FCC Chairman Ajit Pai plans to ask his fellow Commissioners to vote at their Jan. 30 meeting on ending Connect America Fund Phase I support in certain areas as CAF Phase II support begins, on improving the Internet protocol captioned telephone service (IP CTS) program, and on implementing the anti-spoofing provisions of the RAY BAUM’S Act, as well as addressing certain broadcast issues.
The release of the Jan. 30 meeting tentative agenda nearly a week earlier than normal practice would dictate came as the agency was shutting down most of its operations today due to a lack of funding. The FCC is among the departments and agencies for which fiscal 2019 budgets have not been passed and which had been operating under a continuing resolution that expired Dec. 21. The FCC used unexpended funding to remain open until mid-day today. As reported yesterday, “work required for the protection of life and property will continue, as will any work related to spectrum auctions, which is funded by auction proceeds. In addition, the Office of the Inspector General will continue operations until further notice” (TR Daily, Jan. 2).
Normally the tentative agenda is released three weeks ahead of the meeting date.
“Should the current lapse in funding end before January 9, additional items may be added to the tentative agenda,” the FCC said in today’s press release announcing the tentative agenda.
A draft report and order in WC docket 10-90 addressing the CAF support issues would adopt a transition framework for areas where support is being awarded through the CAF-II auction completed last year. The transition framework would end CAF-I frozen support to price cap carriers that declined model-based support and competitive carriers providing fixed service. It would also “phase out federal high-cost support in price cap areas that were not eligible for continued support through the auction,” according to a fact sheet accompanying the text of the draft order released by the FCC today.
Specifically, the CAF draft report and order would “[a]llocate legacy CAF Phase I frozen support, using the Connect America Cost Model (CAM), among those price cap carriers that declined CAF Phase II model-based support based on the relative cost of serving each area served by those carriers”; “[e]stablish a schedule for ending support to price cap carriers and phasing down fixed competitive eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) in areas that were successfully bid during the auction, while providing interim support for areas that did not receive any bids”; and “[a]fford price cap carriers and fixed competitive ETCs an option to decline support,” according to the fact sheet.
The draft report and order says that it would accomplish “a small but important step towards closing the digital divide and making broadband available for all Americans, by phasing down legacy support for voice services to make greater funding available for voice and broadband services.”
It notes that “[a]pproximately 73% of the locations available in the CAF Phase II auction were covered by winning bids, significantly narrowing the areas where price cap carriers will maintain voice-only obligations under the legacy regime. The transition plan we adopt today provides certainty and stability in those areas by establishing a reasonable support glide path as we transition from one support mechanism to another.”
The draft IP CTS report and order, further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM), and order in CG dockets 13-24 and 03-123 is aimed at enhancing program management; preventing waste, fraud, and abuse; and improving emergency call handling in the IP CTS program, according to a fact sheet on the item. It notes that IP CTS has grown to account for “almost 80% of the total minutes compensated by the [TRS] Fund, at a cost of $892 million annually.”
The draft IP CTS report and order would “[i]ntegrate IP CTS into the TRS User Registration Database, subject to the same data submission and verification rules that currently apply to video relay service, with minor modifications for IP CTS,” according to the fact sheet.
The draft IP CTS FNPRM would “[p]ropose to codify a requirement for IP CTS providers to include unique user account identifiers in monthly call detail records submitted for TRS Fund compensation” and would “[p]ropose to simplify the processing of 911 calls for some IP CTS users, so that they can communicate more effectively with emergency dispatchers.”
Pending the completion of the FNPRM rulemaking, the draft IP CTS order would “waive certain emergency call-handling requirements so that some IP CTS users can communicate more effectively with emergency dispatchers.”
The draft pleading cycle is 30 days after “Federal Register” publication and 15 days after that for replies.
The IP CTS item teed up for the Jan. 30 meeting follows a report and order, declaratory ruling, FNPRM, and notice of inquiry adopted last year in CG dockets 13-24 and 03-123, adopting changes in the IP CTS program aimed at ensuring that only those who are eligible could make use of the subsidized service. Last year’s FNPRM sought input on proposals to improve the compensation plan, funding, and structure of the IP CTS program; proposals to curb provider practices that could encourage use of IP CTS by people who do not need it; and on IP CTS performance goals and metrics (TR Daily, June 7, 2018).
The draft IP CTS item released today says that despite last year’s action, “problems remain. For example, the Commission has no systematic process for limiting program access only to those determined to be eligible to use IP CTS. Accordingly, we now expand the User Registration Database (Database) that the Commission created for the video relay service (VRS) program to encompass IP CTS, while proposing a related change in the data to be submitted for IP CTS compensation. The steps we take here will ensure that federal funds are put to their intended purpose in that providers will receive compensation only for calls made by individuals determined to be eligible to use this service.
“We also propose a revision of IP CTS emergency call-handling procedures to simplify the processing of 911 calls, so that IP CTS users can communicate more effectively with emergency dispatchers. Pending the completion of this rulemaking, we waive certain emergency call-handling requirements that, on the current record, appear to be unnecessary, burdensome, and potentially hazardous to public safety,” the draft item adds.
The draft anti-spoofing NPRM in WC dockets 18-355 and 11-39 would propose amending the FCC’s truth-in-caller-ID rules to implement the anti-spoofing measures of the RAY BAUM’S Act, which became law last spring as part of an omnibus appropriations package (TR Daily, March 23, 2018).
The draft NPRM would propose “extending the reach of the Commission’s current Truth in Caller ID rules to include covered communications originating from outside the United States to recipients within the United States; and expanding the scope of covered communications services to include text messages and additional voice services,” according to a fact sheet.
The draft NPRM would also “[s]eek comment on new or revised definitions of the following terms for purposes of section 227(e) of the Communications Act: ‘text message,’ ‘text messaging service,’ ‘voice service,’ ‘caller identification information,’ and ‘caller identification service,’” the fact sheet adds. And it would “[s]eek comment on any other changes to the FCC’s Truth in Caller ID rules necessary to effectuate Congress’ intent in amending section 227(e).”
The proposals in the draft NPRM “largely track the language of the RAY BAUM’S Act,” the fact sheet says.
“Nefarious schemes that manipulate caller identification (caller ID) information to deceive consumers about the name and phone number of the party that is calling them facilitate fraudulent and other harmful activities and are a scourge on American consumers. In 2018 alone, we received over 52,000 consumer complaints about caller ID spoofing. To address these harms, we have issued forfeitures totaling more than $200 million and have proposed another $37.5 million in fines for violations of our Truth in Caller ID rules over the last year alone; have adopted rules allowing voice service providers to block certain clearly unlawful calls before they reach consumers; and are aggressively working with industry to develop a system that enables providers to verify caller ID information by ‘authenticating’ calls to prevent illegal spoofed calls from ever reaching consumers and to ‘traceback’ illegal spoofed calls to their original source. Notwithstanding these measures, unlawful spoofing persists,” the text of the draft NPRM says.
As drafted, it would allow 30 days for filing comments after publication of a notice in the “Federal Register,” and an additional 30 days for filing reply comments. The broadcast items teed up for the Jan. 30 meeting include a draft NPRM to improve the FCC’s selection and licensing procedures for new noncommercial educational FM and television station (NCE) and low power FM (LPFM) broadcast stations and to expedite the initiation of new service to the public; and a draft report and order to eliminate the broadcast EEO (equal employment opportunity) mid-term report tiling requirement for certain broadcast television and radio stations.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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