Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Authorizes $20 Million for Rural Broadband, FCC Announces Counties With Conditional Forbearance from the Lifeline Voice Obligation, FCC's Pai Urges States to Address High Intrastate ICS Rates
FCC Authorizes $20 Million for Rural Broadband
The FCC announced over $20 million in funding over ten years to expand rural broadband in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Viasat will serve rural locations in Pennsylvania with $19,945,120 in FCC support, and Tribal provider Fond du Lac Communications, Inc. will receive $55,011 to provide gigabit fixed broadband to serve small, isolated communities in Tribal areas in Minnesota. The funding represents the 14th wave of support from the successful 2018 Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers must build out to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas won in a state within three years. Buildout must increase by 20% in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year.
FCC Announces Counties with Conditional Forbearance from the Lifeline Voice Obligation
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announced the counties in which conditional forbearance from the obligation to offer Lifeline-supported voice service applies. The forbearance applies only to the Lifeline voice obligation of eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) that are designated for purposes of receiving both high-cost and Lifeline support (high-cost/Lifeline ETCs), and not to Lifeline-only ETCs. The Appendix lists the counties where the Commission’s conditional forbearance from high-cost/Lifeline ETCs’ Lifeline voice obligation will apply effective on September 18, 2020. (The FCC’s 2016 Lifeline Order established conditional forbearance from Lifeline voice obligations in targeted areas where certain competitive conditions are met. It directed the Bureau to release a yearly public notice announcing the counties in which the competitive conditions are met.)
FCC’s Pai Urges States to Address High Intrastate ICS Rates
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent a letter to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners urging the state commissions to address the issue of high intrastate inmate calling service (ICS) rates. Specifically, Pai said: “Given the alarming evidence of egregiously high intrastate inmate calling rates and the FCC’s lack of jurisdiction here, I am calling on states to exercise their authority and, at long last, address this pressing problem. Specifically, I implore NARUC and state regulatory commissions to take action on intrastate inmate calling services rates to enable more affordable communications for the incarcerated and their families. Prompt and meaningful state action on intrastate rates will provide much-needed relief to inmates and their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.“
Pai noted that while the FCC has adopted interstate ICS rate caps, it lacks jurisdiction to address unreasonably and excessively high intrastate ICS rates. The letter also previews the proposal that the FCC will vote on at its August Open Meeting concerning changes to the interstate ICS rate caps. See the Regulatory Mix dated 7/20/20. In this regard the letter states that”[O]n August 6, 2020, the Commission will vote on proposing to lower the FCC’s current interstate rate caps to 14 cents per minute for debit, prepaid, and collect calls from prisons and 16 cents per minute for debit, prepaid, and collect calls from jails. My proposal would also cap rates for international inmate calling services, which remain uncapped today.”
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.