#RuralisCool Volume 1, Issue 12/March 7, 2019

NTCA Urges Changes to Rural Call Completion Draft Order

During a February 28, 2019, meeting with FCC representatives from Chairman Ajit Pai’s office and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s office, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association expressed concerns that a draft order on rural call completion now circulating among the commissioners "would relieve providers of their obligation to retain the records necessary to ensure that they comply with their general obligations to complete calls under the law before it is confirmed that alternative ‘flexible’ measures will not lead to backsliding in call completion performance."

During the meeting, NTCA advocated for several specific changes that it said “would at once enable a movement toward more flexible methods for providers to manage call routing while helping still to ensure that calls will complete to rural consumers,” and it urged the following targeted changes to the draft order “to ensure continued incentives for invocation of the ‘safe harbor’ by covered and intermediate providers alike”:

  • Intermediate providers should be required to maintain records of how they are complying with the draft order’s requirements.
  • The commission should retain the record keeping requirement for covered providers until such time as there is an affirmative determination that the rules are effective and records are no longer necessary.
  • The draft order should make clear that the commission will impose penalties for both single infractions and patterns of noncompliance or misconduct in connection with call completion failures.

NTCA subsequently met with Arielle Roth from Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s office and Randy Clarke from Commissioner Geoffrey Stark’s office on the same issue. 

NTCA Lays Out Performance-Measurement Concerns to FCC

In a February 28, 2019, ex parte, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association told the FCC that since the commission’s performance measurements order last summer, the association has identified multiple issues that needs to be resolved before “successful implementation of the measurements process can be achieved.”

Specifically, the association stipulated three things that the commission should allow for ahead of the implementation of any final rules related to performance measurement:

  • First, the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC) and other stakeholders should engage in a dialogue aimed at finalizing testing and reporting rules. This dialogue should include “appropriate recognition of challenges ‘in the field’ and better definition of actual operational standards and practices,” the association said.
  • Second, the rules should provide “sufficient time for operators and/or vendors … to develop hardware and software necessary to perform the measurements testing, as well as sufficient time to integrate those solutions into existing platforms.”
  • Third, ISPs need to be given a “sufficient period during which [they] can ‘test the testing’ to ensure the overall compatibility and successful operation of customer-location, provider-operated and other components of the testing process as it will be undertaken.”

The association said that the remaining performance-measurement challenges generally “are not insurmountable,” and that “time and careful testing of the testing protocols … coupled with careful attention to ensure that the rules integrate successfully with industry operational practices and standards, should enable providers and the commission to implement robust, accurate and reliable testing protocols.”

NTCA Expresses Form 477 Concerns to FCC

In a February 28, 2018, meeting with Justin Faulb, legal adviser in the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association expressed concerns about the accuracy of Form 477 information used when distributing Universal Service Fund (USF) support.

Specifically, the association focused on the possibility of “false positives” that result from the data, and it encouraged the commission to ensure that such results “will neither deter or preclude potential elections of and migration to model-based support, nor reduce or eliminate essential support for those providers—and their consumers—continuing to depend upon cost-based USF mechanisms for access to voice and broadband services.”

Notes in the News for March 7, 2019

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing, “Our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure and the Need for Immediate Action,” on March 6.

The eighth meeting of the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) will be held March 8.

The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Security held a hearing, “China: Challenges for U.S. Commerce,” on March 7.

The Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) will hold an event, “Rural Broadband and the Next Generation of American Jobs,” Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C., at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. This event will follow NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association’s Legislative and Policy Conference, which ends on Tuesday. To register for the FRS event, contact foundation@frs.org or call (703) 351-2026.