FCC Establishes Rules to Measure Broadband Performance

Requires Testing to Begin Third Quarter 2019

Late Friday, the FCC released an Order announcing new rules for carriers to measure broadband speed and latency performance, with the main requirements summarized in the Order’s Appendix A. At this time, the rules apply to all Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) that have mandatory buildout obligations and report location data in USAC’s HUBB portal. This includes A-CAM and legacy carriers with less than 80% 10/1, as well as Rural Broadband Experiment and Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II support recipients. However, given that the Order envisions that all high-cost USF recipients “that served fixed locations” must conduct the tests, it is possible that legacy carriers with greater than 80% 10/1 that report location information on the Form 481 will eventually be required to comply.

The number of subscribers to be tested will be based on the number of subscribers at locations that are supported by the CAF (for example, A-CAM supported census blocks or entire study areas for CAF-BLS recipients with buildout obligations), with a maximum of 50 randomly selected subscribers per state per speed tier for speed testing and 50 randomly selected subscribers per state for latency. The subscribers eligible for testing must be at locations that are reported in the HUBB where there is an active subscriber. Testing must be conducted for one week during each quarter of the year. In those weeks, testing must be performed between the hours of 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. local time each day, including weekends (testing hours).

Carriers may choose between three testing options. The first option is a program that some of the larger carriers have participated in called Measuring Broadband America (MBA). Under this option, carriers may enter into arrangements with entities that manage and perform testing for the MBA. A second option is for carriers to use their own existing network management systems and tools, “ping” tests, and other commonly available measurement and network management tools (known as “off-the-shelf” testing). The third option would be for the carrier to implement a provider-developed self-testing configuration.

The first tests begin in the third quarter of 2019. The certification for these tests will be due by July 1, 2020, and will cover data for third and fourth quarters of 2019. Subsequent tests will be conducted for the full calendar year and submitted/certified by the following July 1. The data will be subject to audit by USAC. Further guidance regarding submission of the data will be provided by the Wireline Bureau in a future Public Notice.

JSI will be providing additional information regarding these new rules in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, contact John Kuykendall, Cassandra Heyne or Terri Parrilla in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590.