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FCC Proposes to Create New Citizens Broadband Radio Service in 3.5 GHz Band

Posted on April 23, 2014

The FCC has adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNRPM) proposing rules to create a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) by making 150 MHz of spectrum available in the 3.5 GHz band. The Commission proposes to create three classes of licenses: (1) Federal and non-federal incumbent licensees would be afforded the highest level of protection (2) Priority Access Licenses would be available for flexible use and subject to competitive bidding; (3) general authorized access use would be licensed by rule and would be allowed in a reserved band and on an opportunistic basis. The Commission proposes that the CBRS be managed by a dynamic spectrum access system that will manage access and operations among the three tiers.

For additional information, please contact Tara Shostek.

FCC Moves Forward With CAF Phase II; Delays New Rate Floor; Defines Reasonable Request; Abolishes QRA; Seeks Comment on Higher Broadband Speeds; Considers Changes to Mobility Fund Phase II

Posted on April 23, 2014

At its April open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a “Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, Order, Memorandum Opinion and Order, and Seventh Order on Reconsideration” that continues the implementation of universal service fund (USF) reforms that were adopted in the 2011 USF/ICC Transformation Order.  The USF item addresses a significant number of issues related to Phase II of the Connect America Fund, including the structure of the competitive bidding process that will be used to distribute CAF Phase II support in the event a price cap carrier turns down its state-level commitment offer.  It also adopts a CAF Phase II ETC designation process to “allow[] non-traditional providers, such as cable operators, satellite providers, and electric cooperatives, to become eligible for support.”  Other significant parts of the recently adopted USF item are as follows:

  • The “Order” portion of the USF item delays the effective date of the FCC’s new rate floor and sets a measured phase-in for its implementation.
  • The “Declaratory Ruling” addresses the requirement adopted in the USF/ICC Transformation Order that upon receipt of a “reasonable request” for service, carriers must deploy broadband to the requesting customer within a reasonable amount of time.
  • The Seventh Order on Reconsideration abolishes the quantile regression analysis that was adopted in the USF/ICC Transformation Order and was used to limit USF support received by rate-of-return carriers.
  • The “Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” seeks comment on whether to increase  the download speed required for subsidized broadband networks, from 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps; whether to retarget Mobility Fund Phase II support to ensure the continued deployment and preservation of 4G LTE mobile broadband service; and how to establish a Connect America Fund for rate-of-return carriers within the current budget for the program.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

FCC Finalizes Parts of Connect America Cost Model

Posted on April 23, 2014

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) has released a Report and Order that finalizes the engineering assumptions contained in the Connect America Cost Model (CAM) and adopts CAM inputs that calculate the cost of serving census blocks in price cap carrier areas.  In the Report and Order, the Bureau also makes numerous other decisions related to the structure and operation of the CACM and Phase II of the Connect America Fund (CAF), including:

  • Price cap carriers serving non-contiguous areas will be offered model-based support, but also be provided the option of receiving frozen support.
  • The Bureau identifies the “likely” funding benchmark that will determine which areas are eligible for the offer of model-based support, which will enable the Bureau to commence the Phase II challenge process.  Specifically, the Bureau tentatively sets the funding benchmark for CAF Phase II support at $52.50 per location and estimates that the extremely high-cost threshold will be $207.81 per location.
  • The Bureau estimates a tentative final budget of $1.782 billion for the Phase II offer of model-based support to price cap carriers.
  • The Bureau estimates that approximately 4.25 million residential and business locations will be eligible to receive model-based CAF Phase II support.

Additionally, the Bureau has concluded that it will use round eight National Broadband Map data (data as of June 2013) to initially identify areas served by unsubsidized competitors.  The list of census blocks eligible for CAF Phase II support will be finalized through a challenge process “in the months ahead.”

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

Chairman Wheeler Defends Reserve Spectrum Proposal

Posted on April 23, 2014

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has formally responded to critics of his proposed spectrum holdings order.  The draft order, expected to be voted on next month, would impact the 600 MHz Broadcast Incentive Auction by setting aside up to 30 MHz of reserve spectrum for bidding by entities that hold less than one-third of low band (below 1 GHz) spectrum in each market. The reserve spectrum would be made available for bidding as long as a particular (but as-yet-undetermined) trigger is activated. On April 16, AT&T publicly opposed the proposal, and noted that the company would “reevaluate its potential participation in the auction.” In a letter to members of Congress sent the next day, Chairman Wheeler defended the reserve proposal to a much larger audience. Wheeler stated that “[c]onsistent with the Spectrum Act, all who want to participate in the Incentive Auction will be able to bid. At the same time, a priority of the auction should be to assure that companies that already possess low-band spectrum do not exploit the auction to keep competitors from accessing the spectrum necessary to provide competition.”

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

Accessible Emergency Information Rules Become Effective

Posted on April 23, 2014

On April 9, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission released the Emergency Information Order, which adopted rules requiring that emergency information provided in video programming be made accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired and that certain apparatus be capable of delivering video description and emergency information to those individuals. With the exception of those requiring approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the rules became effective on June 24, 2013. OMB recently approved the remaining rules promulgated in the Emergency Information Order, and those rules became effective on April 16, 2014.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

ECO Test Eliminated for International Applications

Posted on April 23, 2014

The FCC has eliminated the effective competitive opportunities test (ECO Test) that applies to international 214 applications and cable landing license applications involving certain carrier affiliations in and services to countries that are not members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Commission will no longer require an ECO showing in the following cases:  (1) Commission review of applications for international section 214 authority filed by foreign carriers or certain of their affiliates that have market power in non-WTO Member countries; (2) notifications of foreign carrier affiliations in non-WTO countries filed by authorized U.S.-international carriers; (3) Commission review of applications for submarine cable landing licenses filed by foreign carriers or certain of their affiliates that have market power in non-WTO Member countries; and (4) notifications of foreign carrier affiliations in non-WTO Member countries filed by U.S. cable landing licensees.  The ECO Test will be replaced with a case-by-case analysis of market entry barriers on an as-needed basis.

For additional information, please contact Howard Shapiro.

FCC Considering Clarification of Certain Rural Call Completion Rules

Posted on April 22, 2014

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) is seeking comment on the need for guidance or additional clarification related to certain filing obligations of covered providers under the FCC’s rural call completion rules.  Specifically, the Bureau is considering whether it should modify or clarify the criteria described in Appendix C of the Rural Call Completion Order for the “answered” and “ring no answer” categories of call attempts.  Pursuant to the FCC’s rural call completion rules, covered providers (long-distance voice service providers that make the initial long-distance call path choice for more than 100,000 domestic retail subscriber lines) must record, retain, and report data on calls placed to rural areas.  Covered providers must categorize and report call attempts that were answered or fall into one of three types of calls that are not answered: “busy,” “ring no answer,” or “unassigned number.”  During recent meetings between FCC staff and industry stakeholders, questions arose concerning the FCC’s interpretation of “answered” and “ring no answer” categories of call attempts, and as a result, the Bureau is seeking comment on the two issues.  Comments are due 7 days after the Bureau’s Public Notice has been published in the Federal Register.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

FCC Releases Voice Data and Explanatory Notes from Urban Rate Survey

Posted on April 21, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau has announced the posting of the fixed voice services data collected in the urban rate survey, and explanatory notes regarding the data, on the Commission’s website. This data was used to compute the 2014 rate floor for incumbent eligible telecommunications carriers and the reasonable comparability benchmark for voice services that were announced on March 20, 2014.

In the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Federal Communications Commission determined that “ETCs must offer voice telephony service, including voice telephone service offered on a standalone basis, at rates that are reasonably comparable to urban rates,” and adopted a presumption that a voice rate is within a reasonable range if it falls within two standard deviations above the national average. As directed in the Order, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau initiated an urban rate survey for fixed voice services. Based on the survey results, the Bureau has calculated that the average local end-user rates plus state regulated fees of the surveyed Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) in urban areas is $20.46, and the reasonable comparability benchmark for voice services is $46.96. Under the Commission’s rules, by July 1, 2014, all Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) that are ILEC recipients of high-cost support must report the number of residential service lines for which the sum of the rate and state fees are below $20.46 as of June 1, 2014. In addition, each ETC, including competitive ETCs, must certify that the pricing of the voice services is no more than $46.96. Several entities, including NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) and the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), have filed joint petition requesting that the deadline for compliance with the 2014 local service rate floor be extended from July 1, 2014 to January 2, 2015. A coalition of public interest groups have asked the commission to either postpone the rate floor hike or phase it in more slowly because more time is needed to examine underlying issues.

The Commission is expected to take up this issue at its April 23 meeting. According to press reports, the draft item would increase the rate floor from $14 to $17 as of December 1, 2014 before increasing it again July 1, 2016.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

RWA Asks Commission to Halt Phase-Down of Legacy USF Support for Competitive Carriers

Posted on April 21, 2014

The Rural Wireless Association, Inc. has asked the Federal Communications Commission to halt the phase-down of Universal Service legacy support because the Mobility Fund Phase II will not be operational or implemented by June 30, 2014.  RWA argues that the Commission has not yet adopted final Mobility Fund Phase II rules and there is no reasonable possibility that the FCC will hold a reverse auction and disburse funds by the June deadline.  Legacy funding is currently scheduled to phase-down to 40 percent of the 2011 monthly baseline on July 1, 2014.  Absent Commission action, competitive carriers face a significant reduction in legacy USF support without replacement Mobility Fund Phase II support.  RWA argues that the Commission should freeze USF support at current levels until July 1, 2015 and find that Phase II is operational once 50% of funding has been disbursed to carriers.  RWA notes that Section 254 of the Communications Act requires the Commission to have “specific, predictable, and sufficient Federal… mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service.”  RWA asserts that the Commission must halt the scheduled phase-down to ensure carriers have specific and predictable access to USF support.

For additional information, please contact Tara Shostek.

FCC Issues Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft Order

Posted on April 18, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission has released a Second Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration for Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (ESAA). ESAAs receive from, and transmit to, a geostationary orbit (GSO) Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) satellite. ESAAs, when combined with technologies such as Wi-Fi inside the aircraft hull, offer broadband services for in-flight passengers and crew aboard commercial and private aircraft. The Report and Order will promote regulatory parity by adopting a primary allocation for ESAA in the 14.0-14.5 GHz band. The Order on Reconsideration clarifies some ESAA rules, a result of a petition for reconsideration and clarification filed by The Boeing Company. These changes will promote regulatory and operational certainty for ESAA systems sharing spectrum with other applications in the FSS.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.