JSI’s March 16th Webinar Will Equip Participants for Implementation

In our March 1st e-Lert, we told you about the FCC’s Report and Order to establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program and its directive to the Wireline Bureau to release multiple Public Notices announcing timelines and other details. The first Public Notice was released late last week and contains two sets of timelines to submit information if your company decides to participate in the program – one for eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) and their affiliates that provide service within the same state (together known as Providers) to file an “election” with USAC and the other for non-ETCs to file an application with the FCC for approval to participate in the EBB program.

Most JSI clients fall under the category of Providers and can begin submitting their elections to participate in the program as soon as Thursday, March 11. We explain more about this process below. Entities that are not ETCs or do not have any affiliated ETCs within the state in which they provide service have a filing window that opens Monday, March 8 and closes Monday, March 22. These non-ETC entities will receive automatic program approval from the FCC if they meet certain criteria, including if they are affiliated with an ETC that serves in another state. If they don’t meet the criteria for automatic approval, they can file and receive approval under an expedited basis. If your company falls in this non-ETC category, please contact JSI as soon as possible if you would like to know more about this process or would like JSI’s assistance in filing an application with the FCC.

JSI encourages clients to diligently consider participating in the program and urges those that decide to move forward to be prepared to implement the program in a way that minimizes potential problems caused by the program’s limited duration. Our March 16 webinar will review how to participate in the program and how it will be administered, but also will provide recommendations to address issues that could arise for either your existing Lifeline subscribers or new customers that qualify under the additional criteria of the EBB program when the program ends.

Timeline for Providers
Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which established the program, Congress determined that existing ETCs don’t need to seek approval to participate in the EBB program, but only need to file an “election” with USAC. ETCs are entities that already are obligated to offer Lifeline services to qualified low-income individuals and include: ILECs, CLECs or wireless carriers that receive “frozen” support, Rural Broadband Experiment and CAF Phase II auction winners, and Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction winners that have received ETC designation. In the Report and Order, the FCC ruled that affiliates of ETCs also qualify as Providers under the umbrella of the ETC if they provide service within the same state as the ETC.

The FCC announced the March 11 election application start date for Providers, but no deadline was provided. It is possible that one may be announced in a subsequent Public Notice, which will also provide the program’s start date. The program must begin no later than 60 days after the release of the Report and Order, which would be April 26. Given that the filing for Providers is an election open to all ETCs and in-state affiliates and is not a “first come, first served” application process, we urge clients not to rush to submit an election without thoroughly considering the pros and cons associated with implementing the program.

According to the Public Notice, Providers must submit a form to USAC, which USAC will make available “soon” on the link provided at the end of the notice (as of publishing of this e-Lert, the link was not yet available). Providers will then email that form to EBBElection@usac.org. JSI will be available to assist companies with completing and submitting the form.

Expect to see requests for the following information required by the Report and Order on USAC’s form:

  • The states in which the provider plans to participate in the EBB program;
  • A statement that the provider was a “broadband provider” in each such state as of December 1, 2020;
  • A list of states where the provider is an existing ETC, if any;
  • A list of states where the provider received FCC approval, whether automatic or expedited, to participate, if any;
  • Whether the provider intends to distribute connected devices under the EBB program;
  • A description of the Internet service offerings for which the provider plans to seek reimbursement from the EBB program in each state;
  • Documentation demonstrating the standard rates for those services; and
  • Any other administrative information necessary for USAC to establish participating providers in the EBB program.

Additionally, participants in the EBB Program will need an FRN, SPIN and have registered with the System for Award Management (SAM) in order to receive reimbursement. While registering with SAM is not required at the time of election, the Report and Order “strongly recommends” that Providers start the registration process “immediately” because of the time it may take for the registration to become effective. You can register with the system at https://www.sam.gov/SAM/. JSI is familiar with SAM and its cumbersome process so please let us know if you would like our assistance if you need to register. Providers that have already registered with SAM don’t need to reregister, but should check to see if its SAM registration needs to be renewed.

For more information about the EBB program or how JSI can assist your company in making the election with USAC or filing an application with the FCC, please contact Lans Chase at 770-569-2105 or John Kuykendall at 301-459-7590.