#RuralisCool Volume 1, Issue 24/May 30, 2019


FCC Pushes Performance Measurement Testing Initiation to 2020

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) on May 30, 2019, delayed the initiation of its performance measurement testing for purposes of demonstrating compliance with use of high-cost universal service support to the first quarter of 2020. Prior to today’s announcement, carriers subject to the commission’s performance measures requirements, adopted in July 2018, faced an obligation to begin testing as of July 1, 2019.

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association has applied for review of several of the requirements, and has met with the FCC multiple times to lay out its concerns about the performance measures order.

“In light of the issues raised in the petitions for reconsideration and applications for review, the need for additional technical development of the interfaces required, and the requirement for [Paperwork Reduction Act] approval, the bureau delays the requirement that carriers begin testing until the first quarter of 2020,” the WCB said.

NTCA Meets on Robocall Draft Order With Four Commission Offices

In meetings May 21 and May 22, 2019, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association suggested specific edits to the FCC’s draft declaratory ruling on robocalls.

The association said its aim was to allow its members to combat robocalls while protecting rural consumers from “false positives” that could limit their ability to place or receive calls.

“Absent strong and clear ‘guardrails’ to ensure that rural consumers’ calls will not be blocked solely based on the lack of caller-ID authentication and that only unwanted and illegal calls are blocked by terminating service providers—particularly as the availability of call authentication technology trickles down to small, rural operators—rural consumers could be thrust into a ‘reverse call completion’ scenario that will threaten the concept of universal service and connectivity,” the association warned.

The association also urged the commission to use its third further notice of proposed rulemaking on robocalls “to examine the ramifications of—in terms of rural consumers’ ability to place any calls outside their immediate rural communities—a ‘safe-harbor’ for the blocking of certain calls as well as to examine other steps that the agency can take to enable rural carriers’ adoption of call-authentication technology.”

Meetings with Arielle Roth, wireline legal adviser to Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, and Zenji Nakazawa, public safety and consumer protection adviser to Chairman Ajit Pai, took place May 21. Meetings with Travis Litman, chief of staff and senior legal adviser, wireline and public safety, to Commission Jessica Rosenworcel and with Jamie Susskind, chief of staff to Commissioner Brendan Carr, took place May 22.

Senate Approves TRACED Act by 97–1 Vote

The U.S. Senate on May 23, 2019, approved the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act by a vote of 97–1. Introduced by Sens. John Thune (R–S.D.) and Ed Markey (D–Mass.)—both members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee—the legislation would, according to a Commerce Committee release:

  • Gives regulators more time to find scammers.

  • Increases civil forfeiture penalties for those who are caught.

  • Promotes call authentication and blocking adoption.

  • Brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally flout laws.

Upon passage in the House last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the act would “help strengthen” the commission’s ability to combat robocalls. “Further powers like increased fines, longer statutes of limitations, and removing citation requirements which obligate us to warn some robocallers before penalizing them, will significantly improve our already strong robocall enforcement efforts,” Pai said.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr also issued a statement upon Senate passage of the act.

The U.S. House will next consider the bill.

Mississippi, Colorado Delegations Send Broadband Mapping Letters to Pai

Mississippi and Colorado became the latest congressional delegations to send letters to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai raising concerns about federal broadband maps.

"Challenges currently exist to the precise representation of broadband assets on federal broadband maps,” the Mississippi delegation wrote. “The process for verifying … details is inconsistent, causing the potential for unvalidated information to be included on the maps. The possible inaccuracy of the data also could affect which areas demonstrate the need for more broadband build-out and their eligibility to receive FCC or USDA support.”

The delegations emphasized the need for a “robust” challenge process,  with the Colorado delegation explaining that “reliance only upon self-reported data will not yield accurate information or good results to deploy needed funding.” The Colorado letter also cites instances from 2015 and 2016 in which rural local exchange carriers discovered problems with current broadband availability maps.

The Mississippi delegation specifically encouraged the commission to consider smaller ISPs when weighing updates to reporting standards “so that these operators do not experience burdensome new requirements that would inhibit their immediate participation.” The South Dakota and Michigan delegations also recently sent letters to the FCC on the subject of broadband mapping.

Notes in the News for May 30, 2019

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has announced a hearing, “The State of the Television and Video Marketplace,” to be held June 5, 2019.

The FCC released on May 29 its 2019 Broadband Deployment Report.

The Foundation for Rural Service will kick off its 2019 Youth Tour on June 1, hosting high school students from across rural America as they visit Washington, D.C.

On May 24, the FCC granted waiver requests from several wireless carriers with respect to location accuracy benchmarks, but denied NTCA’s blanket waiver request.

U.S. Sens. Roger F. Wicker (R–Miss.), Tom Cotton (R–Ark.), Mark R. Warner (D–Va.), Ed Markey (D–Mass.) and Dan S. Sullivan (R–Alaska) on May 23 introduced the 5G Leadership Act, which creates the Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help U.S. communications providers protect their 5G networks.

Members of Congress will be back in their home districts the last week of May, first week of July and the entire month of August, and NTCA encourages you to schedule a home visit during this time or participate in a fly-in any other time this summer.

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing June 4 entitled, “STELAR Review: Protecting Consumers in an Evolving Media Marketplace.

The FCC successfully concluded its first high-band 5G airwaves auction this week, providing spectrum in the 24 and 28 GHz bands