#RuralisCool, Volume 1, Issue 57 | February 6, 2020


FCC Chairman Proposes Freeing Up C-Band for 5G

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released draft rules Thursday to repurpose the C-Band to free up space for 5G. The rules would make the lower 280 megahertz of the C-band available for 5G and other purposes via a public auction.

“I want America’s success in 5G to match our leadership in 4G,” Pai said, highlighting the economic growth that 5G could bring: three million new jobs, $275 billion in private investment, and $500 billion in economic expansion.

Pai suggested freeing up space by incentivizing satellite providers who do not need all the spectrum currently available to them to make the lower 280 megahertz of the C-band available for flexible use, including 5G, through a public auction. In order to compensate these providers for the move, Pai proposed that they be offered up to $9.7 billion in accelerated relocation payments if they meet the FCC’s deadlines for quickly clearing out of the lower spectrum. The payments would be covered by winning bidders in the C-band auction.

Under the chairman’s timeframe, 5G deployments could happen in the lower 100 megahertz of the C-band in 46 of the nation’s top 50 Partial Economic Areas by September 2021 and in the remaining spectrum by September 2023.

NTCA Recommends Congress Provide Funding to Replace Equipment Deemed a Cyber Threat

Eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) that have deployed equipment and services deemed a cybersecurity threat by the FCC should replace it, but only when funding has been made available to cover replacement costs, said NTCA in comments filed with the commission on February 3. Ideally, Congress will appropriate funding to reimburse the carriers, NTCA said. If Congress does not appropriate funds, the FCC may be forced to fill the void using Universal Service funds, NTCA cautioned.

In the comments, NTCA also recommended that the commission ensure ETCs receive sufficient funding to deploy equipment similar in functionality to the equipment being replaced that will also meet reasonable projections of future demand. Additionally, NTCA urged the commission to recognize that ETCs that have obtained written assurances from their suppliers that they are not purchasing or installing “covered” equipment or services should not have USF funding withheld.

In response to the commission’s proposal to require ETCs to submit information identifying covered equipment and services currently used in their networks along with detailed estimates demonstrating the anticipated cost to remove and replace such equipment, NTCA agreed this information would be necessary to allow the commission to identify the amount of funding needed to replace ETCs’ covered equipment and services. The association added, though, that the commission should minimize the burden that the information collection initiative poses by only obtaining this information from ETCs that have covered equipment or services in their network.


RTIME Offers Networking, Educational Opportunities for NTCA Members

NTCA’s Rural Telecom Industry Meeting & EXPO (RTIME), scheduled for February 15-19 in Phoenix, offers NTCA members the opportunity to network with one another and get caught up on technology and policy issues.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Anne Hazlett, senior advisor for rural affairs, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Jeff DeGraff, author, company advisor and professor
  • Brent Comstock, entrepreneur, rural economic developer and venture capitalist
  • Jeff Civillico, Las Vegas headliner, TV host personality and philanthropist

The conference also will feature sessions with separate tracks for telcos and directors, such as “Make a Future-Proof Network” and “What’s New With Capital Credits and Patronage Dividends,” as well as meetings of NTCA committees.

Additionally, company CEOs will have the opportunity to participate in roundtables with one another, where they will be broken up by company size based on number of employees. NTCA will also present winners of its 2020 Excellence Awards during a breakfast ceremony.

These are just a few examples of the wide range of activities planned for RTIME. A full conference agenda is available at here. Select portions of the conference will also be live streamed to the NTCA Facebook page.

Vermont's Virtual Living Room® Will Support Veteran Telehealth

A Virtual Living Room® (VLR) designed to support veteran telehealth is opening soon inside American Legion Post 19 in Bristol, Vt. The project is supported by a Foundation for Rural Service grant supported by CoBank. FRS Executive Director Pam Becker and NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield will make remarks at a grand opening event scheduled for Monday, February 10. Also scheduled to speak are Eric Haskin and Todd Garthaffner from NTCA member company Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (Waitsfield, Vt.), which partnered with the American Legion to establish the Virtual Living Room®.

The Bristol location is one of multiple VLR facilities planned to support rural veterans. These rooms will provide a private space with an internet connection for veterans to communicate with the nearest Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center for remote health care. The VLR will be particularly useful for veterans who live far from the nearest VA medical center, and whose home internet connection isn’t fast or reliable enough to support telehealth options.

For more information about the Virtual Living Room grant program, visit https://www.frs.org/virtuallivingroom.


Notes in the News

The FCC opened a priority window for rural tribes to access mid-band spectrum.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will conduct a webinar about applying for rural broadband funding through the ReConnect Program on February 7 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Click here to register.

The next USDA workshop on the ReConnect program will be held in Denver on February 12-13. Registration is available here.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed updating rules for using TV white spaces spectrum for fixed and mobile wireless services.

The FCC released a schedule for the assignment phase of Auction 103 and announced the availability of an assignment phase user guide and online tutorial. Assignment phase bidding will begin February 18.

The FCC will hold an open commission meeting on May 13.

The FCC Wireline Competition Bureau released supplemental lists of counties served by price cap carriers and rate-of-return carriers that are newly deemed competitive pursuant to competitive market tests for business data services.

The Federal and State Staff for the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service released the 2019 Universal Service Monitoring Report.

The FCC announced membership and working groups of the North American Numbering Council. Members include Brian Ford, director of industry affairs for NTCA.

The FCC Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force, in coordination with the commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau and the Office of Economics and Analytics, opened a docket captioned “Establishing a 5G Fund for Rural America.”

The FCC Wireline Competition Bureau is seeking comment on the National Exchange Carrier Association, Inc.’s proposed modification of its average schedules.