Today's Regulatory Mix: US Congress Seeks More Information on FCC's COVID 19 Telehealth Program, FCC Seeks Comment on Waiver of CAF Auction II Location Adjustment Rules, FTC To Hold Virtual PrivacyCon Event
US Congress Seeks More Information on FCC’s COVID 19 Telehealth Program
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) have asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to provide additional transparency on the distribution of public funds through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which Congress created in the CARES Act.
Pallone and Doyle are requesting the FCC provide more transparency into its decisions and take the following actions by June 19 and update the information weekly:
- On FCC’s public facing website, publish a docket that includes all of the applications the Commission has received for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program;
- Include information regarding applications that have been approved;
- For applications that have been approved, include information regarding the date on which funds were actually dispersed; and
- For applications that have been approved, include a summary of any uses or devices that were not approved for reimbursement
Under the CARES Act, Congress appropriated $200 million to the FCC to address the coronavirus “by providing telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services.” As of June 10, the FCC has announced it has awarded more than $104 million of the total $200 million in appropriated funds through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Many details of these awards, including entities that have applied but have not been approved to receive funding, are known only to the FCC. Pallone and Doyle believe Congressional oversight of the funding awards is critical, especially to ensure that a broad variety of communities benefit from these limited resources.
FCC Seeks Comment on Waiver of CAF Auction II Location Adjustment Rules
The FCC is seeking comment on a petition filed by the Connect America Fund Phase II Coalition (Phase II Coalition), a group of 14 carriers authorized to receive support through the CAF II Auction. They request a waiver of the CAF II program’s requirement that support be reduced on a per location basis (pro rata reduction) in situations where the total number of qualifying locations within the state is within 35% of the carrier’s deployment obligation for that state. Instead, they ask the FCC to use the process adopted to resolve location discrepancies for the FCC’s new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. Under that process, rather than require a pro rata adjustment of support for any discrepancies between the CAM estimate of eligible locations and the actual number of locations, the FCC established a 35% margin, meaning that “[c]arriers for which the new location count is less than 65% of the CAM locations within their area in each state shall have their support amount reduced on a pro rata basis by the number of reduced locations.” In other words, if the actual number of locations is within 35 percent of the CAM model, there would be no adjustment in support. Comments on the petition are due June 29, 2020; reply comments are due July 7, 2020.
FTC To Hold Virtual PrivacyCon Event
The Federal Trade Commission announced that the fifth annual PrivacyCon event, scheduled for July 21, 2020, will now take place online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. PrivacyCon 2020 will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including researchers, academics, industry representatives, consumer advocates, and government officials, to discuss the latest research and trends related to consumer privacy and data security. The agenda, along with information about how to view the event online, will be posted on the event page closer to the date of the event.
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.