The draft texts of the items that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has teed up for the agency’s Aug. 1 meeting reveal the details of proposals for a new $20.4 billion fund that could support gigabit speed services and improve the agency’s collection of data on broadband availability through crowdsourcing and other measures, as well as potential decisions on toll-free number auctions and a host of other issues in the hefty nine-item agenda.
The FCC released the draft texts of the nine items along with the tentative agenda for the Aug. 1 meeting late yesterday. The agenda includes items concerning the establishment of a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, an upgraded data collection initiative, and new anti-spoofing, small satellite, Rural Health Care (RHC) program, and 911 rules. Other items would address an auction of “833” code toll-free numbers, franchising regulation of cable operators, and FM radio issues (TR Daily, July 11).
The meeting is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m.
The Digital Opportunity Data Collection draft report and order and second further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNRPM) in WC dockets 19-195 and 11-10 is aimed at addressing weakness in the census-block-based reporting on broadband deployment that the FCC currently uses. It follows a 2017 data collection improvement FNPRM that sought input on improving the agency’s broadband data collection.
The draft item says that the census-block-based approach “has been an effective tool for helping the Commission target universal service support to the least-served areas of the country, but has made it difficult for the Commission to direct funding to the ‘gaps’ in broadband coverage — those areas where some, but not all, homes and businesses have access to modern communications services.”
The Digital Opportunity Data Collection would be “distinct from the existing Form 477 collection,” the draft item says. It would “gather geospatial broadband service availability data specifically targeted toward advancing our universal service goals. Pursuant to the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, we require all broadband service providers to submit granular maps of the areas where they have broadband-capable networks and make service available. Given the Commission’s ongoing investigation into the coverage maps of one or more major mobile operators, we limit the new data collection obligations to fixed broadband providers at present and seek comment on how best to incorporate mobile wireless coverage data into the Digital Opportunity Data Collection,” it adds.
Alongside the provider-reported data, the draft report and order would “adopt a process to begin collecting public input, sometimes known as ‘crowdsourcing,’ on the accuracy of service providers’ broadband deployment data. Through this new tool, State, local, and Tribal governmental entities and members of the public will be able to submit fixed broadband availability data, leveraging their experience concerning service availability.”
The draft report and order would adopt “targeted changes” to the Form 477 data collection, while the draft second FNPRM would propose a sunset of the Form 477 data collection.
As the Universal Service Administrative Co. “begins undertaking the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, we will continue to use Form 477 for certain intended uses, such as evaluating local telephone competition, gathering broadband deployment and voice subscription data, and collecting certain public safety information. However, we propose in the Second Notice to transition the collection of mobile broadband-capable network deployment data to the same USAC-administered portal created for fixed data and seek comment on sunsetting Form 477. We maintain the Commission’s current Form 477 data collection for mobile broadband and voice data in the interim and take several actions to reduce the burden on service providers required to submit the form,” the draft item says.
Among the changes that would be made to the Form 477 data collection are publishing minimum advertised or expected speed data and provider-specific coverage data for mobile broadband services, which currently are treated as confidential; eliminating the requirement to report separately on each spectrum band; adding a 5G-NR (New Radio) technology code; eliminating outdated technology codes; collecting mobile broadband and voice subscription data at the census tract level; and eliminating the collection of mobile retail availability.
The draft second FNPRM would “[s]eek comment on additional technical standards for fixed broadband providers that could ensure greater precision for the Digital Opportunity Data Collection deployment reporting and on ways the Commission can incorporate location-specific fixed broadband deployment data in this new data collection; [s]eek comment on incorporating the collection of accurate, reliable mobile wireless voice and broadband coverage data into the Digital Opportunity Data Collection; and [s]eek comment on sunsetting the Form 477 broadband deployment collection following the creation of the Digital Opportunity Data Collection,” according to the fact sheet.
A draft notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in WC dockets 19-126 and 10-90 would propose the creation of a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), to support broadband service at a minimum of 25 megabits per second downstream/3 Mbps upstream in areas that lack such service, with “a preference for faster speeds, such as gigabit service,” according to a fact sheet released with the draft NPRM. It would also propose the adoption of technology-neutral standards for RDOF-supported services.
It would propose a two-phase auction for distributing RDOF funding. “Phase I would allocate support to wholly unserved census blocks and Phase II would allocate support to unserved locations in partially unserved census blocks along with areas not won in Phase I,” the fact sheet said. At least $16 billion of the proposed $20.4 billion 10-year budget would be available for Phase I. Reserve prices would be set “using the Connect America Cost Model to establish the maximum per-location bid amount that the Commission is willing to fund,” under the draft NPRM. It would also propose “a transition framework for phasing down existing support in auctioned areas.”
The RHC draft report and order in WC docket 17-310, which follows a 2017 notice of proposed rulemaking and order aimed at looking into protections against waste, fraud, and abuse in the wake of increased demand for RHC support, would “[r]eform the distribution of RHC Program funding to promote efficiency and reduce incentives that encourage waste, fraud, and abuse,” according to a fact sheet accompanying the draft item.
It would also “[s]treamline and simplify the way the discounted rates that health care providers pay for communications services and the amount of support received from the Program are calculated; [d]irect the Program Administrator to create a database of rates that health care providers would use to quickly and easily determine the amount of support they can receive from the Program; [i]n the event demand for the Program exceeds its funding cap, target funding to the most rural areas and those facing shortages of health care providers and ensure that eligible rural health care providers continue to benefit from Program funding; [s]implify the application process for program participants and provide more clarity regarding Program procedures; and [d]irect the Program Administrator to take a variety of actions to increase transparency in the Program and ensure that all applicants receive complete and timely information to help inform their decisions regarding eligible services and purchases,” the fact sheet said. The toll-free number auction public notice in AU docket 19-101, WC docket 17-192, and CC docket 95-155 would set “detailed application, bidding and post-auction procedures” for the auction of numbers in the “833” toll-free code for which there were requests from multiple RespOrgs (responsible organizations), which are the entities eligible to obtain toll-free numbers directly from toll-free numbering administrator Somos, Inc. The FCC authorized the auction last fall (TR Daily, Sept. 26, 2018), and it sought comment on proposed procedures in May (TR Daily, May 9).
The single-round auction is scheduled to be held Dec. 17.
The draft public notice would “[a]dopt application requirements for the 833 Auction, including required disclosures and certifications, as well as prohibitions and restrictions on applicants, to promote auction integrity,” according to a fact sheet released with the item.
It would also “[a]dopt bidding procedures for the 833 Auction, including upfront payments, bidding format and period, and payments due in case of default”; “[a]dopt post-auction procedures for the 833 Auction, including payment deadlines and toll free number reservation requirements”; and [a]dopt a requirement that Responsible Organizations (RespOrgs) report data on secondary market (i.e., post-auction) toll free number transactions to Somos.”
It would direct that auction registration, application, and bidding tutorials be available online by Sept. 11; that the auction application filing window open at noon ET on Oct. 7; that the auction application filing window deadline be 6 p.m. ET on Oct. 18; that upfront payments be due at 6 p.m. on Oct. 18; that upfront payments be made by 6 p.m. ET on Nov. 27; and that a mock auction be held Dec. 13.
The draft cable franchising draft third report and order in MB docket 05-311 follows a second further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM) adopted by the FCC last year (TR Daily, Sept. 25, 2018) to address two issues raised by the remand of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati) last year in “Montgomery County, Maryland, et al. v. FCC et al.” (cases 08-3023 and 15-3578) with respects to the treatment of “in-kind” payments as franchise fees (TR Daily, July 12, 2017).
It would “[t]reat cable-related, in-kind contributions required by LFAs [local franchising authorities] from cable operators (both new entrants and incumbents) as a condition or requirement of a franchise agreement as ‘franchise fees’ subject to the statutory 5% franchise fee cap set forth in Section 622 of the Act unless expressly exempt under the Act”; “[p]rohibit LFAs from using their video franchising authority to regulate most non-cable services, including broadband Internet service, offered over cable systems by incumbent cable operators”; “[p]reempt any imposition of fees on a franchised cable operator that exceeds the formula set forth in section 622(b) of the Act and the rulings contained in the Third Report and Order, whether styled as a ‘franchise’ fee, ‘right-of-access’ fee, or a fee on non-cable (e.g., telecommunications or broadband) services as well as any requirement that a cable operator secure an additional franchise or other authorization to provide non-cable services through its cable system”; and [a]pply Commission requirements that concern LFA regulation of cable operators to state-level franchising actions and state regulations that impose requirements on local franchising,” according to a fact sheet released with the item.
Chairman Pai plans to ask his fellow Commissioners to consider a report and order in PS dockets 18-261 and 17-239 “that would address calls to 911 made from multi-line telephone systems, pursuant to Kari’s Law, the conveyance of dispatchable location with 911 calls, as directed by RAY BAUM’S Act, and the consolidation of the Commission’s 911 rules,” noted the tentative agenda released yesterday.
“Kari’s Law requires MLTS that are manufactured, imported, offered for first sale or lease, first sold or leased, or installed after February 16, 2020 to enable users to dial 911 directly, without having to dial a prefix to reach an outside line, and to provide for notification (e.g., to a front desk or security office) when a 911 call is made,” the FCC noted in a fact sheet on the item.
“RAY BAUM’S Act requires the Commission to consider adopting rules to ensure that a ‘dispatchable location’ is conveyed with 911 calls, regardless of the technological platform used, so that 911 call centers will receive the caller’s location automatically and can dispatch responders more quickly,” the fact sheet noted. “’Dispatchable location’ is the street address of the calling party, and additional information such as room number, floor number, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party,” the FCC added.
The report and order would “[a]dopt rules to implement the 911 direct dial and notification requirements of Kari’s Law. The rules are intended to provide clarity and specificity regarding the statutory requirements and to enable covered entities to meet those requirements cost-effectively.”
The order would “[a]dopt flexible and technologically neutral dispatchable location requirements for MLTS and for providers of fixed telephony service, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, Telecommunications Relay Services, and mobile texting services. The Report and Order would not amend existing 911 call location rules applicable to wireless providers.”
It also would “[a]pply dispatchable location rules to outbound-only interconnected VoIP services, just as they apply to other interconnected VoIP services” and “[c]onsolidate the Commission’s 911 rules from multiple rule parts into a single rule part and streamline the rules in some instances.”
The Commission also plans to consider at its Aug. 1 meeting a report and order in IB docket 18-86 that would adopt a new, alternative process for authorizing small satellites.
The item would “[c]reate an alternative, optional application process within part 25 of the Commission’s rules for small satellites. This streamlined process would be an addition to, and not replace, the existing processes for satellite authorization under parts 5 (experimental), 25, and 97 (amateur) of the Commission’s rules,” according to a fact sheet.
“This new streamlined application process could be used by applicants for satellites and satellite systems meeting certain qualifying characteristics, such as …” (1) “10 or fewer satellites under a single authorization”; (2) “[t]otal in-orbit lifetime of satellite(s) of six years or less”; (3) “[m]aximum individual satellite wet mass of 180 kg”; (4) “[p]ropulsion capabilities or deployment below 600 km altitude”; (5) the “[a]bility to share use of authorized frequency band with current operations and without materially constraining future satellite entrants seeking to use the band”; and (6) “[r]elatively low risk from an orbital debris perspective, as assessed through additional clearly ascertainable characteristics.”
“Applicants qualifying for this process would have a streamlined application, would be exempted from the Commission’s processing round procedures, and could take advantage of a one-year grace period from posting of a surety bond,” the fact sheet said. The order would also “[a]dopt a new application fee category for small satellite applicants seeking a U.S. license or access to the U.S. market, with an application fee of $30,000, and adopt a new small satellite regulatory fee category.”
Also, as previewed by Chairman Pai earlier this week (TR Daily, July 8), the draft anti-spoofing second report and order in WC dockets 18-335 and 11-39 would implement provisions of the RAY BAUM’S Act by “[e]xtend[ing] the reach of the Commission’s current Truth in Caller ID rules to include covered communications originating outside the United States that are directed at consumers within the United States”; “[e]xpand[ing] the scope of communications covered by the Commission’s Truth in Caller ID rules beyond telecommunications services and interconnected VoIP services to include text messaging and alternative voice services, such as one-way VoIP services” and [c]ontinu[ing] the Commission’s multi-pronged approach to protecting American consumers from illegal spoofed robocalls,” according to the fact sheet released with the item. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected], and Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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