#RuralIsCool Volume 1, Issue 20/May 2, 2019

Wireline Competition Bureau Authorizes Another $65.7 Million in ACAM Support

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) on April 29, 2019, authorized an additional $65.7 million in Alternative Connect America Model (ACAM) support for 186 rate-of-return companies. The commission said the money would boost broadband for 106,000 homes and businesses across 43 states.

The revised offers are the culmination of a process that began with the 2016 commission adoption of a voluntary path for rate-of-return carriers to choose model-based support. The commission’s March 2018 rate-of-return reform order then directed the WCB to offer further support to carriers that accepted the first revised offers of model-based support. A December 2018 rate-of-return reform order directed the bureau to offer up to $200 more per location to all previously authorized carriers.

In return for the increased funding, the companies are required to provide at least 25/3 Mbps service to locations for which they were previously obligated. The term of the revised offer also was extended by two years.

The commission noted that eligible companies elected more than 92% of the revised offers, and it released a list of the revised authorization amounts and deployment obligations for each carrier that elected a revised offer.

NTCA Proposes Improved Broadband Mapping Plan in Letter to FCC

In a letter sent to the FCC on April 30 2019, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association proposed a plan to improve broadband mapping.

The association’s three-fold plan stipulates that the commission should:

  • Take both short- and long-term steps to granularity.
  • Standardize reports, especially for propagation claims.
  • Use challenge processes.

“Moving to shapefiles ‘on the way to’ perhaps even more granular service availability data; standardizing how providers can determine and report on asserted coverage; and adopting validation and challenge processes … will result in the best possible maps showing where services are available or not while recognizing that there is no magic ‘silver bullet’ that will yield perfect results,” the association said.

The association’s recommendations also “strike a reasonable balance in terms of the work that providers will need to do in reporting more granular data while also minimizing the scope of challenge processes due to more granular reports than are available today,” the association said. “NTCA therefore urges the commission to modernize and improve its Form 477 data collection process and the generation of ensuring broadband availability maps through the three steps recommended herein.”

CISA Releases National Critical Functions List

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on April 30, 2019, released a set of National Critical Functions—functions of government and the private sector CISA said are “so vital to the United States that disruption, corruption or dysfunction would have a debilitating effect [on] security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”

Developed through a partnership with the critical infrastructure community via the sector Coordinating Councils, associated Sector Specific Agencies, the SLTT [state, local, tribal, and territorial] Government Coordinating Council and other stakeholders, the National Critical Functions are organized across four areas: Connect, Distribute, Manage and Supply. This approach enables the organization of similar critical infrastructure operations across sector or industry lines.

The Connect functions set includes “operate core network”; “provide cable access network services”; provide internet-based content, information and communication services”; “provide internet routing, access and connection services”; and “provide wireless and wireline access network services.” The Manage functions set includes “perform cyber incident management capabilities”; “provide and maintain infrastructure”; and “provide public safety.” The National Critical Functions set will be further refined via sub-functions and supporting systems.

The National Critical Functions also help lay the foundation for a Risk Register, CISA said. “By performing risk and dependency analysis and consequence modeling, CISA will identify scenarios that could potentially cause national-level degradation to National Critical Functions. This will result in a tiered Risk Register—prioritizing areas of national risk to critical infrastructure in need of mitigation and collective action. The process for developing the Risk Register will involve representatives from across government and industry and combine analysis with policy judgment and operational insight.”

NTCA Comments on Improving Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework 

In joint comments on the Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association said it “[remains] concerned that a lack of functional bilateral roaming agreements between the large wireless providers and rural wireless carriers hinders resiliency.”

To address its concerns, the association recommended that:

  • Carriers negotiate bilateral roaming agreements containing bilateral roaming terms and conditions that apply in the event of an emergency.
  • Carriers conduct bilateral testing.
  • Any roaming restrictions imposed after bilateral testing is complete be capable of being lifted within a two-hour window to gain access to the serving carrier’s network.

The association added that it had pointed out problems associated with the omission of bilateral roaming requirements in the framework as far back as 2016, but “to date, the signatories to the framework have not committed to addressing the disaster communications needs of rural Americans living in areas served by the small wireless providers.”

NTCA’s comments were joined by the Rural Wireless Association Inc.

Notes in the News for May 2, 2019

At its annual Marketing + Sales Conference in New Orleans, La., earlier this week, NTCA announced a rebrand and expansion of its Smart Rural Community program, which recognizes excellence and innovation at rural broadband companies.

Democratic leadership, including Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), have reached an agreement with President Trump to pursue a $2 trillion infrastructure package to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and broadband services.

President Donald Trump on May 2 signed an executive order on America’s Cybersecurity workforce.

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) has released a revised draft of the 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai first circulated for a vote on February 19.

The WCB also has opened WC Docket No. 19-126 to cover the new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Chairman Pai has appointed Aaron Goldberger as acting wireless adviser.

The Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) on April 29 launched its 2019 grant program, offering $100,000 to support initiatives in rural America.

On May 1, FRS also announced the winners from its scholarship program—more than $125,000 was awarded to 54 students from across rural America.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held 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,” also took place April 30.

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has advised Commercial Mobile Service providers participating in wireless emergency alerts (WEA) of their obligation to implement certain WEA improvements by May 1.


NTCA Regulatory Counsel Tamber Ray spoke on the Smart Rural CommunitiesSM program at Ribbon Perspectives 19, April 29 in Washington, D.C.

NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield and Government Affairs Director Michael Daniels attended the Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on April 30 at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C.