Attributable Material Relationship Rule Waived

Posted on July 24, 2014

The FCC has waived the application of its attributable material relationship (AMR) rule, which establishes a bright-line trigger for the attribution of a lessee’s gross revenues to a Designated Entity (DE) applicant that has leased more than 25% of the capacity of any one of its licenses. The Commission waived application of the AMR rule for Grain Management LLC (Grain) although it leased 100% of the spectrum associated with four licenses to Verizon Wireless and AT&T because the licenses were not subject to DE benefits and, at the time the leases became effective, Grain held no other licenses subject to DE benefits. Application of the AMR rule would have resulted in Verizon Wireless’ and AT&T’s gross revenues being attributed to Grain when determining Grain’s DE eligibility. The Commission reserved the right to assess whether these leases or any other aspects of the parties’ relationships require the attribution of gross revenues to Grain should Grain win licenses claiming DE benefits.

For additional information, please contact Tara Shostek.

Reply Comment Deadline in T-Mobile Roaming Proceeding Extended

Posted on July 24, 2014

The FCC has granted the joint request filed by the Rural Wireless Association, Inc., NTCA – the Rural Broadband Association and the Blooston Rural Carriers (Petitioners) seeking an extension of the reply comment filing deadline in connection with T-Mobile USA, Inc.’s petition for expedited declaratory ruling regarding commercially reasonable data roaming obligations. Petitioners asked that the Commission extend the reply comment deadline because the original deadline fell in the middle of NTCA’s regional conference and just before RWA’s Rural Communications show. The new reply comment filing deadline is August 20, 2014.

For additional information, please contact Tara Shostek.

FCC Releases Text of E-Rate Modernization Order; Comments on FNPRM Due September 15

Posted on July 24, 2014

The FCC has released the text of its recently adopted E-Rate Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) which takes the first major steps in 17 years to modernize the schools and libraries universal service support mechanism (E-Rate program).  In addition to the well publicized reforms to the support system for internal connections which will increase Wi-Fi connectivity in U.S. schools and libraries, the FCC has adopted a number of reforms that are expected to help achieve the following three goals for the E-Rate program: (1) ensuring affordable access to high-speed broadband sufficient to support digital learning in schools and robust connectivity for all libraries; (2) maximizing the cost-effectiveness of spending for E-Rate supported purchases; and (3) making the E-Rate application process and other E-Rate processes fast, simple and efficient.  Among other things, in the FNPRM, comment is sought on meeting the future funding needs of the E-Rate program in light of the newly adopted program goals; ways to further simplify the administration of the E-Rate program by continuing to reduce the burden on applicants of applying for and receiving E-Rate support; and how to facilitate the use of cost-effective consortium-based purchasing.  Comments in response to the FNPRM are due on or before September 15, 2014, and reply comments are due September 30, 2014.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

FCC Updates List of Rural Areas Eligible for Rural Health Support

Posted on July 24, 2014

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau has announced it will release an updated list of rural areas that is used to determine eligibility in the Rural Health Care (RHC) universal service support mechanism.  RHC support is made available to certain rural public or non-profit health care providers (HCPs) to ensure they receive telecommunications services  at rates that are “reasonably comparable” to rates in urban areas.  In order to be eligible to receive RHC support, HCPs must be located in rural areas which pursuant to a 2004 definition, are located either entirely outside a Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA), as defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) based on data obtained through the most recent decennial census, or within a CBSA that meets certain criteria related to population density.  As of 2005, the list of rural areas has been based on 2000 census data.  The Bureau has now announced that it will update the list to reflect 2010 decennial census data and the most recent OMB CBSA designations.  Additionally, a limited waiver has been granted to those RHC program participants that will become “nonrural” as a result of the update.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

Broadband Comparability Benchmark Methodology Comment Deadline Set

Posted on July 22, 2014

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) Wireline Competition Bureau released a Public Notice seeking comment regarding a specific methodology for calculating the reasonable comparability benchmark for fixed broadband services. The USF/ICC Transformation Order required Connect America Fund recipients to offer voice and broadband services in supported areas at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates for similar services in urban areas.  In the Order, the Commission directed the Wireline Competition and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus to conduct a survey of residential urban rates for fixed voice, fixed broadband, mobile voice, and mobile broadband services.  The Commission has made data collected in the 2013 urban rate survey available to the public here.

The Commission concluded that rural broadband rates would be deemed “reasonably comparable” to urban rates if they fell within a reasonable range of urban rates for reasonably comparable broadband service.  It directed the Bureaus to develop a specific methodology for defining that reasonable range.  The Wireline Competition Bureau will compute the broadband comparability benchmark based upon a national average, and the staff report accompanying the Public Notice offers three possible methodologies to determine the average rate.  The Bureau’s proposed methodology would result in a broadband benchmark that ranges from $68.48 to $71.84 for services meeting the current broadband performance standard of 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream.  Comments on the proposed methodologies are due August 20, 2014.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

Comment Dates Announced for Termination of Dormant Proceedings

Posted on July 22, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau (Bureau) has released a Public Notice seeking comment on the possible termination of the proceedings listed here.  Candidates for termination may include dockets in which no further action is required or contemplated, as well as those in which no pleadings or other documents have been filed for several years.  Per Commission order, proceedings in which petitions addressing the merits are pending should not be terminated without the parties’ consent.  A party’s failure to file comments will be construed as consent to terminate that proceeding. A party aggrieved by a docket termination may file a petition for reconsideration with the Bureau or an application for review with the full Commission.  Comments are due August 20, 2014, and replies will be due September 4, 2014.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

Wi-Fi Innovation Act Introduced in House and Senate

Posted on July 22, 2014

Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH), with colleagues Darrell Issa (R-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Doris Matsui (D-CA), has introduced the Wi-Fi Innovation Act (H.R. 5125) in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The bill directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) to conduct tests within the 5 GHz band to determine if spectrum can be shared without interfering with current users.  H.R. 5125 also acknowledges ongoing efforts related to the development of critical safety applications in vehicles and other intelligent transportation initiatives and creates a study to examine the barriers to Wi-Fi deployment in low-income areas.  Last year, the same four lawmakers sent a letter to then Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn urging the Commission to make additional spectrum available for unlicensed use in the 5 GHz band.  The Telecommunications Industry Association, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and Consumer Electronics Association have expressed their support for H.R. 5125.  Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Senate version of the Wi-Fi Innovation Act (S. 2505) in June.  The bills have been referred to the appropriate committees of jurisdiction in each chamber for consideration.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

Text-to-911 Part of Light August Open Meeting Agenda

Posted on July 18, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) will hold its next open meeting on Friday, August 8, 2014.  The tentative agenda includes:

  • Part 17 Antenna Structure Report and Order: The Commission will consider a Report and Order to streamline and update the rules governing the construction, marking, and lighting of antenna structures.
  • Enabling Nationwide Text-to-911 Service for the 21st Century: The Commission will consider a Second Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that establishes deadlines for covered text providers to be capable of delivering texts to appropriate 911 public safety answering points, and seeks comment on potential improvements to current text-to-911 technology, such as through better location information.

The August 8, 2014 meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 am, and will be shown life at FCC.gov/live.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.