Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Robocall Traceback Efforts, USDA Rural Broadband Grants and USDA ReConnect Program Application Window and Webinar
FCC Robocall Traceback Efforts
The FCC announced that its Enforcement Bureau sent letters to seven gateway service providers asking for their support in tracking down the originators of illegal spoofed foreign robocalls. Letters were sent to All Access, Globex, Piratel, Talkie, Telcast, ThinQ, and Third Base. The letters are part of a coordinated effort with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission that took action recently to stop robocalls by filing court proceedings and sending warning letters to VoIP providers. See the Regulatory Mix dated 1/29/20 and 1/31/20. The seven U.S.-based voice providers that received the letters all accept foreign call traffic and terminate it to U.S. consumers. The FCC said that as the point of entry for this traffic into the U.S. telephone network, the companies are uniquely situated to assist government and industry efforts to combat scam robocalls. The letters encourage the companies to take measures to prevent the flow of apparently illegal traffic originating outside the United States and request information from the companies about their facilitation of international robocalls by February 17, 2020.
This includes information about:
- The processes the companies have in place to detect or identify traffic that is likely to be illegal;
- The procedures the companies use to ensure calls are not illegally spoofed;
- The percentage of their traffic that comes from foreign sources and the percentage of clients located in a country other than the US;
- Whether the company’s services are advertised in foreign countries; and
- Whether they have taken any action in the last six months to terminate or restrict foreign traffic suspected to being illegal.
The FCC also announced that, on January 28, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated to his colleagues for their consideration proposed new rules that would establish a registration process for selecting a consortium to conduct private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls. The proposed rules would implement a provision of the recently-enacted Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act). Inteserra Briefing Service subscribers see Briefing dated 1/15/20 and See our 1/23/20 Blog “FAQs Regarding STIR/SHAKEN and the TRACED Act.”
USDA Rural Broadband Grants
The US Department of Agriculture announced two new investments through its ReConnect Pilot Program to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America.
In Arizona, USDA will invest $1.6 million in a high-speed broadband infrastructure project that will create or improve rural e-Connectivity for 1,492 rural households, 27 pre-subscribed businesses, six educational facilities, four pre-subscribed farms, three critical community facilities and a health care center. Wecom Inc. will use a $1.6 million ReConnect Pilot Program grant to construct a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) and hybrid Fiber-to-the-Node (FTTN) fixed wireless system that is expected to connect 1,492 households in Peach Springs, many belonging to members of the Hualapai Tribe, and the surrounding area to high-speed internet.
In Maine, USDA will invest $9.87 million in four infrastructure projects that will create or improve rural e-Connectivity for 4,527 households and 215 businesses in rural Maine. The following projects were included:
- The Town of Arrowsic will use a $604,254 ReConnect Program grant and a $604,254 ReConnect Program loan to construct a fiber-optic broadband network with speeds up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to connect 237 households, 20 pre-subscribed businesses and four pre-subscribed farms.
- Monhegan Plantation will use a $626,298 ReConnect Program grant to connect the entire island community in Lincoln County, which is home to a school, power district, municipal office, museum, post office, library, and several inns and small businesses. The project’s service area includes 40 households, an educational facility, a critical community facility, 11 pre-subscribed farms and 15 pre-subscribed businesses.
- The Town of Roque Bluffs will use an $893,170 ReConnect Program grant to construct a fiber-optic network to connect 166 households, 22 pre-subscribed farms and 16 pre-subscribed businesses in Washington County. The network will connect to the Downeast Ring of Maine’s “three-ring-binder” network backbone in Machias, 4.5 miles from the town line on Roque Bluffs Road.
- The Biddeford Internet Corporation will use a $3.5 million ReConnect Program grant and a $3.5 million ReConnect Program loan to expand its gigabit Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to connect 4,084 households, 30 pre-subscribed farms, 28 educational facilities, 23 pre-subscribed businesses, 15 health care centers and 12 critical community facilities in Hebron, Sumner, Hartford, Buckfield, Canton, North Turner, Turner, South Paris and West Paris.
USDA ReConnect Program Application Window and Webinar
The US Department of Agriculture announced it will begin taking applications for the second round of $550 million in ReConnect Program loan and grant funding on January 31. These funds will enable the federal government to continue to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second download and 1 megabit per second upload. ReConnect funding applications can be submitted at www.usda.gov/reconnect.
Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. Through the ReConnect Program, USDA is making available approximately $200 million for grants, as well as up to $200 million for loan and grant combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. Funds will be awarded to projects that have financially sustainable business models that will bring high-speed broadband to rural homes, businesses, farms, ranches and community facilities such as first responders, health care sites and schools.
Separately, it announced that it will hold webinars on February 5, 2020 and February 7, 2020, covering application system for the second funding opportunity which opened on January 31. USDA staff and representatives will provide a high-level walk through of the online application system.
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.