Clients Should Begin Preparing for the Next Benchmark Increase

Clients that receive High Cost Loop Support (HCLS) are reminded that they must have their local residential rates plus state-regulated fees (state SLCs, state USF, and mandatory EAS charges) at or above the local rate floor benchmark before the following upcoming deadlines to avoid a reduction in Universal Service Funding (USF).

$16 Benchmark: January 2, 2015–July 1, 2016
Companies that did not initially meet the $16 benchmark but subsequently raised their rates can take advantage of mid-year filings so that they no longer receive reduced USF. The last mid-year filing was in June and the next filing will be in December. Accordingly, if your company was below the $16 benchmark as of June 1, 2015, but subsequently raised its rates, your company should file with NECA in December to reflect the higher rates and updated line counts in order to avoid further reductions in HCLS from January–June 2016. The new rates must be in effect by December 1, 2015.

JSI reminds clients that they should follow relevant state requirements for notifying customers of any rate increases associated with the FCC’s universal service and intercarrier compensation (USF/ICC) reforms, including updating their tariffs. If the rate increase goes into effect December 1, generally, you will notify customers in the November bill. Even if your state does not have notification requirements, JSI recommends that you still notify customers of rate changes as a good business practice.

$18 Benchmark: July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017
JSI also reminds clients that the benchmark increases to $18 on July 1, 2016. In order to meet this benchmark, local residential rates plus state-regulated fees (state SLCs, state USF, and mandatory EAS charges) must be at or above $18 by June 1, 2016.  Accordingly, we recommend that any companies below the $18 benchmark should begin preparing for necessary rate increases to ensure that they are in place by the June 1 deadline.

JSI Assistance   
JSI provides a full suite of solutions to help companies communicate these rate increases to customers, including bill messages, website text and scripts for customer service representatives. JSI can also assist clients that are looking at extending their local calling scope and/or bundling of features in order to improve their service value in light of these ongoing rate hikes.

If you have any questions regarding the local rate floor benchmark or would like assistance with communicating the rate increases to your customers, please contact John Kuykendall in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590. If you would like assistance with increasing your local service value, please contact Tanea Foglia also in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590.

Source: JSI e-Lert