#RuralisCool, Volume 1, Issue 54 | January 16, 2020

NTCA Urges Commerce to Provide Clear, Advanced Notice of Equipment Posing a Cyber Threat

In response to members’ needs, NTCA actively participates in various public-private venues developing cybersecurity best practices for the communications industry and regularly coordinates with federal officials on cyber policy. Consistent with these efforts, on January 10, NTCA filed comments with the U.S. Department of Commerce in response to the department’s request for feedback on proposed rules governing the identification and removal of equipment and services from communications providers’ networks if the equipment and/or services pose a threat to national security.

The department’s inquiry follows similar steps taken at the FCC to protect the nation’s communications networks from potential security threats. In the January 10 comments, NTCA recommended the department align any rules governing the determination of equipment and services deemed a threat to national security with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019 and actions taken by other federal agencies, such as the FCC. NTCA also urged the department to adopt prospective rules rather than rules that could require communications providers to remove equipment already being used in their networks. 

Finally, NTCA encouraged the department to establish mitigation measures for transactions deemed to be a national security threat and to provide financial and technical assistance for providers required to replace equipment and services outside of the provider’s normal course of business.

NTCA also joined 30 other companies in a letter to the department on January 10 urging it to work with industry to develop rules that will address national security without the significant uncertainty that the proposed rules would create for the communications industry.

Members Encouraged to Attend RUS Webcast about ReConnect Round 2

NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield and Laurel Leverrier, acting assistant administrator for the Rural Utilities Service’s telecommunications programs, will host a webcast on January 23 about Round 2 of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect program. A question-and-answer session will follow the conversation, and participants are encouraged to email questions ahead of the webinar to cjust@ntca.org.

USDA also has scheduled two workshops about ReConnect Round 2, including one in Seattle January 29-30 and one in Denver February 12-13. Details and a link to register are available on the USDA website

USDA will begin accepting applications for Round 2 of the ReConnect program January 31.

CISA Issues Alert About Microsoft Security Vulnerabilities

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a unit of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued an alert on January 14 about security vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system. These vulnerabilities require immediate attention, CISA said.

As CISA explained, titled “AA20-014A: Critical Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows Operating Systems,” an attacker could remotely exploit the vulnerabilities to decrypt, modify or inject data on user connections. 

The CISA alert includes information about specific vulnerabilities pertinent to Windows remote desktop clients and servers. CISA advised organizations to install the Microsoft patches as soon as possible, prioritizing mission critical systems, internet-facing systems and networked servers. Details about the patches can be found on the Microsoft January 2020 Release Notes page.

In other CISA news, President Donald Trump this week appointed Bryan S. Ware as the CISA assistant director for cybersecurity.

FCC Sets Deadline for Certain CAF Recipients to Report Broadband Location Information 

The FCC has set a deadline of March 1, 2021, for certain rate-of-return carriers receiving Connect America Fund broadband loop support (CAF-BLS) to report broadband location information for pre-existing deployments. Those carriers receiving CAF-BLS that did not have High Cost Universal Service Broadband (HUBB) portal reporting obligations prior to the commission’s 2018 Rate of Return Reform Order will be required to submit geo-located broadband deployment information in the HUBB by the deadline for all locations to which broadband service at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps has been deployed since May 25, 2016.

Carriers that had deployed broadband of 10/1 Mbps to 80% or more of their study areas were not previously required to report geolocated information in the HUBB. But in December 2018, the commission determined that all CAF-BLS carriers should be subject to HUBB reporting obligations and should deploy broadband at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps. 

FCC Estimates State Impact of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

The FCC issued a report this week estimating that six million rural homes and businesses could benefit from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The state-by-state impact report estimates of how many homes and businesses in each state could benefit from Phase I of the $20.4 billion fund. A full list of state-by-state data is available from the commission.