FCC Delays Broadband Testing for CAF Recipients in Draft Order

Denies Most Requests for Additional Changes   

Last week, the FCC released draft texts of the items that will be voted on at its October 25th Open Meeting, including a draft Order on Reconsideration of the broadband speed and latency measurement requirements that all Connect America Fund (CAF) recipients must begin collecting in January 2020. Rate-of-return companies have been anxiously awaiting this Order so they can get their equipment in place before testing starts. Earlier this year, the FCC delayed the implementation of the rules for six months but did not elaborate on any other aspects. According to the FCC, changes in the Order provide more flexibility, “taking into account the operational, technical, and size differences among providers when establishing minimum standards, to ensure that even the smallest rural carriers can meet testing requirements without facing excessive burdens.”

One of the biggest wins in this Order is that the testing requirements will be delayed based on buildout obligation milestones for A-CAM I, A-CAM II, Legacy, and CAF Phase II recipients. The FCC will also establish a “pre-testing” period where penalties will not be applied and companies required to do the testing will have an opportunity to work out any issues with the technology. The new, proposed schedule for pre-testing and testing implementation is as follows:

Type of Company Pre-Testing Start Date Testing Start Date
CAF Phase II (Price Cap carriers) January 1, 2020 July 1, 2020
Rural Broadband Experiment Winners January 1, 2021 January 1, 2022
Alaska Plan Companies January 1, 2021 January 1, 2022
A-CAM I Companies January 1, 2021 January 1, 2022
A-CAM I Revised Companies January 1, 2021 January 1, 2022
A-CAM II Companies January 1, 2022 January 1, 2023
Legacy Rate of Return Companies January 1, 2022 January 1, 2023
CAF Phase II Auction Winners January 1, 2022 January 1, 2023
New NY Broadband Program Carriers January 1, 2022 January 1, 2023

Other Requested Changes Denied
Despite good news about delaying the start date for the testing requirements, the FCC denied or made only modest changes to many of the requests in petitions filed by rural associations. Notably, the FCC did not take any meaningful action to resolve the challenges that rate-of-return providers have raised about obtaining customer consent for placing testing equipment on the customer premises. The FCC noted that this “may prove difficult,” but believes that the delay, coupled with vendors developing software that allows the tests to be conducted without any additional hardware, may suffice. The FCC also said that prior to the pre-testing period, the agency will release information to explain to customers the nature and purpose of the testing, and reminded companies that no CPNI will be transferred in the testing process. Additionally, the Order found that USAC will be selecting the “random” sample of locations with active subscribers, which was not made clear in the initial ruling.

Because this is a draft order, advocacy efforts over the next two weeks could impact the final outcome. Accordingly, please contact John Kuykendall or Cassandra Heyne in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590 if you would like to discuss conducting ex parte calls or making a filing on any issues raised in the Order. After the final text has been released later this month, JSI will be providing more in-depth analysis of the broadband testing requirements. In the meantime, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about the broadband testing requirements.