#RuralisCool, Volume 1, Issue 60 | February 27, 2020


NTCA Estimates Impact of Proposed Shift to Bill-and-Keep for 8YY Access Charges

NTCA estimates that a shift to a bill-and-keep approach for 8YY access charges would reduce rural local exchange carrier (RLEC) revenues by approximately $30.3 million for the period of July 2019 through June 2020. The association sent the estimate to the FCC in a February 24 letter in response to questions raised by commission officials in a February 12 meeting with NTCA. In the meeting, NTCA highlighted issues that would be faced by smaller RLECs if the bill-and-keep reforms were adopted, including revenue reductions and transport cost impacts.

In the February 24 letter, NTCA noted that when the commission has previously eliminated the ability to collect similar compensation, it has provided reasonable rate transitions along with explicit cost recovery mechanisms for carriers that depend on those revenues to support universal service. NTCA told commission officials that they see no basis for the commission to depart from this precedent.

NTCA Supports INCOMPAS Petition to Reconsider Certain FCC Data Collection Methods

In comments filed with the FCC on February 24, NTCA urged the commission to distinguish between broadband providers that have deployed last-mile network facilities and those that resell another carriers’ facilities as the commission establishes the Digital Opportunity Data Collection and modernizes the Form 477 data program. The comments were made in support of an INCOMPAS petition for reconsideration recommending that only broadband providers using their own last-mile facilities should be required to file polygons of their service areas.

NTCA cautioned that including providers that have not deployed a network in a given area or to a given location and that have no ability to deliver broadband there without relying on another entity’s deployment would cause some areas to be considered served by one or more unsubsidized providers because competitive providers rely on the underlying network of a carrier that is supported by and only exists due to the High-Cost Universal Service Program.

Providers that resell another carrier’s last-mile facilities should be required to report subscription data via Form 477 but should not report deployment data, NTCA said.

FCC Begins Collecting Information on Carriers' Use of Huawei and ZTE Equipment

The FCC announced on Wednesday that an online portal for collecting information from carriers regarding the Huawei and ZTE equipment used in their networks is now available. According to FCC requirements, all eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) along with their subsidiaries, parents, and affiliates must submit:

  • The Huawei and ZTE equipment and services contained or used in their networks.
  • The cost of purchasing and/or installing such equipment or services.
  • The estimated costs associated with removing and replacing such equipment and services (e.g., a quote from a vendor for equivalent equipment or systems.

Universal Service Fund recipients who are not ETCs and carriers that have a pending ETC petition or plan to file for ETC status in the future can file this information but are not required to do so.  The filing deadline is April 22, 2020.


Six More NTCA Members Win USDA ReConnect Funding

Six more NTCA members have won rural broadband funding through the USDA ReConnect program:

  • Southern Montana Telephone (Wisdom, Mont.) will get a $3.3 million grant for a deployment in a 1,688-square mile area of Beaverhead County.
  • TruVista Communications (Chester, S.C.) will get a $9.1 million grant to deploy 257 miles of fiber in Kershaw County, S.C.
  • Beehive Telephone Company (Lake Point, Utah) was awarded a $2.3 million grant to deploy service to a 229-square mile area of rural Nevada.
  • Darien Telephone Company (Darien, Ga.) will receive a $1 million grant for service in McIntosh County, Georgia.
  • Pembroke Telephone Company (Pembroke, Ga.) was awarded a $2 million grant and a loan for the same amount to deploy service to parts of Evans County, Georgia.
  • UBTA-UBET Communications (Roosevelt, Utah) which does business as STRATA Networks, will receive an $11.8 million loan and $11.8 million grant for a deployment in the Uintah Basin of Utah.


Notes in the News

Carriers participating in the Connect America Fund Phase II Model Fund, the Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) Fund, the Connect America- Broadband Loop Support Fund, the Rural Broadband Experiments Program, and the Alaska Plan have until March 2 to file geolocation data for all locations deployed in 2019. This filing is optional for those funded through the CAF Phase II Auction.

The deadline to apply for scholarships and for the youth tour to Washington, D.C., with the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) is March 6. Scholarships are for $2,500 with a few other opportunities of up to $7,000. The Youth Tour will take place June 6-10, 2020, and is open to high school students from across rural America.

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report outlining best practices for state governments trying to improve broadband access for their residents.

Telecommunications carriers and interconnected VoIP providers must file annual reports certifying compliance with commission rules protecting Customer Proprietary Network Information by March 2.

USDA has ReConnect webinars scheduled for March 2 and March 4.

The FCC launched the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier for all new enrollments in Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The FCC released a report about the state of broadband deployment and competition.