#RuralisCool, Volume 1, Issue 58 | February 13, 2020


FCC Releases Additional Details on C-Band Auction 107 Plans

The FCC released a draft of a report and order, as well as a draft of a public notice about a proposed spectrum auction for flexible use, including 5G, in the C-band currently used by satellite operators. The commission will vote on whether to adopt the report and order and public notice about the auction, to be known as Auction 107, at the monthly commission meeting scheduled for February 28.

The report and order would establish an auction of 280 MHz of the C-band between 3.7 and 3.98 GHz. According to a fact sheet and remarks made by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week, satellite operators that currently use the entire C-band between 2.7 and 4.2 GHz would be required to move to the upper 2 GHz of the band by September 2025 and would be reimbursed for those costs. The satellite operators also would be able to receive accelerated relocation payments totaling up to $9.7 billion if they clear 120 MHz between 3.7 and 3.82 GHz by September 2021 in 46 of the nation’s top 50 partial economic areas (PEAs) and clear the remaining 180 MHz in those areas as well as all 300 MHz in the rest of the contiguous United States by September 2023.

The public notice seeks comment on proposed details about Auction 107, including a start date of Dec. 8, 2020. According to the proposal, the auction would offer 14 20-MHz blocks of spectrum licensed by PEA.

The proposal calls for two categories of spectrum blocks. Category A would include blocks in the lower 100 MHz of the band and Category B/C would include blocks in the remaining 180 MHz. Bidders initially would bid on generic blocks in each PEA in successive bidding round. In a subsequent assignment phase, bidders would bid for frequency-specific license assignments.

The auction proposal also calls for bidding credit caps of $25 million for small businesses and $10 million for rural service providers, as well as a $10 million cap on the overall amount of bidding credits that a small business bidder may apply to winning licenses in smaller markets.

NTCA Encourages FCC to Extend Truth-In-Billing Requirements to Interconnected VoIP Providers

In comments filed on February 12, NTCA recommended that the FCC apply the current truth-in-billing rules applicable to fixed voice providers to interconnected VoIP providers.

NTCA noted that consumers are not likely to subscribe to both a traditional fixed service and an interconnected VoIP service, and that consumers need to be able to compare all options for voice telephone service equally. NTCA suggested that all voice providers be required to handle government-mandated fees identically on consumer bills to help ensure a fair comparison process.


NTCA Member Communities Could Be Eligible for Virtual Living Room Telehealth Funding

Communities that are located within the service territory of an NTCA member and that are more than an hour away from a Veterans Administration clinic or hospital are encouraged to apply for $5,000 grants from the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) to support the creation of a Virtual Living Room® (VLR) such as the one that opened in White River Junction, Vt. this week.

A Virtual Living Room® is a private space where veterans can use robust broadband connections from local providers to access VA telehealth services. FRS is administering the program with CoBank as the exclusive sponsor.

The VLR in White River Junction is inside American Legion Post 19 and was made possible by a partnership between the post, FRS, CoBank, the White River Junction VA Healthcare System and NTCA member Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (Waitsfield, Vt.). The broadband company provided a high-speed internet connection capable of speeds of up to one gigabit per second.

NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield was on hand for an event to celebrate the opening of the White River Junction VLR, which garnered local news coverage of the event.

Bloomfield wrote about the VLR opening in a blog post.

NTCA Shares Rural Robocall Safe Harbor Concerns

In a letter to the FCC, NTCA said it generally supported a recommendation from several other voice service provider associations to establish a safe harbor to promote providers’ good faith efforts to combat abusive robocalls but requested revisions to that recommendation. The safe harbor would enable voice providers to block or label suspected unwanted robocalls without fear of undue liability for mistaken but good faith treatment of incoming calls.

NTCA’s concern is that voice providers should not block or label any call as spam or suspected spam based solely on the lack of SHAKEN/STIR caller-ID authentication. This declaration is necessary to protect rural customers from a “reverse call completion” problem because SHAKEN/STIR’s protection from spoofers may not come to rural areas as quickly as to urban areas, NTCA said.

A key reason that may occur is that IP interconnection is critical to the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication framework but there is no clear path for all parties to enter into IP interconnection agreements for the exchange of voice traffic. The lingering presence of time division multiplexing (TDM) facilities in the networks of upstream carriers with whom small companies exchange traffic is another concern.

NTCA recommended a modification to the safe harbor wording recommended by the other provider associations to note that analytics used for labeling calls for blocking may not be limited only to information provided by call authentication frameworks.


Notes in the News

The FCC released the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund order adopted on January 30, 2020.

NTCA Senior Vice President of Industry Affairs and Business Development Mike Romano and representatives of Red River Rural Telephone Association (Abercrombie, N.D.) met with the FCC to discuss Red River's pending waiver petition with respect to a reduction in universal service support.

NTCA Senior Vice President of Industry Affairs and Business Development Mike Romano met with the FCC to discuss concerns in connection with any potential transition of access charges for 8YY traffic to bill-and-keep

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr discussed rural telehealth at a recent event.

 The FCC announced the agenda for the February commission meeting scheduled for February 28.

NTCA members Vantage Point Solutions and GVNW Consulting announced a merger.

Recipients of Connect America Fund broadband loop support must file 2019 broadband deployment data with the Universal Service Administrative Co’s High Cost Universal Broadband (HUBB) portal by March 2, 2020.

NTCA member Ellijay Telephone Company (Ellijay, Ga.) was awarded $4.4 million in broadband funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program for deployments in Georgia.

Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) this week introduced the ACCESS Rural America Act, which would provide regulatory relief to small broadband companies with the goal of enabling the companies to raise capital and add investors without being required to satisfy U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements.