#RuralIsCool Volume 1, Issue 28/June 27, 2019


Osler Testifies on Broadband Mapping Before House Small Business Subcommittee

Beth Osler, director of customer and industry relations for NTCA member UNITEL Inc. (Unity, Maine), called for a better broadband mapping process during a June 25, 2019, hearing, “Broadband Mapping: Small Carrier Perspectives on a Path Forward,” before the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, our [broadband] maps have kept pace neither with consumer demand nor the evolution of the broadband marketplace, and now is the time to develop a process of mapping—and validating—the information that will help us to target resources better toward building and sustaining broadband networks,” Osler said.

“First, there should be a movement toward more granular maps through shapefiles in the near term with the objective of implementing location or address-based maps in the longer-run. Taking this step would help to minimize, if not eliminate, the errors that arise from census block-based reporting. Next, policymakers should develop standards for reporting by various platforms; this is particularly important in the case of spectrum-based offerings (such as fixed wireless services) in order to more realistically capture what they can and cannot do in coverage, rather than once again just drawing large circles around antennas and calling that entire area ‘served.’ Finally, there must be challenge and other data validation processes regardless of what mapping solution is adopted.” 

Osler also applauded the recent efforts of “members on both sides of the aisle” to address the broadband mapping problem.

NTCA member Jason Hendricks, chief regulatory officer of Range Cos. in Forsyth, Mont., also testified at the hearing.

NTCA Committee Members Hold Summer Meetings in Virginia

More than 50 members of three NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association committees gathered in Arlington, Va., this week to discuss evolving industry concerns ahead of visits to Capitol Hill and the FCC.

A joint meeting of the association’s Industry and Regulatory Policy Committee and Competitive and Advanced Services Committee, held June 25–26, 2019, opened with a discussion of Universal Service Fund (USF) contribution reform options and related budget issues. Subsequent discussions focused on the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and infrastructure, outstanding USF issues for rural local exchange carriers, and cybersecurity and supply-chain concerns. The second day of the summer meeting included discussion of interconnection and intercarrier compensation, and of video and spectrum issues.

The NTCA Government Affairs Committee also took up USF contribution reform during its June 26–27 meeting, and then turned to discussions about mapping, video, infrastructure, cybersecurity, robocalling and pension and health care issues. In addition, Kenneth Kuchno of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided committee members with an update on the ReConnect Broadband Program during the meeting, which concluded with visits to congressional offices on June 27.

NTCA Tells FCC of Concerns About New USAC Obligation

During a June 24, 2019, conversation with Trent Harkrader, deputy chief of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association relayed concerns over a new identification system implemented by the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC) in connection with Lifeline oversight.

In particular, USAC’s new obligation would “compel [individual employees of member companies] to provide personally identifiable information (‘PII’) to be held by USAC as part of the Lifeline Representative Accountability Database (‘RAD’),” the association said. “As relayed in recent USAC outreach, any individual tasked by his or her employer with performance of that provider’s Lifeline accountability verification efforts will be required now to supply USAC with his or her date of birth, last four digits of Social Security number, home address and email address. Moreover, in the case of any errors or questions that need resolution, the individual may be required to supply documentation ranging from his or her birth certificate or social security card to a passport or even tax returns.”

The association explained that FCC and USAC concerns about fraud or waste in the use of universal service resources are “related first and foremost to independent sales agents and contractors rather than employees of service providers themselves,” and it recommended that, “at a minimum, USAC should be directed to modify the individual registration process as soon as possible.” The association also suggested that “in the event that an employee of a service provider (as compared to a contractor or sales agent) must register for access to and use of the RAD, that individual should be required simply to provide full name, position with the provider, and other appropriate business-related information (such as business telephone number and email), and that the provider then include an officer’s confirmation of the individual’s status as an employee of the provider.”

NTCA, Law Raise USF Budget Cap Concerns With FCC

In separately held meetings June 25, 2019, with Preston Wise, special counsel to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and Travis Litman, chief of staff to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association and Denny Law, chief executive officer of Golden West Telecommunications (Wall, S.D.), raised concerns about potential commission action to impose a new overall cap on Universal Service Fund (USF) programs.

“Imposing a new overall cap on the USF programs—effectively tying all four USF programs together under one umbrella cap—could undermine the predictability finally restored by the December 2018 order and hinder the progress in broadband investments spurred by that decision,” the association said. “In particular, NTCA observed that the precise reasoning of the commission in the December 2018 order in rejecting the notion of an overall budget cap for small rural carrier USF support applies with equal force to the concept of potentially establishing an overall budget cap for all USF support.”

The association added that “just as the commission rightly concluded that the establishment of separate budgets within the high-cost USF program would foster ‘greater certainty and predictability,’ the maintenance of separate, carefully designed and applied budgets for each of the four distinct USF programs individually is necessary to achieve and preserve the same effects.”

FCC July Open Meeting Agenda Includes Broadband to Multiple Tenant Environments, 5G

The FCC’s tentative agenda for its July open meeting includes consideration of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on improving competitive broadband access to multiple tenant environments and two 5G-related items.

The full tentative agenda includes consideration of:

  • An NPRM and declaratory ruling to “promote facilities-based broadband deployment and competition in apartments, condominiums, office buildings and other multiple tenant environments.”
  • Transformation of the 2.5 GHz band for 5G via a report and order allowing for “more efficient and effective use of 2.5 GHz spectrum by increasing flexibility for existing Educational Broadband Service licensees and providing new opportunities for rural Tribal nations and other entities to access unused portions of the band.”
  • Procedures for a 5G incentive auction via a public notice establishing application and bidding procedures for the incentive auction of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service licenses in the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands.
  • An NPRM proposing a Connected Care Pilot that would provide Universal Service Fund support to health care providers “to defray the costs of broadband service to enable low-income patients and veterans to access telehealth services.”
  • An NPRM proposing “to modernize certain cable and satellite television provider notice provisions in Part 76 of the FCC’s rules by requiring certain notices to be delivered to broadcasters by email.”
  • A report and order that would modernize the carriage election notice provisions in Part 76 of the FCC’s rules and a further notice of proposed rulemaking “that would seek comment on applying these new procedures to entities that are not required to maintain online public inspection files.”

The meeting will be held July 10, 2019, in the FCC Commission Meeting Room in Washington, D.C.

Notes in the News for June 27, 2019

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks hosted a workshop, “Security Vulnerabilities Within Our Communications Networks: Find It, Fix It, Fund It,” on June 27. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) along with the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Supply Chain Risk Management Task Force made recommendations during their June 20 meeting in Washington, D.C.

CISA Director Chris C. Krebs issued a statement on Iranian cybersecurity threats this week.

The FCC has changed the date of its August open commission meeting to August 1 from August 2.

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau has announced that as of June 30, access to the Secure Data Enclave and data submitted during the price cap business data services (BDS) proceedings will be closed.

The FCC will hold a one-day Tribal workshop on July 17 at Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

The National Association of Counties and several partners have developed a mobile app called TestIT  that is designed to identify areas with low or no connectivity.  

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has released an agenda for its workshop on promoting the use of multilingual emergency alerting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) on June 24 announced investments in community facilities that will benefit 631,000 rural Americans.

The USDA also announced that it has received applications for more than $635 million in loan-grant combination funds in the first round of its ReConnect Pilot Program.

The Federal Trade Commission on June 25 announced a “major crackdown” on illegal robocalls.

The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau and Wireline Competition Bureau are accepting comments on the third further notice of proposed rulemaking that proposes a safe harbor for call-blocking programs, among other measures. Comments are due by July 24.


NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association Vice President of Policy Joshua Seidemann participated in a roundtable discussion on June 27 at Georgetown University as part of the Lead for America Changemaker Summit.