#RuralisCool Volume 1, Issue 19/April 25, 2019

NTCA Signs Letter Opposing T-Mobile, Sprint Merger

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association joined a group of trade associations, labor organizations and public interest entities to oppose the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. The association signed on to a letter dated April 18, 2019, that was sent to Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, and to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

The group laid out numerous reasons for opposing the merger, saying the transaction would:

  • Leave the nation’s wireless market with just three carriers rather than four.
  • Hike prices for nearly all wireless customers.
  • Substantially raise wholesale rates for smaller wireless carriers.
  • Cause “significant” job losses

The group also asserted that the merger would fail to deliver accelerated 5G deployment or expanded rural coverage.

“The parties have had more than 11 months to make a convincing argument that their deal is in the public interest and that it will not harm competition,” the group wrote. “To date, they have failed to make this case. The evidence is clear: This deal as currently proposed is bad for consumers, workers and competition and we urge you to reject it.”

USDA Begins Accepting ReConnect Program Applications, Offers Technical Assistance Webinar

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began accepting applications for the ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program on April 23, 2019. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the department had begun accepting funding applications at reconnect.usda.gov.

At least $600 million for rural broadband projects is available during the first round of funding, comprising $200 million in grants (application deadline: May 31, 2019); $200 million in loan and grant combinations (application deadline: June 21, 2019); and $200 million in low-interest federal loans (application deadline: July 12, 2019).

An informational webinar providing an overview of the ReConnect application portal, “Introduction to the ReConnect Application Portal,” is scheduled for April 26.

Pai Expounds on FCC Open Meeting Agenda for May

The FCC on April 18, 2019, released the tentative agenda for its upcoming open meeting on May 9, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

The meeting, focused on security, will address:

  • A request to deploy and operate a proposed nongeostationary satellite constellation.
  • An application by China Mobile USA to provide telecom services between the United States and foreign points.
  • Reallocation of the 1675–1680 MHz band for shared use between incumbent federal operations and nonfederal fixed or mobile operations on a co-primary basis.
  • Adoption of streamlined rules addressing FM translator interference.
  • An auction of toll-fee numbers in the 833 code.
  • A notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on proposed regulatory fees for fiscal year 2019.
  • A report and order and further notice of proposed rulemaking to improve Video Relay Service (VRS), expand access to direct video communication and protect the VRS program from waste, fraud and abuse.

In a blog post about the tentative agenda and the meeting’s security theme, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai noted that “the second-stated mission Congress gave the commission in the Communications Act is ‘the national defense.’” He also said Theia’s satellites “[support] broadband connectivity and [promise] to deliver remote sensing analytics, which could enable precision agriculture, first-responder support and other applications.”

Notes in the News for April 25, 2019

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association awarded Brent J. Christensen, president and chief executive officer of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance (MTA), with the 2019 Grassroots Advocate of the Year award during the recent Legislative & Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 15.

In anticipation of the 65th anniversary of NTCA on June 1, the association officially launched its 2019 Throwback Campaign on April 15.

The next meeting of the North American Numbering Council (NANC) will be held May 8.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr on April 18 announced a new initiative on community colleges as pipelines for jobs related to emerging 5G technology.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing, “Legislating to Stop the Annoying Onslaught of Robocalls,” on April 30.

A Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Security hearing, “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of the Internet of Things,” will also take place April 30.


NTCA Director of Government Affairs Michael Daniels spoke on a broadband panel at the Ohio Telecom Association Annual Meeting on April 24 in Columbus, Ohio.

Michael Romano, NTCA senior vice president of industry affairs and business development, and Leif Oveson, NTCA vice president of legislative affairs, provided a Washington update at the National Association of State Telecom Association Executives Annual Meeting, April 24–26 in Walla Walla, Wash.

NTCA Vice President of Legal Jill Canfield spoke April 25 at a Capitol Forum, “C-Band Spectrum Repurposing and Its Role in the Race to 5G.”