FCC Reforms Threaten Tribal, Alaskan Networks, NTCA Members Tell House Subcommittee

 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Laura Withers, 703-351-2086, lwithers@ntca.org
Wendy Mann, 703-351-2087, wmann@ntca.org

ARLINGTON, Va. (June 18, 2013) – FCC reforms that were implemented based on flawed data about tribal and Alaskan communities are threatening the viability of broadband networks in those areas, representatives from three member companies of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association told members of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs today.

The NTCA members testifying before the committee were: Alfred LaPaz, acting president of the Mescalero Apache tribe, which operates Mescalero Apache Telecom (Mescalero, N.M.); Stephen Merriam, chief executive officer and general manager of Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, Inc. (Anchorage, Alaska); and Albert Hee, president of Sandwich Isles Communications Inc. (Honolulu, Hawaii). They offered perspectives on how the reforms have impacted services in their communities during the hearing, “Update From Tribal Leaders and Tribal Telecommunications Providers on the Implementation of the Federal Communications Commission’s Rule on the Universal Service Fund.”

LaPaz, Merriam and Hee all testified that the FCC’s 2011 reforms of the Universal Service Fund (USF) have created uncertainty for the companies serving vast areas of Alaska, Hawaii and New Mexico, including those inhabited by tribal Americans. In particular, they stated the FCC’s regression analysis model for capping USF support for small, rural carriers, is inhibiting their ability to continue ongoing network upgrades and initiate new services.

Hee told subcommittee members that the model does not take into consideration the unique challenges facing the rural communities of Hawaii, describing the FCC’s reforms as a “one-size-fits-all” plan for rural areas.

Responding to questions from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D–Hawaii), Merriam said his company continues to have concerns with erroneous data it has identified in the regression analysis model, including incorrect measurements of road miles in its service territory and inaccurate depictions of road conditions.

LaPaz told subcommittee members that impacts of the USF reforms have caused Mescalero Apache Telecom to halt plans to build out broadband-capable networks, to stop upgrades to existing networks and to reduce its staff from 47 employees to 26. Godfrey Enjady, president and general manager of the company, also addressed the subcommittee.

Subcommittee Chairman Don Young (R–Alaska) vowed to continue working with the companies to address the reforms’ negative effects and suggested he would seek accountability from the FCC.

LaPaz, Merriam and Hee were joined by a representative of the Alaska Federation of Natives. A commission representative was invited to testify during the hearing, but did not participate.

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NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of exploding technology, deregulation and marketplace competition, NTCA’s members are leading the IP evolution for rural consumers, delivering technologies that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development and commerce, education, health care, government services, security and smart energy use. Visit us at www.ntca.org.