#RuralIsCool Volume 1, Issue 15/March 28, 2019

Rate Floor Part of FCC April Open Meeting Tentative Agenda

The FCC’s April 12, 2019, tentative open meeting agenda includes a report and order that would eliminate the Universal Service Fund high-cost program’s rate-floor rule and end the federal mandate that raises phone rates for rural Americans.

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association for several months has advocated for an end to the current rate-floor policy, as have legislators from several states, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai described the current policy as “crazy” during a talk with NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield at the association’s recent RTIME meeting.

Other items on the tentative meeting agenda include:

  • A 5G incentive auction public notice
  • A report and order allowing fixed-satellite service earth stations to be individually licensed to transmit in the 50 GHz band and establishing a process for the Department of Defense to operate on a shared basis in the Upper 37 GHz band in limited circumstances
  • A notice of proposed rulemaking to modernize over-the-air-reception devices to facilitate the deployment of modern fixed wireless infrastructure.
  • A report and order that would eliminate the requirement that cable operators maintain a channel lineup at their local office and that also would eliminate the requirement that certain cable operators make their channel lineup available via their online public inspection file.
  • A memorandum opinion and order granting forbearance to Bell operating companies and independent incumbent carriers from unnecessary and outdated structural and nondiscrimination requirements.

The open meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET at the FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Rural Representatives Send Policymakers Letter on C Band Auction

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association joined other rural representatives in signing a March 25, 2019, letter to Sen. Roger F. Wicker (R–Miss.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Rep. Frank J. Pallone (D–N.J.), chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee; and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to express the representatives’ concerns about a potential reallocation of C-Band spectrum (3.7–4.2 GHz).

The rural representatives said Congress “could direct the commission to set aside a significant portion of the auction proceeds”—expected to be in the tens of billions of dollars—“to support the deployment and sustainability of both fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure.” They also encouraged the commission to bring the spectrum to market in a way that benefits the “widest variety of stakeholders” through rules that “should balance the competing needs of interested parties and offer meaningful opportunities for providers of all kinds and sizes to offer spectrum-based services to rural consumers.”

The representatives also stressed that the commission, rather than a private entity, should “oversee the transition of this valuable spectrum resource to terrestrial use,” and that the spectrum licensing rules should “fully protect incumbent users and consumers from harmful interference, service loss and disruptions.”

NTCA Continues Advocacy for Elimination of the Rate Floor Policy

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, in a series of meetings with FCC officials this week, continued to express its support for the elimination of the rate floor policy, consistent with its prior advocacy and the proposed course of action in the FCC’s draft report and order addressing the rate floor.

During the meetings, NTCA said rural consumers would experience “significant harm” if the rate floor were to increase dramatically in coming months due to a stalled debate over how otherwise to proceed. Additionally, the association said that the commission should ensure that timing concerns will not lead to the rate floor “slamming rural consumers and operators notwithstanding any potential action on April 12.”

Elaborating on that date, NTCA noted that the Universal Service Administrative Co. will announce the next iteration of the budget control mechanism on universal service support as of May 1. “If the commission were to reach a decision with respect to the rate floor on April 12, the possibility exists that publication of a summary of that decision may not be published in the Federal Register before May 1—meaning that USAC would be obligated to calculate and announce the budget control for the period of July 2019 through June 2020 premised upon the rate floor rising by $8.98 per month as of July 1. In other words, notwithstanding potential commission action to avoid the impacts of the rate floor on rural consumers and operators on April 12, timing considerations could result in the rate floor nonetheless being ‘locked in’ and adversely affecting those consumers and the carriers that serve them for many months thereafter.”

The meetings were held March 26, 2019, with Travis Litman, chief of staff and senior legal adviser to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel; by phone with Preston Wise, special counsel to Chairman Ajit Pai, on the same date; and on March 27 with Randy Clarke, legal adviser to Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

Notes in the News for March 28, 2019

NTCA held a March 26 webinar with Director of Industry and Policy Analysis Jesse Ward to share more details about the Cyber Wise Information-Sharing Pilot Program.

The FCC has released a compliance guide intended for small operators, with guidance on adhering to a series of rules requiring telecommunications handsets, such as telephones and cell phones, to be compatible with hearing aids.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr released a statement applauding the introduction of the Communications Jobs Training Act, legislation that would create a competitive grant program, administered through the FCC, to establish or expand training programs for communications tower jobs.

The North American Numbering Council (NANC) held its most recent meeting March 28.


NTCA Vice President of Policy Joshua Seidemann spoke March 26 in Washington, D.C., at a Federal Communications Bar Association panel on rural IoT.