#RuralisCool, Volume 1, Issue 37/September 5, 2019

SDN Communications Testifies on ‘Transforming Rural America’

Mark Shlanta, chief executive officer of SDN Communications (Sioux Falls, S.D.), testified today during the Senate Commerce Committee field hearing, “Transforming Rural America: A New Era of Innovation,” telling the committee that increases in broadband throughput are placing new demands on the middle-mile of the statewide and regional carriers like SDN.

Shlanta was joined by fellow witnesses FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and representatives of South Dakota State University and Avera eCARE. The hearing took place at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) presiding. 

Shlanta said SDN and its peers around the country play in important role in the delivery of broadband services to rural communities and connecting multi-location businesses.
“One of our members reported a doubling of throughput from 2017 to 2019 and expects another doubling by the end of 2021,” Shlanta said in written testimony. “If this evolves, each month the average broadband connected household in South Dakota will consume over 500GB of data by that time.”

Shlanta pointed to four things he believes will help connect more American households to future-proof fiber optic networks like those in South Dakota: 1) Public funding programs that promote progressive data speeds; 2) Good data with which to make policy decisions; 3) Coordination among agencies to achieve sustained universal access; and 4) Improving the business case for investment through streamlined permitting and removing barriers to deployment.

FCC Extends DIRS in Wake of Hurricane Dorian

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the FCC has extended the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) to additional counties in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. 

The commission activated DIRS last week in preparation for the storm’s landfall in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The commission requested that communications providers in affected areas submit and update information through DIRS regarding the status of their communications equipment. 

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security’s National Coordinating Center (NCC) continuously monitors events that may impact emergency communications, including natural events such as hurricanes. As a member of the NCC, NTCA receives frequent updates on the storm and its impact to communications infrastructure and has been passing along those updates to members in affected areas. 

The FCC website provides several disaster response resources to service providers, including tips for communicating during an emergency and info about post-disaster scams. If you would like to receive information about Hurricane Dorian and recovery efforts, contact NTCA Director of Industry & Policy Analysis Jesse Ward at jward@ntca.org.

Telecom Executive Policy Summit Features Insights from The Hill, Capitals on Ice

The 2019 NTCA Telecom Executive Policy Summit (TEPS), Nov. 17-19, in Washington, D.C., will feature a lineup of industry and Capitol Hill speakers and opportunities for visits with members of Congress for telco executives and senior management. Event programming will focus on industry opportunities and challenges, cybersecurity updates, regulatory policy panels, FCC staff panel and a Congressional address. The NTCA Rural Broadband PAC will also host an evening fundraiser cheering on the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals hockey team as they take on the Anaheim Ducks on November 18. Immediately following the summit, NTCA will host a Fall Legal Seminar with Womble Bond and Dickinson at the Georgetown Marriott in Washington, D.C. Registration for both events is now available online.

FCC to Consider Access Charge Reforms at September Meeting

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced in a blog post that the commission will consider further reforms to the intercarrier compensation system to combat the problem known as “access arbitrage.” Pai noted that despite 2011 reforms, some “bad actors” continue to purposely and inefficiently inflate high-volume call traffic, forcing long-distance carriers and their customers to foot the bill for these services.

NTCA Senior Vice President of Industry Affairs and Business Development Mike Romano met on August 30 with Nicholas Degani and Nirali Patel of Pai’s office and noted that any change to the definition of access stimulation must be structured carefully to ensure that smaller rural operators do not become embroiled in disputes and self-help measures by larger carriers due to traffic imbalances that have no relationship whatsoever to access stimulation. 

NTCA supports the commission’s efforts to eliminate arbitrage of the intercarrier system but highlighted that any effort should take care to prevent unintended harms to local exchange carriers and proposed specific steps that the commission can take to eliminate access arbitrage while also avoiding unintentional harms to carriers.

Notes in the news:

The House Committee on Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications & Technology will host the hearing, “Legislating to Connect America: Improving the Nation’s Broadband Maps” on at 10:30 a.m. on September 11. The hearing will be live-streamed on the committee’s website.

Tomorrow the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) will release a new study on the positive impacts rural broadband has on American jobs. The study was done in partnership with Purdue University and the Center for Regional Development. It will be available on the FRS website and hard copy orders can be placed on the FRS eStore. Additionally, FRS announced applications for open seats on its board are due Sept. 6. The deadline for FRS community grant applications has been extended to Sept. 15.

The FCC second report and order that amended the Truth in Caller ID rules to implement the anti-spoofing provisions of the RAY BAUM’S Act is effective February 5, 2020.

The FCC issued a report and order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that adopted a schedule of regulatory fees to assess and collect $339 million in regulatory fees for fiscal year 2019. Fees are due September 24. The FNPRM seeks comment on proposals to amend the FCC’s schedule of regulatory fees for fiscal year 2020. Comments are due 30 days after Federal Register publication.

Members of the FCC's Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division will visit Nebraska and Kansas as part of the commission’s rural tour designed to build partnerships with local consumer groups and to hear directly from consumers and community members. A full schedule of events is available online.