Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Proposes Fine for Form 477 Filings, FCC Authorizes CAFII Support for Mississippi Broadband Deployment, FCC Announces Status of RDOF Applications
FCC Proposes Fine for Form 477 Filings
The FCC proposed a $163,912 fine, the maximum amount allowed by law, against Internet service provider Barrier Communications Corporation d/b/a BarrierFree for apparently: (1) reporting inaccurate information that significantly inflated its broadband subscription numbers; (2) failing to file required deployment data; (3) making false statements to FCC investigators; and (4) failing to respond to other inquiries. Barrier is a facilities-based broadband provider that brings two-way fixed wireless broadband services to its end-users by leveraging Verizon’s network as backhaul.
Specifically, in a revised March 2018 filing, and in September 2019 and March 2020 filings, BarrierFree apparently reported having vastly more broadband subscribers than there were housing units in the Suffolk County, New York census tracts where it reported providing service. The company also apparently failed to: submit its March 2019 broadband deployment data Form 477 filing; provide accurate responses to Letters of Inquiry issued by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau during the course of its investigation; and fully respond to those Letters of Inquiry.
The FCC also found that BarrierFree apparently failed to file any Form 477s before 2018, even though the company had been offering service since 2004, and vastly overstated its broadband deployment in its original March 2018 Form 477 filing. However, these apparent violations of FCC rules fell outside the one-year statute of limitations.
Broadband service providers are required to provide coverage and subscribership data to the FCC every six months on Form 477, a requirement that has been in place since 2000. Broadband deployment data also are essential to the FCC’s statutory obligation to assess whether advanced communications services are being deployed to all Americans in a timely manner, and provide valuable information to other federal agencies, state governments, and individual consumers.
FCC Authorizes CAFII Support for Mississippi Broadband Deployment
The FCC announced it authorized $5,206,701 in funding over ten years for Viasat Carrier Services, Inc., to deploy broadband to 13,819 rural homes and businesses in Mississippi. The funding represents the 15th wave of support from the successful 2018 Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Viasat must use this funding to provide service with a minimum speed of 25/3 Mbps.
In total, the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction in 2018 allocated $1.488 billion in support over the next ten years to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses in 45 states. Today’s action brings total authorized funding to $1,476,554,824, which is expanding connectivity to 702,745 homes and businesses nationwide. Funding rounds will continue until the authorization process is complete.
FCC Announces Status of RDOF Applications
The FCC announced the status of the 505 short-form applications received for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase 1 Auction (Auction 904). The FCC said it has completed its review of the short form applications and found that 121 were complete and 384 were incomplete. Each of these applicants whose applications were designated as complete will become a qualified bidder in all the states it selected for all the performance tier and latency combinations it selected, provided that it maintains the accuracy of its short-form application. Each of the applicants whose application was designated as incomplete must resubmit its application, having corrected any deficiencies, prior to 6:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. This period will be the only opportunity to cure application deficiencies. Late resubmissions will not be accepted. Also by September 23, 2020 the resubmission window will be open for any applicant to make permissible minor changes to its application.
Entities that filed incomplete applications will receive a letter from the FCC identifying each deficiency in its application, along with a copy of the Public Notice. This letter will be sent by overnight delivery to the contact person and contact address listed in the application. Among other things, the FCC noted that identified deficiencies may include instances in which it was unable to verify that the applicant made the required Form 477 filings during the three relevant time periods. The Notice also provides information on how to request a waiver for certain deficiencies.
Following FCC review of resubmitted short-form applications, a public notice listing all applicants qualified to bid in Auction 904 will be released. The same public notice will also include bidding schedules for both the mock auction and the first day of bidding. Bidding in Auction 904 will begin on Thursday, October 29, 2020, and will award up to $16 billion over 10 years to service providers that commit to offer voice and broadband services to fixed locations in unserved high-cost census blocks.
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.