oday's Regulatory Mix: FCC Commissioners Praise Coronavirus Relief and Omnibus Funding Legislation, FCC Sets Invoice Deadline For COVID 19 Telehealth Program, FCC Performance Testing Waivers
FCC Commissioners Praise Coronavirus Relief and Omnibus Funding Legislation
Both FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel issued statements in response to the communications provisions in the new COVID relief and Omnibus funding bills.
FCC Chairman Pai said, in part:
“I applaud Congress for including in the coronavirus relief and omnibus funding legislation a number of provisions that advance critical national priorities in communications policy. I am pleased, for example, that Congress is providing the FCC with $1.9 billion to fund the program that we adopted earlier this month to ‘rip and replace’ insecure equipment in our nation’s communications networks. This program will strengthen both network security and our national security. In addition, this legislation gives the FCC the funding we need to implement our Digital Opportunity Data Collection; this is a critical step toward the FCC being able to implement both Phase II of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund as well as the 5G Fund for Rural America that the Commission adopted earlier this year, which together will offer over $20 billion to support high-speed broadband in rural America. I would like to thank Chairman Wicker, in particular, for his strong leadership in securing this funding.
Building on our successful COVID-19 Telehealth Program, I’m also pleased that Congress has provided the Commission with an additional $250 million for that program, which will allow us to approve many more applications to expand connected care throughout the country and enable patients to access necessary health care services while staying safe. Furthermore, I am glad that Congress has responded to my call from this past June to provide funding to Keep Americans Connected during the pandemic. The $3.2 billion contained in this legislation will leverage private efforts to ensure low-income American families and veterans are connected, and will facilitate remote learning by funding connected devices for low-income American students.
Moreover, I welcome Congress both requiring the FCC to begin auctioning the 3.45-3.55 GHz band by the end of 2021 and repealing the mandate to auction the T-band. These provisions will ensure that the Commission and the federal government as a whole stay on track in quickly making the 3.45 GHz band available for 5G and that the FCC does not have to waste resources on a T-band auction that was bound to fail. Finally, I’m glad that this legislation contains a number of provisions to combat 911 fee diversion.”
FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel said:
“This pandemic has demonstrated that access to broadband is no longer nice-to-have, it is need-to-have for everyone, everywhere. So it is terrific news that Congress has before it legislation that will boost connectivity during this crisis. Too many people in too many places are struggling without the ability to go online. With so much of modern life now dependent on internet access, no one should have to choose between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries. Simply put, no matter who you are or where you live in this country, you should have access to broadband.
Significantly, this legislative effort also includes much-needed funding for the Federal Communications Commission to map the full extent of the digital divide, to support telehealth efforts during the pandemic, and to secure communications by replacing vulnerable equipment in our networks. In addition, it authorizes the auction of mid-band spectrum and protects key airwaves used by first responders. Plus, there are promising new initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to help connect Tribal lands and minority communities.
This legislation is only a start, but it is important because it is the beginning of what needs to be a national effort to connect 100% of us to broadband.”
Other statements issued include:
FCC Commissioner Starks statement.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Democratic Leadership statement.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leadership statement.
FCC Sets Invoice Deadline For COVID 19 Telehealth Program
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) and the Office of the Managing Director (OMD) established a July 31, 2021, invoicing deadline for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. They also provided COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding awardees (Awardees) with additional information on the post-program report, which must be filed with the FCC no later than January 31, 2022. They also reminded Awardees of the program’s recordkeeping and auditing requirements.
- Awardees have until December 31, 2020, to purchase eligible connected devices and implement eligible services,8 and can receive up to six months of support for eligible services with monthly recurring charges. Awardees must file their requests for reimbursement for the cost of eligible connected devices and/or telecommunications or information services on or before July 31, 2021, in order to receive reimbursement for eligible expenses under the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
- FCC rules require awardees to provide a report on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding no later than six months after the conclusion of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Therefore, awardees should submit their post-program reports by January 31, 2022—six months after the invoicing deadline. The Public Notice include a post-program report template, which contains a list of questions that Awardees should respond to when developing their post-program report.
- Awardees must maintain records related to their participation in the COVID-19 Telehealth Program for at least three years from the last date of service under this program to demonstrate their compliance with program requirements. Awardees must present any records related to their participation in the COVID-19 Telehealth Program to the FCC upon request. Awardees may also be subject to compliance audits and must provide documentation related to their participation in the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
FCC Performance Testing Waivers
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) has granted a limited waiver of the performance testing requirements for recipients of Alternative Connect America Cost Model I (A-CAM I) support, Rural Broadband Experiment support, and Alaska Plan support (together, A-CAM/RBE/Alaska carriers).The waiver was in response to problems providers had in obtaining access to the customer premises to make the necessary measurements due to COVID 19. Specifically, the Bureau will allow ACAM/RBE/Alaska carriers to pre-test only 70% of their USAC-selected samples during the four quarters of pre-testing in 2021. Nevertheless, it expects all A-CAM/RBE/Alaska carriers to work diligently to obtain any necessary equipment and expand the number of tested subscribers in the USAC-selected sample throughout the pre-testing period. These efforts should ensure that all A-CAM/RBE/Alaska carriers are prepared to begin testing all of the subscribers in the USAC-selected random sample in the first quarter of 2022, consistent with the schedule adopted by the FCC in 2019.
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The Regulatory Mix will be on hiatus from 12/23/2020 - 1/3/2021
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.