Today's Regulatory Mix: USDA Announces Additional Broadband Funding, GAO Report on FCC USF High Cost Program
USDA Announces Additional Broadband Funding
The USDA announced additional broadband funding in Oklahoma, New York, Colorado, North Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska and Virginia.
In New York, Seneca Telecommunications LLC will use a $544,000 ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 928 people, five farms and a business to high-speed broadband internet in Cattaraugus, Erie and Chautauqua counties in New York. This grant will provide high-speed internet service to the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation.
In Colorado, Yampa Valley Electric Association will use a $6 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 553 people, 27 farms, 27 businesses and three post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Grand and Eagle counties in Colorado.
In North Dakota and Montana Reservation Telephone Cooperative will use a $6.9 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 1,413 people, 104 farms, 49 businesses, a public school and a fire station to high-speed broadband internet in Dawson, Richland and Wibaux counties in Montana and McKenzie County, North Dakota.
In Utah and Nevada:
In Idaho and Wyoming, All West Communications Inc. will use a $5.6 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 188 people, nine businesses and five farms to high-speed broadband internet in Summit County in Utah, Bear Lake County in Idaho, and Sweetwater and Lincoln counties in Wyoming.
In Nebraska, Rock County Telephone Company will use a $3.1 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will connect 261 people, 70 farms and seven businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Rock, Keya Paha and Brown counties in Nebraska.
In Virginia, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative will use a $1.5 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 1,964 residents, 34 businesses, 27 farms, a fire station and two post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Brunswick and Halifax counties in Virginia.
GAO Report on FCC USF High Cost Program
In response to a request for Congress, the General Accountability Office released a report reviewing USF’s high-cost program’s performance goals and measures. This report examined: (1) the extent to which the program’s performance goals and measures align with leading practices to enable the effective use of performance information and (2) the key challenges selected stakeholders believe FCC faces in meeting the program’s goals. GAO reviewed FCC’s program goals and measures and assessed them against applicable criteria, including GAO’s leading practices for successful performance measures.
Among other things, GAO found that the FCC’s measures for its performance goals do not always align with leading practices, which call for measures to have linkage with the goal they measure and clarity, objectivity, and measurable targets, among other key attributes. For example, for two of FCC’s five goals, GAO found that FCC’s measures met most, but not all, of the key attributes.
Examples of FCC’s Performance Measures Compared with a Selection of Key Attributes of Successful Performance Measures
GAO made four recommendations, including that FCC: (1) revise its high cost performance goals so they are measurable and quantifiable; (2) ensure its high-cost program’s performance goals and measures align with leading practices; (3) ensure the high-cost performance measure for the goal of minimizing the universal service contribution burden on consumers and businesses takes into account user-fee leading practices, such as equity and sustainability considerations; and (4) publicly and periodically report on progress measured toward the goals.
In response to the report, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) said: “I requested this report because I had profound concerns about the Trump FCC’s handling of the Universal Service Fund, and today’s report validates those fears. GAO has found that the high-cost program has been woefully maintained, with basic governance structures either wholly missing or outdated, effectively being left to rot under Chairman Pai’s leadership.
“This news comes as the FCC pushes out $16 billion in high-cost broadband funding without adequate or accurate broadband maps to guide them – and is doing so over the express objections of Democratic FCC Commissioners. It is likely that, as a result, funding will be poorly targeted and wasted, when it could and should be going toward communities in desperate need of connectivity. Today’s report confirms that Chairman Pai’s FCC has failed to be a proper steward of the Universal Service Fund, and future Commissions will be at a serious disadvantage in closing the digital divide as a result.”
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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.