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Posted by Amy Gross on 3/16/20 4:15 PM

Today's Regulatory Mix:  FCC Launches Keep Americans Connected Pledge, FCC E-Rate Filing Window Extended; Funding Caps Increased, Mississippi Charges Three Companies With No-Call Violations 

FCC entrance shutterstock-1FCC Launches Keep Americans Connected Pledge 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that multiple companies and trade associations had taken the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” The pledge reads as follows:  

Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:

(1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; 

(2) waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and 

(3) open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them. 

Less than 24 hours after the Chairman’s calls, the following companies have already told Chairman Pai that they are taking the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and will implement it as soon as possible: ACIRA – Powered by Farmers Mutual Telephone Company & Federated Telephone, Allstream Business US, AlticeUSA, Antietam Broadband, Atlantic Broadband, AT&T, BBT, BOYCOM Vision, Burlington Telecom, Cable One, Central Arkansas Telephone Cooperative, CenturyLink, Charter, Cincinnati Bell, Citizens Connected, Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Cox Communications, Digital West, East Ascension Telephone Company, Education Networks of America, Emery Telecom, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, FirstLight, Frontier, Google Fiber, Grande Communications, Granite Telecommunications, Great Plains Communications, GWI, Hiawatha Broadband, Hill Country, IdeaTek Telcom, Inteliquent, Lafourche Telephone Company, Lakeland Communications, Long Lines Broadband, Mammoth Networks/Visionary Broadband, Mediacom, MetTel, Nex-Tech, Ninestar Connect, Northwest Fiber, Orbitel Communications, Pioneer Communications, Premier Communications, Range Telephone Cooperative, RCN, Reserve Telephone Company, Sacred Wind Communications, Shawnee Communications, Socket Telecom, Sonic, Sprint, Starry, TDS Telecom, TelNet Worldwide, TMobile, TracFone Wireless, Uniti Fiber, US Cellular, Vast Broadband, Verizon, Vyve Broadband Investments, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, Wave Broadband, West Telecom Services, Windstream, and ZenFi Networks.   

The following trade associations have endorsed the pledge: ACA Connects, Competitive Carriers of America, CTIA, INCOMPAS, NCTA—The Internet and Television Association, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, USTelecom, and WISPA. 

Pai said in part, “As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical, and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected. Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning, and—importantly—take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus,” said Chairman Pai. “That’s why I’m asking all broadband and telephone service providers to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. I don’t want any American consumers experiencing hardships because of the pandemic to lose connectivity.” 

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FCC logo-1FCC E-Rate Filing Window Extended; Funding Caps Increased 

The FCC’s Wireline Competition announced that, to minimize potential disruptions caused by COVID-19, it has directed USAC  to extend the deadline for E-Rate applicants to submit their Funding Year (FY) 2020 FCC Form 471 applications by an additional 35 days. E-Rate applicants will now have until Wednesday, April 29, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. EDT to submit their FY2020 FCC Form 471 applications. Recognizing that E-Rate applicants undergoing Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) reviews may not be able to respond to PIA requests in a timely manner, it also direct USAC to provide all applicants with an automatic, 14-day extension for PIA requests. 

The FCC said it would continue to monitor the situation to determine whether any additional extensions of these deadlines are needed.   

Separately, the FCC announced that the  E-Rate and Rural Health Care (RHC) programs’ funding caps for funding year 2020.  The new caps represent a 1.8% inflation-adjusted increase in each program cap from funding year 2019. The E-Rate program funding cap for funding year 2020 is $4,226,120,51p;   

 

MS PSCMississippi Charges Three Companies With No-Call Violations 

In a press release, the MS PSC announced that it has charged three companies with 836 alleged violations of the Mississippi No-Call law. 

The PSC’s investigation found that these three companies made hundreds illegal calls to Mississippians. Should these entities be found to have violated the No-Call law, they are subject to a combined total of $6,300.000 in fines.  Notices of alleged violations have been recently filed against CS Marketing, LLC, CMWEBIT, LLC, and Turnkey Auto Group, Inc. 

“Our staff will continue to do everything they can to actively seek out companies and individuals who continue to violate our No-Call law.  Other companies should take these fines as a warning sign that we remain vigilant and will ultimately bring those who violate it to justice.  These illegal calls against the innocent people of our state will stop,” said Commissioner Presley. 

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The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.

 

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Topics: FCC E-Rate, FCC E-Rate Funding Cap, Mississippi No-Call Violations, Americans Connected Pledge

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