#RuralIsCool Volume 1, Issue 9/February 14, 2019

NTCA Tackles Rate Floor, Performance Testing, ICC in Meetings With FCC

During several meetings with the FCC on February 7, 8 and 11, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association discussed the current rate-floor policy, concerns over network performance testing requirements and intercarrier compensation (ICC).

During the February 8 meeting with Nirali Patel, wireline adviser to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, NTCA asked that any commission action on ICC be confined to areas “in which clear and convincing evidence on the record confirms concerns exist with respect to particular practices or routing patterns.”

The association said, “greater analysis and additional evidence are needed to establish where such concerns arise specifically and to target and tailor solutions for such concerns prior to adoption of any order in these proceedings.” NTCA further urged that, if action would nonetheless be taken, the FCC should proceed specifically in accordance with the association’s proposals in its July and August 2018 comments.

The same concerns with respect to ICC were expressed during the February 11 meeting with Arielle Roth, wireline adviser to Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, when the association also argued that the current rate-floor policy risks “inflicting local voice telephony rate increases of as much as nearly $9 per month on rural consumers as of May 1.” The association also pointed to the limited amount of time left for some carriers to decide whether to pass along those increases.

On the subject of network performance testing, the association said vendors are attempting to design testing solutions for smaller operators even as standards remain unsettled, and that it remains uncertain how providers will test across portions of networks they neither own nor control. The association gave several reasons for recommending that implementation of the performance measurement obligations be delayed (see related story in today’s #RuralisCool).

The association further discussed the same concerns with ICC issues, the rate floor and network performance testing during a February 7 meeting with Jamie Susskind, chief of staff to Commissioner Brendan Carr, and Wade Burkholder, legal intern in Carr’s office.  Concerns with respect to the rate floor and network testing were raised again by NTCA during a February 8 meeting with Preston Wise, special counsel to Chairman Ajit Pai.

FCC Proposes Rules Banning Illegal Spoofed Text Message, International Calls

At its February 14, 2019, open meeting, the FCC addressed what it says are the top consumer complaint it receives each year—unwanted calls—by proposing rules to ban illegal spoofed text messages and to target scam calls that originate outside of the United States.

The recent passage of the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 extended consumer protections from the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 that prohibited the transmission of “misleading or inaccurate caller ID information” to short message service and multimedia message service text messages, calls originating from outside the United States to recipients within the United States, and additional types of voice calls, such as one-way interconnected VoIP calls. The FCC’s proposed rules implement that legislation.

The commission said unwanted calls account for 60% of the total complaints received each year at the commission, and that it received more than 52,000 complaints in 2018 about spoofed calls.

NTCA Questions Inclusion of Backhaul Providers Within Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework

In comments filed February 8, 2019, in response to the FCC’s public notice seeking comment on the efficacy of the voluntary Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association said it supported the goal of ensuring the effectiveness of the framework, but questioned the inclusion of backhaul providers within the framework. The association stated that incorporating backhaul providers into the framework is unnecessary because existing market-based incentives and contractual mechanisms already can ensure that wireless carriers have access to resilient backhaul services that will be rapidly restored in the wake of a natural disaster.  The association further stated that it looks forward to the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s (BDAC) Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group recommendations on the matter that may lead to improvements to existing practices.  

In a separate but related February 8, 2019, filing, the Communications Sector Coordinating Council (an organization that includes NTCA as a member) told the commission of its history of experiences coordinating with power companies before, during and after natural disasters.

“The commission has itself recently charged a new ‘Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group’ of the BDAC with ‘making recommendations on measures that can be taken to improve resiliency of broadband infrastructure’ including ‘developing best practices for coordination among wireless providers, backhaul providers, and power companies during and after a disaster,’” the council wrote. “The BDAC includes representation from a number of CSCC members as well as electric companies. This forum, like the DHS advisory committees and working groups, is an important venue for developing the types of principles and best practices that can supplement the existing frameworks and practices to improve coordination between the communications sector and the electric companies.” 

The CSCC then stated that it encourages the bureau to carefully study any recommendations that may develop in that forum before moving forward with any measures aimed at improving coordination between communications providers and electric companies.

NTCA Applauds Broadband Initiative Report’s Focus on Streamlining Federal Permitting, Program Coordination

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association applauded the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s release of the “American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report,” which outlines a vision for how the federal government can increase broadband access and actions that agencies are taking to increase private-sector investment in broadband.

The report’s recommendations are grouped into three categories: streamlining federal permitting processes to speed broadband deployment, leveraging federal assets to lower the cost of broadband buildouts and maximizing the impact of federal funding.

More than 20 agencies were involved in producing the report, which NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield lauded for its “focus on key measures such as streamlining federal permitting processes, coordinating federal and state broadband support programs, and improving the quality of broadband data.”

NTCA Continues to Ask for Delay in Implementation of Performance-Measurement Obligations

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association continued to argue before the FCC that the implementation of the commission’s performance-measurement obligations should be delayed.

Consistent with prior comments, the association told the commission that the market for devices that providers would use to comply with performance-measurement testing is nascent. Few options are available as vendors currently work to design and test technology to meet commission requirements. Moreover, NTCA explained that “time to test the testing” will be necessary to ensure successful integration of new technology in existing networks. 

“Even a single holding company of numerous rural local exchange carriers (RLECs) may deploy different network platforms in each of its locally-operated markets,”’ the association said. “Therefore, the timeline for implementation of performance measurement obligations must account for sufficient time to enable the development of a suitable variety of solutions that allow rural operators reasonable choices in the marketplace.”

The association said implementation of performance measurement obligations should be delayed until:

  • Finalization of standards and systems for performance testing.
  • Vendors have had the opportunity to design a variety of solutions that conform to the finalized standards and offer options for deployment to smaller operators.
  • Each carrier has had a reasonable chance to “test the testing” through a grace period following its own deployment.

Representatives from LICT Corp., TDS Telecom (Madison, Wis.) and Range Cos. (Forsythe, Mont.) joined NTCA for the meeting.

FCC Approves Rules to Improve IP CTS

At its open meeting February 14, 2019, the FCC approved new rules and proposed additional regulations that it said would enhance program management; prevent waste, fraud and abuse; and improve emergency call handling in its Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) program for those with hearing loss.

The newly adopted rules integrate IP CTS into the TRS (Telecommunications Relay Service) User Registration Database, where, the commission said, the IP CTS user registrations will help the commission verify IP CTS users, audit and review IP CTS provider practices and substantiate provider compensation requests. The commission also proposed requiring IP CTS providers to add user account identifiers to call records submitted for compensation.

In addition, the commission proposed no longer requiring IP CTS providers to serve as “an unnecessary intermediary” in connecting 911 call centers and IP CTS users.

Notes in the News for February 14, 2019

Several members of the U.S. House on February 4 sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking that the commission place high priority on exploring a longer-term rate floor freeze for rural communities.

The Office of Rural Broadband Act was introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) and Kevin J. Cramer (R-–N.D.) in the U.S. Senate on February 13. The act would establish an office to coordinate rural broadband deployment efforts between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). NTCA released a statement on the bill.

Telecommunications carriers and interconnected VoIP providers are required to file, by March 1, 2019, their annual certification documenting compliance with the FCC’s CPNI rules.

 The U.S. House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing on the T-Mobile and Sprint merger Wednesday, February 13. NTCA has opposed the merger, as have nine U.S. senators.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing, “America’s Infrastructure Needs: Keeping Pace With a Growing Economy,” on February 13. Several issues relevant to rural broadband deployment were discussed.

Anne Hazlett, former assistant to the secretary for Rural Development at USDA, has been named senior adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. She will serve as the senior adviser to rural affairs.

At this year’s RTIME, NTCA recognized the member companies who were 2018 Smart Rural Community Collaboration Challenge grant winners.

The Foundation for Rural Service has launched a new “Virtual Living Room” grant program to support telehealth initiatives for veterans in rural America.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, John Gavan of the Colorado Public Utilities Corporation and Dan Lipschultz of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission have all been named to serve on the Federal-State Joint Board on Jurisdictional Separations.

An FCC released an order,Modernizing the E-Rate Program for Schools and Libraries,” on February 11.

Due to popular demand, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has added another session to its series of awareness briefings on Chinese cyber activity targeting managed service providers. You can register for these events, or they are available on demand.

NTIA has partnered with eight states to broaden and update the national broadband availability map. NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield mentioned the new initiative yesterday on her blog.

The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has announced the process for relicensing 700 MHz spectrum in unserved areas.


NTCA Vice President of Policy Joshua Seidemann took part in a panel discussion, “Engaging With Providers,” on February 13 at the NTIA State Broadband Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.

NTCA Senior Vice President of Industry Affairs and Business Development Michael Romano took part in a panel, “Thinking Outside the Box,” at the NARUC Winter Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., February 12.

NTCA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Leif Oveson gave a federal issues update at the CTA Winter Meeting in Denver, Colo., February 12.