#RuralisCool, Volume 1, Issue 45 | October 31, 2019

FCC to Vote on Order and Rulemaking Notice Preventing USF Recipients from Using Certain Equipment

The FCC will vote next month on a draft item aimed at addressing concerns with respect to the security of U.S. communications networks. The draft published by the FCC would:

  • Prohibit recipients of Universal Service Fund (USF) support from using equipment or services from Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese vendors that are considered to be a threat to national security, and would establish a process for designating other suppliers that pose a national security threat;
  • Seek comment on whether to require USF recipients that already have deployed such equipment to remove and replace it, along with how such activities might be supported by federal resources;
  • Require communications service providers to report whether they use equipment from Huawei and/or ZTE and what the cost would be to remove and replace it.

The vote will come at the monthly FCC open meeting scheduled for November 19.

In a prepared statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Huawei and ZTE pose a national security threat because Chinese law requires all companies subject to its jurisdiction to secretly comply with demands from Chinese intelligence services. 

In statements related to this rulemaking, while noting that further review of the specific proposals is needed, NTCA has expressed appreciation for the interest expressed by policymakers in ensuring a reasonable transition, including financial and technical assistance for smaller operators in the face of any national security concerns that may necessitate the removal of certain kinds of equipment.


Rural Broadband Network Testing Procedures Revised

The FCC adopted new rural broadband network testing procedures for companies that receive Connect America Fund support at the commission meeting on October 25. The move came in response to petitions for reconsideration and applications for review of a previous performance measure order.

In an order on reconsideration adopted at the meeting, the commission maintained the existing requirement that carriers conduct quarterly speed and latency tests between specified numbers of active subscribers’ homes and the internet. Modifications made include:

  • Modifying the schedule for commencing testing by basing it on the deployment obligations specific to each Connect America Fund support mechanism;
  • Implementing a new pre-testing period that will allow carriers to become familiar with testing procedures without facing a loss of support for failure to meet the requirements;
  • Modifying the definition of the distant end points to which tests must be conducted;
  • Modifying the penalty structure applicable to failure of the performance testing requirements.

NTCA is working with its members to evaluate the impacts of the reconsidered requirements and to determine the need to seek any changes through further filings with the FCC.


NTCA Asks FCC to Modify Auction 105 License Area Proposal

In comments filed with the FCC, NTCA asked the commission not to adopt a license area proposal for Auction 105 that would allow for cellular market area (CMA)-level bidding in certain instances unless certain modifications are made to that proposal. Auction 105 will include priority access licenses for spectrum in the 3550-3650 MHz band. 

In a public notice, the commission had requested comment on a proposal to allow auction participants the option of bidding on a CMA level basis in the top 172 CMAs. NTCA opposed the proposal, arguing that only larger and mid-size wireless providers have the resources to bid on CMA-level license areas  in spectrum auctions and competitively bid against other larger and mid-size providers. The association further stated that larger carriers understandably have the incentive to focus on the more densely populated and profitable portions of license areas in the face of shareholder demands for quicker returns, and that if CMA-level bidding is allowed  the most sparsely populated portions of the areas  at issue may never see the spectrum-based services that the auction is intended to promote.

NTCA recommended that the commission modify the proposal to exclude CMAs that include counties with population densities equal to or less than 100 persons per square mile from the proposal about CMA-level bidding. The association noted that it had reviewed the 172 CMAs that fall within the proposal and found that such a cutoff would maintain county-level bidding for more rural areas and promote a more robust and competitive auction.


CONNECT for Health Act Aims to Expand Telehealth Services

Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act on October 30. The bipartisan legislation would expand telehealth services through Medicare and seeks to make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors and cut costs for patients and providers.

The CONNECT for Health Act would:

  • Provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the authority to waive telehealth restrictions when necessary;
  • Remove geographic and originating site restrictions for services like mental health and emergency medical care;
  • Allow rural health clinics and other community-based health care centers to provide telehealth services; and
  • Require a study to explore more ways to expand telehealth services so that more people can access health care services in their own homes.

NTCA is one of more than 100 organizations to endorse the bill, noting its potential to help expand the use of telehealth services made possible by NTCA member networks.



The FCC will vote November 19 on a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on whether to relieve incumbent carriers from certain unbundling requirements.

The FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau requested that communications providers that provide service to areas impacted by California public safety power shutoffs report communications infrastructure status in the commission’s disaster information reporting system. 

Also on November 19, the FCC will vote on a report and order and notice of proposed rulemaking that would establish a vertical location accuracy metric of three meters for indoor wireless 911 calls. 

In a declaratory ruling, the FCC said state, local and tribal governments cannot charge the same class of subscribers total 911 fees that are higher for VoIP services than for traditional telecom services with the same 911 calling capability.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will organize a workshop for those interested in the Rural Development Broadband ReConnect program on November 13 in Raleigh, N.C. The workshop will provide attendees with an understanding of the program and application requirements.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration is seeking applications from eligible parties for the Accelerate R2 Network Challenge to create a nationwide network of organizations working to address U.S. disaster response and resiliency challenges by using innovative technologies. The EDA will work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the First Responder Network Authority on the initiative.