#RuralisCool, Volume 1, Issue 61 | March 5, 2020


NTCA Urges FCC to Ensure Equipment Replacement Costs are Covered in Supply Chain Security Plans

In comments filed with the FCC on March 3, NTCA urged the commission to ensure that funding is made available to cover network operators’ costs of removing and replacing equipment in their networks to meet the requirements of any supply chain order that may be adopted. NTCA recommended that Congress appropriate the funding but noted that the commission could use Universal Service Fund (USF) dollars if Congress does not act quickly enough, while continuing to seek congressional funding to replenish any USF dollars used.

NTCA noted that funding should cover all costs of replacing “covered” equipment and services determined to pose a risk to national security. In addition, the association recommended that the commission adopt rules that would allow carriers to receive reimbursement for the cost of replacement equipment that is commercially deployed generally.

The commission also should establish methods that will provide network operators with assurance that they are not purchasing prohibited equipment or should make network operators eligible for a safe harbor, NTCA said.

Senate bill S.1625 -- also known as the United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019 -- introduced on May 22, 2019, would establish a Supply Chain Security Trust Fund that would make up to $700 million available for network operators to replace equipment from Huawei, ZTE or other prohibited providers. Network operators with not more than six million customers would be eligible to receive grants.

FCC Proposes Bidding Procedures for Phase 1 RDOF Auction

The FCC released a public notice proposing bidding procedures for Phase 1 of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction and said the auction is expected to start in October. The auction will award up to $16 billion to help cover the cost of deploying broadband to unserved rural areas using a reverse auction procedure that will prioritize bids for faster, lower latency services.

The commission is seeking comment on the proposed bidding procedures, including procedures for potential bidders to become qualified to participate in the auction and for the submission and processing of bids to determine bidders and assign support amounts. The public notice also asks for input on the appropriate minimum size of an area to be eligible for funding and proposed pre-and post-auction operational, technical and financial information that applicants and winning bidders would be required to submit.

NTCA Member Petitions FCC for CBRS Extension Waiver

On March 3, NTCA and Rhonda Goddard, chief financial officer of Nex-Tech (Lenora, Kan.), met with the FCC to seek a waiver to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) transition requirements for Part 90 3650-3700 MHz licensees to comply with Part 96 rules.

Goddard told commission staff that companies like Nex-Tech use this spectrum to offer fixed wireless broadband to the most remote and expensive-to-serve customers, nearly 1,100 subscribers, many of whom have no other broadband service available. Due to this lack of options and the commission’s transition timeline that turned out to be overly optimistic, Nex-Tech requested a waiver to be able to test recently acquired Part 96 equipment for at least 90 days.

Nex-Tech told the commission that an extension would keep customers from losing the service they rely on and allow other companies in a similar situation to keep serving customers while they complete the transition.

NTCA Files Comments on Television Viewer Protection Act

NTCA filed comments with the FCC on March 5 in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would implement the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 by allowing small multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to “negotiate collectively as a buying group for retransmission consent.” NTCA’s comments supported the commission’s proposal as a first step toward addressing ongoing problems with retransmission negotiations, but urged the agency not to stop here in addressing outdated retransmission consent rules that have resulted in a heavily unbalanced system that harms small MVPDs and rural consumers that do not have access to an over the air broadcast signal.

NTCA Members Win USDA ReConnect Funding for Texas

Two NTCA members were awarded funding to deploy broadband to unserved or underserved rural areas of Texas through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program.

Border to Border Communications (Lawton, Okla.) won a $5 million ReConnect grant and $5 million ReConnect loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network in Webb and Zapata counties.

Peoples Telephone Cooperative (Quitman, Texas) won a $3 million ReConnect grant to deploy a FTTP network in parts of Titus, Camp and Wood counties.

Notes in the News

The FCC adopted procedures for the CBRS auction, which will award priority access licenses for spectrum in the 3.55 – 3.65 GHz band.

The commission released a public notice proposing procedures for Auction 107, the auction of spectrum in the C-band between 3.7-3.98 GHz scheduled to start December 8.

The FCC proposed fines totaling over $200 million against four wireless carriers for allegedly failing to adequately protect consumer location data.

The commission proposed new rules for TV white spaces spectrum aimed at supporting more robust service and more efficient use of white space devices.

The commission adopted a second further notice of proposed rulemaking about amending Part 4 of its rules concerning disruptions to communications in connection with a petition from the California Public Utilities Commission and the People of the State of California for a rulemaking on states’ access to the Network Outage Reporting System (NORS).

A notice of proposed rulemaking adopted by the FCC on February 28 seeks comment on whether to eliminate or modify a rule requiring cable operators to maintain records in their online public inspection files regarding the nature and extent of their attributable interests in video programming services.

The FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau is seeking comment on the accessibility of communications technologies for a 2020 biennial report required by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.