FCC Requires Broadband Providers to Submit Supply Chain Reports by May 5 (Updated)

2022-04-14T14:30:46-04:00April 1, 2022|e-Lerts|

JSI Urges Its Clients to File Well in Advance of the Deadline to Allow Time to Address Potential Technical Glitches

In a recently released Public Notice, the FCC established a new reporting requirement as part of its obligations under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019.

All broadband providers must now file what is known as the “Supply Chain Annual Report” no later than May 5, 2022. Notably, as part of this new reporting requirement, providers must certify whether their networks contain or use specific equipment or services obtained from five Chinese companies.

All JSI clients that provide broadband services must submit this report through the FCC’s newly created online reporting portal.

This new reporting requirement specifically applies to all providers of “high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications of at least 200 kbps in either direction.” Additionally, this requirement applies regardless of whether a covered broadband provider participated in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program or filed the April 2020 report required of all eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs).

In the Supply Chain Annual Report, broadband providers must confirm whether their networks contain or use specific equipment or services obtained from the relevant Chinese companies identified on the FCC’s Covered List, meaning that the equipment or services are considered to pose a threat to US national security interests.

Providers must answer “yes” if they have purchased, rented, leased, or otherwise obtained equipment or services on or after August 14, 2018, from one of the following companies, their subsidiaries, or affiliates:

  1. Huawei Technologies Company
  2. ZTE Corporation
  3. Hytera Communications Corporation
  4. Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company
  5. Dahua Technology Company

It should be noted that the last three companies manufacture video surveillance and telecommunications equipment that was not required to be included in April 2020 when the FCC required ETCs to file similar reports.

If your company uses any equipment or services meeting the requirements outlined above, it must provide a significant amount of detailed information to the FCC annually, including the locations, types, suppliers, historic and replacement cost, functionality, replacement plans, and a detailed explanation for your company’s decision to obtain that equipment. This year, the report will be due on May 5, 2022, and the deadline next year will be March 31, 2023.

On the other hand, if your company does not use any equipment or services identified on the Covered List, the filing is relatively streamlined and is only required once. Your company may need to make future filings if it starts using such equipment, or if the FCC adds your equipment to the Covered List.

With the FCC implementing this filing requirement for the first time, we urge clients to prepare and submit their filings as soon as possible and no later than mid-April. It has been our experience that new portal filing systems can be cumbersome and that filings can take longer than expected. Beginning the process now will help ensure that your company is not at risk of missing this filing deadline — one that pertains to critical national security concerns — and inviting an FCC enforcement inquiry. The reporting portal, instructions, and other information about the annual reporting requirement are now available at www.fcc.gov/supplychain.

If you have any questions about this new filing requirement or would like JSI’s assistance with this filing, please contact our subject-matter experts by clicking the button below.

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Important New Developments in National Broadband Mapping

2022-03-04T10:49:15-05:00March 4, 2022|e-Lerts|

Broadband Service Providers Should Get Ready to Upload Data This Summer

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve broadband mapping accuracy prior to the disbursement of most of the $42 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grant program. In our February 28 e-Lert, we informed clients that the FCC had announced that fixed and mobile broadband providers must input their broadband availability data into the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) platform during the filing window that begins on June 30, 2022, and ends on September 1, 2022. The submitted data must reflect broadband availability as of June 30, 2022. The FCC has not yet finalized its detailed data specifications that will instruct providers on how to prepare and format their BDC data submission.

Importantly, the BDC data submission does not replace the FCC’s Form 477 data submission. Providers will be required to upload data into the BDC system—using the yet to be announced FCC specifications—in addition to uploading their Form 477 data.

One critical component to the FCC’s BDC mapping effort was the selection of a Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (BSLF) contractor. The BSLF forms the mapping structure for the BDC platform and contains the broadband location data used to support the BDC program. The FCC received bids for this work and awarded the contract to CostQuest Associates (CostQuest). Another bidding entity challenged the FCC’s award, thereby suspending the contract award until the GAO reviewed the bidder’s protest. On February 24, the GAO denied the losing bidder’s protest, and the contract was officially awarded to CostQuest.

That GAO action clears the way for the BDC platform to be finalized. And providers will input their broadband availably data this summer. Notably, the FCC may open the BDC input window earlier than June 30 if the system is ready. The next action related to BDC input is for the FCC to deliver data submission instructions to providers so that provider data can be formatted for BDC input.

The FCC understands that the BDC mapping results are critical for BEAD grants, and JSI expects it will make the BDC data specifications instructions available as soon as possible, thereby giving providers sufficient time to meet the September 1 deadline.

If you have any questions about the BDC or how JSI can help you with the BDC input process, please click the button below to connect with one of our experts.

FCC Seeks Comments on Rural Health Care Program, Communications Accessibility, and Universal Service Fund

2022-03-03T15:08:51-05:00March 3, 2022|e-Lerts|

Clients have several opportunities to provide feedback and insight to help the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shape policy and inform upcoming congressional reports. JSI encourages clients to file comments in proceedings relevant to their business and share company-specific perspectives.

Rural Health Care Program

The FCC is proposing new rules and seeks comment on changes to the Telecommunications (Telecom) Program, a component of the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program. The Telecom Program ensures that rural health care providers do not pay more than their urban counterparts for telecommunications services by subsidizing the difference between rural and urban rates.

The FCC seeks comment on how to improve the accuracy of support provided by the Telecom Program and decrease administrative burdens. Clients that provide services to rural healthcare providers and receive support from the Telecom Program are encouraged to submit comments in response to the FCC’s proposals and inquiries. Although not yet published in the Federal Register, comments will be due 30 days after the FCC order is published.

Accessibility of Communications Technologies

The FCC also invites comment on issues relating to communications accessibility and plans to use such comments to inform its biennial report to Congress, which is required by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The CVAA requires telecommunications, interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), and advanced communications service providers and equipment manufacturers to make their services and equipment available to and useable by people with disabilities. The CVAA also requires Internet browsers on mobile phones to be accessible to and usable by people who are visually impaired.

The FCC seeks comment on current levels of compliance with the CVAA, products or services that are not accessible, and the extent to which providers and manufacturers ensure the usability of their offerings through accessible manuals, bills, and product support. The FCC also seeks comment on developments in the accessibility of new communications technologies such as 5G, high-definition (HD) voice, the Internet of Things, and Bluetooth.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC is especially interested in whether equipment necessary to work, study, and obtain healthcare remotely is accessible to people with disabilities. The deadline for filing comments in this proceeding is April 4, 2022.

The Future of USF

JSI recently filed comments in response to the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry on the future of the Universal Service Fund (USF). JSI encouraged the FCC to adopt a policy framework that secures the future of needed federal high-cost universal service. JSI also encouraged the FCC to recognize and report to Congress the historic importance of the federal high-cost universal service programs. JSI emphasized that the programs provide crucial support to rural local exchange carriers who provide broadband services to rural customers in furtherance of the FCC’s goal to ensure all Americans have access to quality broadband. JSI also recommended the FCC adopt robust standards for universal service and further universal service in high-cost areas of the nation by:

  • Coordinating the use of grant funds with existing high-cost universal service support;
  • Reinforcing the importance of the Eligible Telecommunications Carrier designation for providers seeking universal service;
  • Requiring trained auditors to conduct reviews for waste, fraud, and abuse in high-cost programs;
  • Revisiting the distribution of the remaining Rural Development Opportunity Fund budget to better address deployment needs in rural areas;
  • Ensuring levels of universal service support to construct and maintain rural networks; and
  • Engaging in meaningful universal service contribution reform in 2022.

In response to its inquiry, the FCC received 75 comments. Of particular interest to the rural providers JSI serves, many commenters discussed funding USF with Congressional appropriations instead of contribution charges, reforming high-cost USF, and maintaining USF for operating expenditures. JSI plans to file reply comments addressing these issues and encourages clients to file company-specific comments in which they can provide their own perspectives on proposals made by commenters.

JSI’s seasoned advocacy experts are ready to provide strategic advice and assist in drafting company-specific comments. Reply comments are due on March 17, 2022, so we ask that clients interested in JSI’s help contact us no later than March 10, 2022.

If you would like JSI’s help with writing comments or are otherwise interested in discussing any of the topics raised in this e-Lert, just click below, and one of our FCC experts will contact you.

FCC Announces Filing Deadline for New Broadband Data Collection and Adds $86 Million to the Emergency Connectivity Fund

2022-03-01T18:49:00-05:00February 28, 2022|e-Lerts|

The FCC recently made two announcements impacting broadband providers’ reporting obligations and participants in the Schools and Libraries program. First, fixed and mobile broadband service providers must submit broadband availability data in the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection (BDC) system between June 30 and September 1, 2022, as required by the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act. Second, the FCC bolstered its Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) and extended the deadline for beneficiaries to spend support payments.

The BDC’s biannual collection and dissemination of granular data applies to terrestrial fixed, fixed wireless, satellite, and mobile broadband internet access services. Although the FCC has established these filing dates now, it has yet to finalize the details. The FCC plans to make further announcements that instruct filers on how to prepare and format their BDC availability data. Instructions will address the types of data filers must submit, the proper file formats for upload, and the values that the system will accept and validate against other sources. The FCC may also move up or delay the filing window, depending on the progress of other parts of the BDC system, although any modifications must give filers at least 60 days’ notice. JSI will provide an update as soon as new information becomes available.

Meanwhile, until the FCC announces a sunset date, broadband service providers must continue to file broadband and voice subscribership deployment data using the Form 477 filing interface. Until the FCC decommissions that system, providers must submit such information in both the new BDC system and the existing Form 477 filing system. Voice-only service providers, however, need not submit their subscribership data in both systems and will instead continue to use the Form 477 filing interface.

Additional information can be found on the BDC website at https://www.fcc.gov/BroadbandData/.

On the ECF front, the FCC committed another $86 million in Emergency Connectivity Funding to support students and libraries and to help close the homework gap. Since it began in June of 2021, the ECF program has committed over $4.6 billion to support more than 12 million students and over 900 libraries. This latest infusion will provide over 350 schools, 29 libraries, and 8 consortia with over 239,000 connected devices and over 96,000 broadband connections.

In addition, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau extended the date by which beneficiaries must use the funding to June 30, 2023. This one-year extension establishes a new deadline for ECF beneficiaries to request equipment, other non-recurring services, and recurring services submitted during the first and second ECF Program application-filing windows (the first one closed on August 13, 2021, and the second on October 13, 2021). Program beneficiaries can use the funding to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students have the necessary support to keep up with their education.

If you would like JSI’s help with any FCC requirements or filings or have any questions about the information contained in this e-Lert, just click the button below to connect with a member of our team.

FCC Takes Another Look at Individual TN Pooling

2022-02-25T18:18:14-05:00February 25, 2022|e-Lerts|

Three state utility commissions have asked the FCC once again to consider individual telephone number pooling (ITN pooling) as a proposed method of conserving numbering resources within an area code. The process involves a numbering administrator assigning telephone numbering resources one telephone number at a time, rather than at the current pooling level blocks of 1,000 numbers. The industry previously studied the feasibility of ITN pooling in 2000 but the idea did not reach fruition.

Maine, New Hampshire, and North Dakota have requested that the FCC revisit the idea’s technical, operational, and cost requirements to implement individual telephone number pooling on a trial basis. Advocates of the trials believe ITN pooling may offer more efficient number assignments and help to avoid premature area code exhaustion.

Which States Want ITN?

  • Maine Public Utility Commission filed a petition asking the FCC to direct the NANPA to report on the requirements to implement individual telephone number pooling for the 207 area code on a trial basis.
  • New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission filed a petition to implement a trial for individual telephone number pooling in NPA 603.The NH PUC also supported the Maine petition.
  • The North Dakota Public Service Commission DPSC supported the Maine and New Hampshire petitions and asked the FCC to grant it the same relief to implement ITN pooling for its 701 area code.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable filed comments supporting New Hampshire’s petition for the 603 area code but did not request its own ITN trial.

Next Steps

In response to the requests, the FCC has directed the North American Numbering Council (NANC), through its Numbering Administration Oversight Working Group (NAOWG) to investigate the feasibility of ITN pooling trials, including technical, operational, and cost considerations with respect to the entity administering the pooling (such as the Pooling Administrator), service providers, and other stakeholders. The FCC also asked to NANC for suggestions for alternatives to ITN. The NANC must submit a report to the FCC by August 15, 2022.

JSI’s Bridget Alexander White serves as Vice Chairwoman of the NANC and will be working on this report as part of the NANC’s NAOWG. Service providers in the applicable states are invited to share opinions with Bridget – good, bad, or ugly – on the proposed ITN trial. She can be reached via email or at 301-459-7590.

Numbering & Porting Essentials Service

Clients interested in educating their staff on the cavalcade of numbering, porting and robocall mitigation requirements all service providers will face in 2022 should consider subscribing to JSI’s Numbering & Porting Essentials service. The subscription includes breaking news alerts, a free webinar and web-based education sessions designed to keep companies informed about important numbering, porting and robocall mitigation decisions that will impact their internal operations and customers. Contact Bridget Alexander White for more details and to sign up.

FCC Begins Process to Require Broadband Labels for ISPs

2022-02-09T08:29:51-05:00February 9, 2022|e-Lerts|

At its last Open Meeting on January 27, 2022, the FCC proposed to require Internet service providers (ISPs) to display “consumer broadband labels” containing important information about the provider’s services, such as prices, speeds, data allowances, and management practices.

FCC broadband label exampleAt a minimum, the FCC would require providers to display labels on their websites depicting the broadband services that are offered. The FCC seeks comment on how providers should display the labels in other retail settings, such as in-person, on apps, or for purchases made over the phone. The FCC proposes that the labels look like standard food nutrition labels.

These proposed rules would require ISPs to create labels for each of their broadband service offerings, update their websites to include these labels, and implement procedures to ensure the labels are displayed in the manner required by the Commission. Providers also might be required to email labels to customers before completing purchases over the phone, or to notify customers when the contents of a label associated with their broadband service changes.

To promote its goal of ensuring customers have information necessary to make informed decisions in the broadband marketplace, the FCC also seeks comment on, among other things: how customers evaluate broadband service plans; whether the labels will help inform customers purchasing broadband; and what information should be included.

Some form of consumer label regulation is coming. Congress directed the FCC to implement broadband labels by November 15, 2022, and providers likely will have six months to comply with the new requirements after their adoption.

JSI will keep you informed on this important proposal and urges you to consider how your company will comply with these new requirements. JSI is available to assist in drafting comments in response to these proposed rules. The deadline for filing comments is March 9, 2022, and for reply comments, March 24, 2022. If you have questions, please contact Terri Parilla at 240-556-1307 or Amanda Farenthold at 301-459-7590.

FCC Establishes Rules for Affordable Connectivity Program

2022-01-31T14:25:06-05:00January 31, 2022|e-Lerts|

On January 21, 2022, the FCC released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopting its final regulations for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which helps ensure that households can afford broadband for school, work, healthcare, and other needs. Congress authorized $14.2 billion for the ACP under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which is expected to last several years.

The FCC’s new ACP regulations build on the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP), which terminated on December 31, 2021, the same day the ACP began. Providers currently operate under the holdover EBBP regulations and FCC directives until the new ACP regulations become effective. Some ACP rules become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and some become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

JSI encourages current ACP providers and those companies interested in becoming ACP providers to fully understand these regulations since key EBBP provisions have changed, such as how to solicit and enroll customers and how to comply with the new reporting and certification requirements.

The FCC is also seeking comment on additional items related to ACP, including an outreach grant program, a federal public housing pilot program, and a mechanism where subscribers in high-cost areas may receive an ACP benefit between $30 per month and $75 per month. Comments on these items are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Due to the important need for you to understand these new regulations, JSI is offering a webinar on the ACP on Thursday, February 10 at 2 p.m. Eastern. If you have questions about the ACP, please contact Lans Chase at 770-569-2105 or Liz Kayser at 512-338-0473.

Webinar: Benefiting from the Broadband Infrastructure Bonanza

2021-12-07T17:00:47-05:00December 7, 2021|Webinar Recordings|

Now is the time to prepare for this historic opportunity

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $65 billion for broadband-related infrastructure over the next five years, including nearly $42.5 billion in state grants to be used for broadband buildout projects. The availability of this much money is already drawing the attention of non-traditional broadband providers, many of whom will be clamoring to get a slice of the broadband pie. Although the funds will not start flowing out until 2022, now is the time to educate yourself about what will be available, how it can be used, and what you can do now to prepare for a successful future.

We recently hosted a special webinar about the infrastructure bill and the sea change this is going to cause in our industry. JSI experts Douglas Meredith and Carl Perry discussed:

  • How the money will be divided between traditional providers and new entrants, including electric cooperatives;
  • Priorities for each program;
  • Possible timing of program funding;
  • Ways to best position yourself for the changes this money is going to trigger (here’s a hint, the answer is fiber); and
  • How to prepare for ongoing funding needs after FY2026.

Purchase Recording

Sorry, you missed this webinar! But, a recording of this webinar is available for $249. If you would like to purchase the recording, please contact Jessica Wick or Brenda Cordwell in the Maryland office at 301-459-7590.

FCC Seeks Comment on the Affordable Connectivity Program

2021-11-22T10:38:19-05:00November 22, 2021|e-Lerts|

On November 18, 2021, the FCC issued a Public Notice seeking comment on its implementation of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP is part of the enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and expands and modifies the current Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) with a $14.2 billion appropriation and changes to the household eligibility requirements. The Commission seeks comment on how to transition from the EBBP to the ACP and welcomes input on how the ACP will operate as a long-term program. Comments are due December 8, 2021. Reply comments are due December 28, 2021.

The biggest change from the EBBP to the ACP is the monthly support amount for households located on non-tribal lands. This monthly support will decline from $50 per month to $30 per month. (The monthly benefit for eligible Tribal households remains unchanged at $75.) The effective start date of the ACP is established in the Act and will be December 31, 2021. There will be a 60-day transition from the EBBP benefit to the lower ACP benefit.

One provision of the ACP allows an enhanced benefit above the standard non-tribal $30 per month benefit, up to $75 per month for households served by providers in “high-cost areas” and where the provider can show a “particular economic hardship.” How providers in high-cost areas benefit from this provision is one area where the Commission seeks industry input.

JSI will be tracking this docket closely and will provide further details as the rules for the transition to the new ACP are finalized. If you have questions about the ACP or would like JSI to assist with filing comments, please contact Lans Chase at 770-569-2105, Liz Kayser at 512-338-0473, or Douglas Meredith at 801-294-4576.

Landmark Federal Infrastructure Bill to Provide $65 Billion for Broadband

2021-11-09T15:03:13-05:00November 9, 2021|e-Lerts|

Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act late on Friday, November 5, 2021. The legislation appropriates more than $1 trillion to fund national infrastructure projects, including approximately $65 billion specifically for broadband infrastructure and related programs over the next five years. The bill now heads to the White House for signing. Rural broadband providers will benefit from several of the Act’s programs. This e-Lert summarizes the key broadband provisions for rural broadband providers.

Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program
The National Telecommunications and information Administration (NTIA) will distribute $42.45 billion to the states based on the number of unserved locations in each state, with an initial minimum allocation of $100 million for each state. The remainder of the funds will be distributed based on each state’s unserved locations, defined as those lacking 25Mbps / 3Mbps. Private companies, cooperatives, and public-private partnerships will be eligible to receive grant funds through each state. Grants can be used for unserved (25/3Mbps) and underserved (less than 100/20Mbps) projects; connecting anchor institutions; data collection, broadband mapping and planning; installing CPE to eligible multi-family residential buildings; providing affordable internet-capable devices; and other uses determined by NTIA. Except for high-cost areas, grant funds may cover a maximum of 75% of the project costs, but grantees may use funds from the four previously passed COVID-19 response laws to meet the remaining 25%. Funded projects must deliver 100/20 Mbps within four years and must offer at least one low-cost broadband service option.

Middle-Mile Infrastructure Grant Program
Congress appropriated $1 billion to NTIA for a competitive middle-mile grant program to connect unserved and underserved last mile areas to the Internet backbone. Rural carriers are among the entities eligible for this program, which encourages public/private partnerships and may fund up to 70% of the middle-mile project costs. NTIA must release its notice of funding within the next six months.

Affordable Connectivity Program
Congress extended and modified the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP), now called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), with $14.2 billion to the FCC. The Act decreases the non-tribal monthly household benefit from $50 to $30.

Congress appropriated $2 billion for the fiscal year ending Sep. 30, 2022, to Rural Utilities Service’s existing the ReConnect program for broadband grants, loans and grant/loan combinations. ReConnect requires broadband speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps.

Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program
Congress appropriated $2 billion to the existing Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program for 2021-2022 fiscal year and to remain available until expended.

Appalachian Region High-Speed Broadband Deployment Initiative
Congress appropriated $1 billion over five years to the Appalachian Regional Commission for High-Speed Broadband Deployment and Regional Energy Hub initiatives. Congress directs that at least 65% of the funds be used for the broadband initiative. The Regional Commission must coordinate its grants with the FCC, NTIA, and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to avoid duplication of federal funding programs.

Digital Equity Programs
Congress appropriated $1.5 billion over five years to promote the achievement of digital equity, support digital inclusion activities, and build capacity for efforts by states related to broadband adoption. States must develop a State Digital Equity Plan and submit it with its application for grant funds. The Commerce Department will also create the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program to award $1.25 billion over five years to support those efforts.

Other Notable Items

Beyond the various grant programs contained in the legislation, Congress directed the FCC to take action in three broadband-related administrative programs:

  • $10 million to the FCC for a Broadband Deployment Locations Map. This program is funded separately from the FCC’s broadband DATA maps but will incorporate broadband service availability reported by those maps.
  • The FCC is directed to examine and make recommendations on how it should achieve universal service goals for broadband and submit to Congress its report in 270 days after the Act’s enactment.
  • Congress also directs the FCC to develop rules for consumer labels for broadband service no later than one year of enactment. After the FCC develops the rules, broadband providers must use broadband consumer labels when giving information to customers regarding broadband internet access service plans.

In addition, the legislation includes funds for improving the nation’s electric grid through smart grid and boost its security. The Rural and Municipal Utility Advance Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program will provide $250 million for grants to help rural and municipal utilities deploy advanced cybersecurity technologies for electric utility systems and increase participation in threat sharing programs. As well, $3 billion will go towards a Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant Program to fund up to 50% of qualifying smart grid investments.

Please contact Douglas Meredith at 801-294-4576 or Carl Perry at 512-338-0473 if you have questions or concerns about the Infrastructure Act or would like JSI’s help in planning your participation in these new opportunities.

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