Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Releases Results of Supply Chain Data Request, USDA Broadband Funding In North Carolina, Senators Urge Policies To Support Remote Learning
FCC Releases Results of Supply Chain Data Request
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA) announced the results of the FCC’s Supply Chain Security Information Collection, which was conducted in order to identify whether Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs), or their affiliates and subsidiaries, own equipment or services from Huawei Technologies Company (Huawei) and ZTE Corporation (ZTE), or their respective subsidiaries, parents, or affiliates and, if so, the nature of the equipment and services, the costs associated with purchasing and/or installing such equipment and services, and the costs associated with removing and replacing such equipment and services. Based on the information collected, WCB and OEA said that all filers report it could cost an estimated $1.837 billion to remove and replace Huawei and ZTE equipment in their networks. Of that total, WCB and OEA said that filers that appear to initially qualify for reimbursement under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 report it could require approximately $1.618 billion to remove and replace such equipment. WCB and OEA note that other providers of advanced communications may not have participated in the information collection and yet still be eligible for reimbursement under the terms of that Act. The notice also lists the ETCs that have reported the presence or use of Huawei or ZTE equipment and/or services in their networks, or in the networks of their affiliates or subsidiaries.
In response to the FCC’s release, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) released a statement saying, in part “ The FCC’s estimate of the costs of replacing suspect equipment in U.S. networks shows just how prevalent suspect equipment is – particularly among smaller carriers who cannot afford to replace it on their own. That’s why it’s critical Congress fund the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act’s rip and replace program to secure our communications supply chain. Suspect equipment introduces vulnerabilities into our communications networks, allowing hostile foreign governments to engage in espionage or to disrupt our communications at the push of a button. The risks are real and cannot be ignored, which is why Congress must step up and fund this reimbursement program.”
“We must also remain vigilant in identifying emerging risks, requiring network security by design, fostering information sharing between government and industry and working with our international partners. Promoting new, secure technologies is also critical to our long-term national security, which is why I am committed to seeing my USA Telecommunication Act become law. Congress must continue to take an active, bipartisan role in tackling this issue head-on.”
USDA Broadband Funding in North Carolina
The USDA announced it is investing more than $21 million to provide broadband service in additional unserved and underserved rural areas in North Carolina. Specifically, Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation will use a $21.6 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 17,424 people, 209 farms, 285 businesses, 19 educational facilities, nine health care facilities, seven fire stations, and seven post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Pender County. new rural broadband investments in rural North Carolina.
Senators Urge Policies to Support Remote Learning
Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced they sent letters to the CEOs of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, T-Mobile, and Verizon, asking them to help ensure that children are able to participate in remote learning. The letters acknowledge the companies’ prior efforts and ask them to once again suspend limits and fees associated with increased broadband use, which is needed to participate in online courses or remote work. They also called for the companies to expand coverage areas, as the public health emergency has highlighted the devastating impact of the nation’s lingering broadband gaps.
“As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households,” the Senators wrote. “In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families.”
“With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage,” they continued. “For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well.”
In their letter, the Senators noted numerous complaints that have come into their offices from parents and educators who are grappling with usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. The Senators also stated they’ve heard of families being deemed ineligible for the new services offered for low-income families due to previous missed payments.
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.