#RuralIsCool Volume 1, Issue 4/January 10, 2019

Wicker Named Senate Commerce Chairman

Roger Wicker (R–Miss.) was named chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on January 9, 2019.

“I thank my colleagues for their support in electing me chairman of the Commerce Committee,” Wicker said. “I would also like to thank Sen. John Thune, the committee’s former chairman, for his exemplary leadership these past four years. The chairmanship is a great responsibility given the committee’s broad jurisdiction across diverse sectors of our economy. I look forward to serving alongside our new ranking member, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D–Wash.), and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build on the committee’s successes and continue moving our economy forward.”

Thune congratulated Wicker on his new role.

The committee also has posted an updated list of members, including newly elected Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) on the Republican side and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Jacky Rosen (Nev.) on the Democratic side.

CAF II Support for Price Cap Areas Among Tentative FCC Open Meeting Agenda Items

Before the government shutdown forced the FCC to suspend most operations as of January 3, 2019, the commission released a tentative agenda for its next open meeting. That meeting is scheduled for January 30.

The commission will consider:

  • A report and order establishing a schedule to end Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase I support in price cap areas where winning bidders in the CAF Phase II auction will begin receiving Phase II support and in areas that were not eligible for the auction, while providing interim support in areas that did not receive any bids.
  • A report and order, further notice of proposed rulemaking, and order to adopt measures, and seek comment on others, to enhance program management, prevent waste, fraud and abuse, and improve emergency call handling in the Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service program.
  • A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to amend its Truth in Caller ID rules to implement the antispoofing provisions of the RAY BAUM’S Act.
  • A report and order eliminating the requirement in Section 73.2080(f)(2) of its rules that certain broadcast TV and radio stations file the Broadcast Mid-Term Report (Form 397).
  • An NPRM that proposes revisions to the commission’s NCE and LPFM comparative processing and licensing rules.

The commission said that it might add items to the tentative agenda if the lapse in funding was resolved before January 9, but that date has now passed.

FCC Extends Speed-Test Data Collection Time Frame by 90 Days

The FCC on January 3, 2019, released a third report and order extending by 90 days the time frame for speed-test data collection as part of the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) challenge process. The change allows challengers’ speed test data collected on or after February 27, 2018—and through the entire 240-day challenge window—to be submitted and considered with a challenge.

The commission also extended “by at least 90 days” its time frame for the collection of information to respond to a challenge.

The commission explained that it earlier had established a challenge process for the map of areas eligible to receive MF-II support. As part of that process, the commission established a challenge window of 150 days, ending on August 27, 2018, but that was later extended to November 26, 2018, after data submitted to the commission showed additional estimates of the amount of time required to conduct speed tests in certain areas.

“When extending the challenge window in the MF-II challenge process extension order, the commission proposed to extend the periods during which both challengers and challenged parties could collect information from six months to at least nine months,” the commission said. “The commission offered these proposals in recognition that challengers could have already collected speed-test data before the challenge window was extended, in which case data collected between February 27, 2018, and May 28, 2018, would not be acceptable absent an expansion of the initially adopted six-month data collection period.”

Notes in the News for January 10, 2019

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is undertaking a feasibility study and a beta test/pilot project for a new cyber threat information sharing forum for small communications network service providers. The association is currently accepting proposals in order to find a qualified partner to support the development of the forum’s initial operating capabilities. Proposals are due by February 15.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) has launched a “Know the Risk, Raise Your Shield” campaign to help U.S. private industry guard against threats from foreign intelligence entities.

NTCA Rural Broadband PAC raised a total of $303,673 in 2018, which is an all-time record for the PAC and the first time it has raised over $300,000 in a single year. The PAC now turns its attention to 2019, which will be the PAC’s 50th anniversary year.

An appropriations bill that would authorize funding for both the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission passed the U.S. House of Representatives on January 9.

FirstNet has issued an update on the network’s buildout progress, saying that over the course of the last year the LTE coverage area for the AT&T network and public safety communications platform increased by more than 50,000 square miles.