Today's Regulatory Mix: US Senators Urge Utilities to Cease Shutoffs During COVD-19 Crisis, FCC Broadband Support For Puerto Rico, FCC’s Rosenworcel Releases New Podcast
US Senators Urge Utilities to Cease Shutoffs During COVD-19 Crisis
A group of US Senators have sent a letter to major US utilities, several telecom and cable companies, asking them to suspend utility shutoffs for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because of the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet and are at risk for having their electricity, water, and broadband services terminated. In order to effectively address the concurrent public health and economic crises, the families you serve must have uninterrupted access to these essential public services,” wrote the lawmakers. They go on to add “We support legislation that would impose a federal moratorium on all utility shutoffs and provide federal government support to utilities for operations as well as customers, in light of declining utility revenues caused by unemployment, small business shutdowns, and rising poverty. In the meantime we ask that you proactively cease all shutoffs by your companies for nonpayment for families dealing with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic until such time as the President lifts the National Emergency declaration and the states in which you operate have lifted state emergency declarations.”
The Senators ask the companies to provide certain data to give them a clear understanding of the effects of the pandemic on utility services provision. This includes data by zip code and type of customer concerning ,among other things, number of disconnections for nonpayment, number of customers eligible for disconnection but not disconnected, number of customers in arrears, and total dollar amount and average dollar amount in arrears.
The letter was signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Tina Smith (D-MN).
FCC Broadband Support For Puerto Rico
The FCC announced that funding through Stage 2 of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund will result in all locations in Puerto Rico having access to fixed broadband service with speeds of at least 100 Mbps. And nearly one-third of those locations will have access to fixed broadband service with speeds of at least 1 Gbps. Two winning applicants in the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Stage 2
Based on the completed applications received by the deadline on September 3, 2020, there are two winning applicants in Puerto Rico that are eligible for high-cost support, with the 10-year support amount totaling $127.1 million covering 1,222,508 total locations in all 78 municipios. All winning proposals are for performance tiers above the minimum performance standard of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream speeds. Liberty Communications has committed to offering service to over 914,000 locations, and Puerto Rico Telephone Company will offer service to over 308,000 locations. Winning applicants will be able to receive funding after completing the FCC’s remaining steps for authorizing high-cost support, which must be submitted by 6 p.m. ET on November 17, 2020.
FCC’s Rosenworcel Releases New Podcast
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel announced the release of the latest episode of her podcast, Broadband Conversations. The most recent episode features Kathryn de Wit, Manager of the Broadband Research Initiative at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Kathryn’s work focuses on how states are working to close the digital divide and help connect more people in more places. Rosenworcel said: “Kathryn's research on the state of connectivity in the United States is exactly the kind of work we need to do to help close the digital divide. We cannot manage the problems we do not measure, and Kathryn and Pew have done terrific work to understand who has service and who does not and how we can address the gaps in our communities. This kind of assessment is more important than ever, as the ongoing pandemic has moved so much of our lives online. It has never been clearer that we need to connect 100% of us to broadband and the work Kathryn has done provides meaningful models for how we can achieve just that.”
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.