NTCA Discusses Access Charge Reform and Minimum Lifeline Standards with Chairman Pai’s Office
Mike Romano, senior vice president of industry affairs and business development for NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, met with an advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on November 8 to discuss 8YY access charge reform and minimum Lifeline service standards.
Romano noted that the record contains no concerns regarding 8YY traffic originated by any rural incumbent local exchange carriers. Instead, the record shows that concerns raised have related to traffic carried by competitive operators.
He stated, therefore, that any 8YY access charge reforms should be targeted to address any problems identified, rather than triggering reforms that impact a class of carriers that present no concerns based upon the evidence in the record. If 8YY access charge reforms are made, the FCC should ensure that existing provisions with respect to cost recovery will remain intact, Romano said.
Romano also clarified NTCA’s petition for waiver with respect to the Lifeline minimum service standard. He noted that NTCA’s petition would not excuse providers from a requirement to offer services meeting minimum standards to Lifeline consumers. Instead, the petition would only enable an existing customer to choose not to upgrade to a higher-speed service and instead to retain his or her existing service even if that existing service does not meet the new minimum standard.
NTCA Urges FCC to Consider Financial Impact and Timing of Supply Chain Requirements
In a letter to the FCC November 8, NTCA urged the FCC to study the financial impact of new supply chain requirements on rural carriers that have deployed equipment from “covered” manufacturers and be mindful of the timing and sequencing of such requirements. NTCA encouraged the commission to mitigate potential negative impacts on ongoing operations by ensuring financial assistance for removal and replacement of covered equipment is provided at the same time as the prospective ban goes into effect. “Covered” manufacturers are those that the FCC has deemed to pose a risk to national security.
NTCA said it supports efforts to promote national security interests while also balancing the need to avoid disruptions for consumers already receiving service underpinned by equipment from the covered companies through the ongoing operation and maintenance of that equipment. The association supports the provision of technical and financial assistance to enable affected providers to transition to more secure platforms, but noted certain concerns related to when that assistance might become available.
NTCA Members Urged to Sign Senate Letter to Repeal “Cadillac Tax” on Health Coverage
NTCA is encouraging members to sign a letter to Senate leaders urging them to repeal the “Cadillac Tax” on employer-provided health care coverage in excess of certain thresholds. The 40% excise tax is scheduled to start in 2022.
The deadline to sign on to the letter is today. The request is not restricted to participants in the NTCA Group Health Program but instead extends to any employer that provides any type of health insurance to its employees.
The House of Representatives already approved a bill to repeal the Cadillac Tax by a wide margin, but NTCA is hearing from Senators that they aren’t hearing it as a priority for their constituents.
The letter to the Senate leaders notes that while the Cadillac Tax was intended to only hit Americans with “gold-plated” plans, the realty is that very modest plans covering low- and moderate-income working families are projected to trigger the tax simply because they incur greater health expenses. Employers are making decisions today to avoid this looming tax, and millions of Americans face paying more out of pocket for medical treatment or seeing reduced health coverage in narrower networks, the letter notes.
NTCA members also are encouraged to ask other employers to sign the letter, which will not carry any logos, but instead will have a list of signatories. To join the effort, visit this website. Members with questions should contact NTCA’s Tammie Logan at 703-351-2038.
House Subcommittee Advances Several Broadband Bills
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology today advanced several bills of importance to NTCA members. NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield thanked lawmakers for advancing through markups the bills related to broadband mapping, the supply chain, and video services, noting additional measures are needed to address the broken and antiquated retransmission consent regime that fails to reflect today’s video marketplace.
The following bills were advanced by the subcommittee:
- H.R. 4229, the "Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (Broadband DATA) Act"
- H.R. 4227, the "Mapping Accuracy Promotes Services (MAPS) Act"
- H.R. 5000, the "Studying How to Harness Airwave Resources Efficiently (SHARE) Act of 2019"
- H.R. 4998, the "Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act"
- H.R. 4461, the "Network Security Information Sharing Act of 2019"
- H.R. 2881, the "Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2019"
- H.R. 4500, the "Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act of 2019"
- H. Res. 575, Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that all stakeholders in the deployment of 5G communications infrastructure should carefully consider and adhere to the recommendations of "The Prague Proposals"
- H.R. 5035, the “Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019”
U.S. Cybersecurity Agency Releases Guidelines for Small Businesses
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released Cyber Essentials, which the agency describes as a starting point for small businesses to understand and address cybersecurity risks as they do other risks. The resource was developed in collaboration with small businesses and state and local governments and aims to equip smaller organizations with basic information to improve their cybersecurity.
Cyber Essentials includes two parts: guiding principles for leaders to develop a culture of security and specific actions that leaders and IT professionals can use to put that culture into action. According to CISA, actionable items anyone can take to reduce cyber risks include:
- Drive cybersecurity strategy, investment and culture
- Develop a heightened level of security awareness and vigilance
- Protect critical assets and applications
- Ensure only those who belong on your digital workplace have access
- Make backups and avoid loss of information critical to operations
- Limit damage and restore normal operations quickly
NTCA filed reply comments on the competitive bidding procedures for Auction 105, the auction of Priority Access Licenses in the CBRS spectrum band. NTCA noted that the record showed that a broad cross-section of the industry opposed the proposal to use Cellular Market Area (CMA) level bidding. Instead, the association recommends using county-based license areas only.
The FCC adopted an order establishing procedures for a voluntary process to facilitate review of the defined deployment obligations for companies that won funding in the Connect America Phase II auction. Such a review would occur when the total number of actual locations in eligible areas is less than the number of funded locations.
The FCC issued public safety and telehealth reports from its Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. The reports offer recommendations and best practices to improve emergency alerting, bolster communications reliability during disasters, and promote the use of telemedicine.