#RuralisCool Volume 1, Issue 33/August 8, 2019

NTCA and the Rural Wireless Association Request Further Review and Opportunity for Comment in Sprint, T-Mobile Merger

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association and the Rural Wireless Association filed an informal request for action August 5 with the FCC asking that the commission seek additional comment on the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint because the proposed consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice for approval of the merger now includes a third party, Dish Network Corp., that had not been part of the original merger proposal as submitted to the FCC. 

“The proposed merger is now a completely different arrangement than what is currently before the commission,” the associations wrote. “The consent decree relies on the highly questionable assumption that the harm to competition recognized by DOJ that would result from the loss of Sprint from the nationwide mobile wireless marketplace would be offset by the competitive impact of the Dish acquisition of assets that would supposedly result in Dish becoming a fourth facilities-based nationwide mobile wireless competitor, with sufficient strength to prevent the substantial competitive harms that would result from the exit of Sprint. The commission should not rule on the pending license transfer applications without developing a record on the significant changes that Sprint and T-Mobile are now proposing.”

The associations added that Dish is seeking an extension of the construction deadlines for 696 separate licenses across the country in the AWS Band, and said such a request “clearly contemplates the need for additional time as the result of its new obligations pursuant to the consent decree.”
The petitioners requested that the commission issue a public notice seeking comment on both the consent decree and the extension request.

NTCA Asks FCC to Reassess Performance Measurement Burdens

In comments with the FCC filed August 8, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association told the FCC that the time per response as estimated in the commission’s notice and request for comments on performance testing “appears to underestimate the actual anticipated burden as it does not appear to contemplate the many steps that regulated entities must take before the relevant performance measurement data can be reported.” Accordingly, NTCA said the commission should reassess the estimated hourly burden per response and offer the Office of Management and Budget an estimate that will “enable a more accurate assessment of the proposed information collection.”

More specifically, the association said that the commission’s “16-60 (sixteen-to-sixty) hours estimated time for response does not appear to contemplate the many prerequisite steps that must be taken before the actual reporting of data can be made.”

The association said those steps include:
•    Identification and bench-testing of testing-compliant equipment.
•    Customer interactions to obtain consent for testing, where necessary (and as envisioned by the commission).
•    Upgrading of locations to meet minimum sample pool size.
•    Customer interactions to obtain consent to upgrades, where necessary.
•    Truck rolls to deploy equipment.
•    Truck rolls to collect equipment, where necessary.
•    Cleaning of equipment after collection. 
•    Collection, consolidation and filing of test results.

“Numerous steps must be undertaken before and during the testing cycle,” the association concluded. “These measures do not appear to be contemplated in the original burden estimate set forth for PRA requirements. Accordingly, NTCA commends the commission to account for the labor hours involved in testing, delivering and deploying equipment, as well as other functions relating to provider compliance with the performance measurement obligations.”

Separately, in a July 31 NTCA meeting joined by Don Jackson of Tri Country Telephone (TCT) (Cody, Wyo.) with Suzanne Yellen and other FCC staff, TCT presented information it had gathered in preparation for compliance with the commission’s performance measurement requirements. NTCA said that the data assembled by TCT analysis demonstrates that numerous staff and labor hours beyond data collection and reporting will be necessary as providers comply with the performance measurement requirements.”

NTCA Adds Comments in 3.7–4.2 GHz Band Proceeding  

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association submitted additional comments August 7 in the FCC’s 3.7–4.2 GHz band proceeding in response to filings by ACA Connects, the Competitive Carriers Association and Charter Communications Inc.; AT&T; and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, Google and Microsoft.

The association said it supports a balanced and measured approach to the spectrum “that protects incumbent uses and ensures that all consumers, including those residing in rural areas, can take advantage of the spectrum-based services the band has to offer.”

The association made three main points in its filing, saying it generally supports transitioning the MVPD industry from C-band to fiber delivery to free up spectrum for terrestrial use; it believes there should be a commission-driven auction to award new terrestrial licenses; and the commission should structure a forward auction to promote participation among a wide variety of applicants and the provision of service in rural areas.

Notes in the News for August 8, 2019

The FCC’s report and order and second further notice of proposed rulemaking on broadband mapping, adopted August 1, was released August 6.

U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.), David A. Perdue (R–Ga.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R–Miss.) this week introduced the Paving the Way for Rural Communities Act of 2019 (S 2430).

The Trump administration released a rule this week to officially bar agencies from buying equipment from Huawei and four other Chinese telecommunications companies. 

The FCC last week adopted new rules banning malicious caller ID spoofing of text messages and foreign calls. 


NTCA Vice President of Policy Joshua Seidemann provided a Universal Service Fund and performance measurement testing update on August 5 to the Association of Communication Engineers meeting in Washington, D.C. He also presented Smart Rural Communities best practices for broadband-enabled agriculture, economic development, education and health care on August 8 at the Touchstone Energy Main Street Makeover conference in Des Moines, Iowa.