#RuralIsCool, Volume 1, Issue 48 | November 21, 2019

Telecom Executive Policy Summit Features FCC’s Rosenworcel, Cybersecurity, Capitol Hill Updates

Nearly 100 executives of NTCA member companies gathered in Washington, D.C., this week for the NTCA 2019 Telecom Executive Policy Summit. The summit featured several high-profile policy- and lawmaker speakers, including FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Christopher Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Attendees also heard from Reps. Dusty Johnson (R–S.D.), Robert Latta (R–Ohio) Tom O'Halleran (D–Ariz.) about the importance of rural connectivity and the role of public-private partnerships in advancing rural networks. Axios Managing Editor Kim Hart shared her perspective on the Washington, D.C., news outlet’s coverage of emerging tech and telecom issues and her experience as a press secretary for former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Finally, attendees participated in meetings with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to emphasize the importance of supporting sustainable networks that meet the needs of consumers now and in the future through the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund proceeding. 

The event generated considerable media attention, including reports in Politico, Inside Cybersecurity and Communications Daily. Follow social media updates from the summit at #NTCATEPS.

NTCA Supports House Markup of Mapping, Supply Chain, Video Bills

NTCA thanked members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week for advancing bills related to broadband mapping, the communications supply chain, and promoting access to video content.

The committee on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which would require the government to collect more granular information about which areas have access to high-speed broadband and which do not.

NTCA welcomed advancement of the bill, noting it takes several important steps toward improving broadband mapping – including more granular data collection, the establishment of a challenge process, and an authorization of funds to further these efforts.


Two More NTCA Members Win USDA ReConnect Funding

Two more NTCA members have won funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Pilot Program. Grand River Mutual (GRM) Telephone Corporation was awarded $41.6 million to deploy a fiber to the premises (FTTP) broadband network in rural areas of Missouri and southern Iowa. Heartland Telecommunications Company of Iowa, doing business as Premier Communications, was awarded $7.2 million for a FTTP deployment in rural Iowa and South Dakota.

GRM will use its funding to make service at speeds of 100 Mbps or greater available to 2,288 households, 17 businesses and 39 farms. The Premier Communications network will support speeds up to 1 Gbps and will be available to 868 households, 17 businesses and 27 farms.

NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield attended the announcement of funding for Premier Communications and offered her perspective on the program in a blog post.


FCC to Address Supply Chain Security Threats, More at Tomorrow’s Meeting

The FCC will vote on an order, a report and order, and a further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM), at the November monthly open commission meeting tomorrow. The goal is to ensure that Universal Service Fund support is not used to purchase equipment or services from companies posing a national security threat to communications networks.

The commission also will consider whether to seek comment on additional actions involving security threats to USF-funded networks and will vote on a plan to collect information to help assess the extent to which equipment from covered companies already exists in USF-funded communications networks.

In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Commerce extended a temporary general license for Huawei for 90 days. Huawei is one of the companies whose equipment is deemed to pose a security threat. The action will allow carriers that have installed the equipment to continue to service customers, the agency said in a press release.

Other items on the agenda for tomorrow’s open commission meeting include:

  • A report and order and NPRM that would adopt a vertical location accuracy metric for wireless E911 calls
  • A NPRM seeking comment on updating the commission’s suspension and debarment rules to make them consistent with Office of Management and Budget guidelines
  • A NPRM seeking comment on updating unbundling and resale rules
  • A report and order that would expand the contribution base for the Telecommunications Relay Service fund 


Shirley Bloomfield issued a statement in response to a report “FCC Should Take Additional Action to Manage Fraud Risks in its Program to Support Broadband Service in High-Cost Areas” from the Government Accountability Office. She noted that it is important to consider how programs can be improved but added that carriers receiving rate-of-return based support have done more than anyone to advance broadband in rural America.

In reply comments filed with the FCC about modernizing the E-rate program for schools and libraries, NTCA recommended that the commission add a new tab in the Form 470 drop down menu. The tab would allow E-Rate applicants to select the name and address of the entity requesting services. Where this information is missing, NTCA members wishing to respond to the request must contact the applicant to obtain the information – a requirement that takes up valuable time for both the NTCA member and for the applicant who must respond to the request.

NTCA filed reply comments in response to the FCC’s proposal to expand the types of wireless service applications that can be filed electronically. NTCA said it supports expansion because electronic filing benefits filers but cautioned that the commission shouldn’t rely solely on electronic communications regarding applications because an applicant or licensee could miss a critical deadline if it fails to receive commission correspondence.

The FCC announced the membership of and first meeting of the task force for reviewing the connectivity and technology needed to support precision agriculture. The first meeting is scheduled for December 9, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. at FCC headquarters. A list of task force members can be found in this public notice. The commission also announced four working groups for the task force and is soliciting nominations for membership in those groups.

The FCC adopted new rules for the Lifeline program aimed at enhancing the program’s integrity, effectiveness and efficiency.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent a letter to members of Congress recommending that the FCC conduct an auction of spectrum in the C-band. Pai also told attendees at an industry event that the FCC will vote at its December meeting on a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking feedback on a proposal to make 45 MHz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band available for unlicensed use.