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 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.

FCC Seeks Comment on the Future of USF

2021-12-20T12:37:45-05:00December 20, 2021|e-Lerts|

Clients Encouraged to Provide Input and/or File Company-Specific Comments

The FCC is inviting public comment on the future of federal Universal Service Fund (USF) programs. The FCC plans to use these comments for a report it must submit to Congress by August 12, 2022, on its options “for improving its effectiveness in achieving the universal service goals for broadband” as part of the broadband provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Last week’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI) set deadlines of January 18, 2022, for comments and January 31, 2022, for reply comments.

JSI plans to file comments in response to the NOI, with particular focus on the High-Cost program (Legacy Rate-of-Return, A-CAM I and II, and reverse auction support including the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF) Phase II support). We seek client input on the topics outlined below, as well as any others specified in the NOI. For example, the NOI seeks comments on how best to integrate USF with ReConnect and the new funding programs established by the IIJA. We would like to hear from clients with multiple funding sources whether streamlining and aligning reporting and other compliance requirements with these programs and USF could be beneficial or whether such alignment could add additional burdens and requirements to some funding mechanisms.

We also encourage clients to file company-specific comments in which they can provide the FCC with their own proposals for the future of USF. Given that the NOI seeks data on potential changes to all programs, clients should consider filing comments not only on potential changes to the High-Cost program, but also changes to other USF programs. For example, several clients have expressed frustration with the requirements imposed by Lifeline’s Representative Accountability Database (RAD) process. Others are concerned with overbuilding that takes place through the E-rate program. Because the NOI seeks comment on potential comprehensive reform to all of these programs, now is the time to raise any concerns along with viable alternatives. JSI’s seasoned advocacy experts are ready to provide strategic advice and assist in drafting company-specific comments. Due to the FCC’s tight deadlines for commenting in this proceeding, we ask that clients interested in JSI’s help contact us no later than January 7, 2022.

High-Cost USF
A major concern among our ILEC Rate-of-Return clients is the continuation of USF to support both the deployment and maintenance of fiber networks in rural America. The NOI highlights the billions of dollars that will be available in coming years to deploy broadband in unserved and underserved locations through the programs initiated by the IIJA. Here, the NOI seeks comment more broadly on what changes should be made to the High-Cost program considering the influx of newly authorized federal funding. The NOI asks for comment on the role the High-Cost program should have in the future given the evolving level of universal service, the type of data to collect from program recipients, and how to collect that data.

Next, the NOI discusses the newly authorized Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program to be run by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration that will allocate $42.45 billion to states for broadband infrastructure grants and asks the following questions:

  • Should the FCC modify the High-Cost program to further support ongoing operating and maintenance costs of recently constructed broadband facilities funded by BEAD to ensure that rates remain reasonably comparable?
  • Should the Commission coordinate with the BEAD program to ensure that newly constructed networks have ongoing support?
  • At what point would USF support be necessary, if at all?
  • How should the FCC approach next steps for the RDOF program or any successor program?
  • In light of the 100/20 Mbps service standard required in BEAD, should the FCC reconsider its service requirements for future High-Cost support?

The NOI also asks for input regarding the best way to allocate funding in the future, including the potential use of reverse auctions, and whether there are “other incentive-based, competitive methods for allocating funding that would be effective and efficient.”

Additionally, the NOI asks what other congressional action could help the FCC accomplish its universal service goals. Specifically, the NOI asks:

If the High-Cost program were to place additional emphasis on supporting operating costs in light of the influx of funding for capital expenditures, are the existing programs a sufficient vehicle to distribute that support? If not, are there statutory changes that would help the Commission shift additional support to operating and maintenance costs for deployed networks? Likewise, if the focus of the BEAD Program funding is on fixed broadband deployment, would congressional action be necessary to shift the focus of the High-Cost program, for example, to support mobile broadband? Should Congress provide additional authority regarding the use of auctions, or price models, to allocate funding for operating costs?

These questions certainly raise the possibility that the FCC will not maintain the status quo for High-Cost USF. Accordingly, it is up to each rural broadband provider – and us collectively – to engage in a robust advocacy effort to ensure that any changes made to the USF continue to allow for sufficient and predicable funding for the provision, maintenance, and expansion of fiber-based networks in the rural communities in which these companies serve.

Other Programs and Contribution Factor
For Lifeline, the NOI seeks comment on whether any changes in the program should be made to best coordinate it with the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), including any data that should be collected. Similar questions are raised regarding E-rate and Rural Health Care programs.

The NOI also observes the up and down nature of the quarterly USF contribution factor and seeks comment on ways to increase the stability of the factor. It also requests “general comment” as to the FCC’s USF priorities.

Please contact Guy Benson or John Kuykendall in our Maryland office at 301-459-7590 with any input you may have for JSI’s comments, if you would like assistance in filing individual comments, or if you have any questions about the NOI.

Outage Reporting Reminder for Clients Affected by Tornado Outbreak

2021-12-13T15:59:10-05:00December 13, 2021|e-Lerts|

Tornados wreaked havoc across portions of the Southern United States and Ohio Valley causing significant loss of life, damage, and network outages. We are especially mindful of our clients and the communities they serve that have been impacted and are prepared to assist to the extent that we can be of help. We also take this opportunity to remind those clients impacted by severe weather events of federal outage reporting obligations.

All communications providers, including wireline, wireless, paging, cable, satellite, Signaling System 7, and interconnected VoIP service providers, must report information in the FCC’s Network Outage Reporting System (NORS) about significant disruptions or outages to their communications systems that meet certain thresholds. Providers that participate in the voluntary Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) should watch for the FCC to activate the system for the affected areas. As of the sending of this e-Lert, the FCC had not yet activated DIRS.

An outage is defined as a significant degradation in the ability of an end user to establish and maintain a channel of communications as a result of failure or degradation in the performance of a communications provider’s network. In addition, communications providers must report disruptions that potentially affect 9-1-1 facilities and airports.

Local Exchange Carriers and other providers must report an outage to the FCC if, among other things, the duration of the outage is at least 30 minutes AND the number of “user minutes” potentially affected per outage is equal to or greater than 900,000. “User minutes” are determined by calculating the number of end users potentially affected by the outage and multiplying that number by the number of minutes of the outage.

If your company experiences a reportable outage, you must file three separate reports with the FCC:

  1.   Notification within two hours after discovery of a reportable outage;
  2.   A more detailed initial outage report within 72 hours; and
  3.   A final outage report within 30 days.

If you participate in DIRS, the FCC requests daily DIRS updates for the duration of the activation. For DIRS participants, NORS reporting obligations are suspended for the duration of the DIRS activation in the identified counties.

If you need assistance with outage reporting, please contact Guy Benson or Amanda Farenthold in the Maryland office at 301-459-7590. Our thoughts are with everyone in the tornados’ path, and JSI stands ready to help in any way we can.

Reminder: New Rules Governing Blocked Calls Take Effect Jan. 1

2021-11-17T12:13:46-05:00November 16, 2021|e-Lerts|

Clients should prepare now for compliance

Carriers that are blocking suspected illegal robocalls from entering their networks and reaching customers must begin sending response codes to the caller beginning January 1, 2022. The FCC’s Fourth Report and Order – Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls requires any terminating provider that blocks calls, either itself or through a third-party blocking service, to immediately return an appropriate response code to the origination point of the call. All voice service providers in the call path must also transmit the response code.

The required response codes will vary based on the blocking carrier’s type of network. The appropriate response codes are:

  • Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) code 607 or 608 for a call terminating on an IP network
  • ISDN User Part (ISUP) code 21 with the cause location “user” for a call terminating on a non-IP network
  • When a code transmits from an IP network to a non-IP network, SIP codes 607 and 608 must map to ISUP code 21
  • When a code transmits from a non-IP network to an IP network, ISUP code 21 must map to SIP code 603, 607, or 608 where the cause location is “user.”

All voice service providers must make the necessary software upgrades and configuration changes to ensure that these codes translate properly when a call moves between TDM and IP-based networks.

Unless the FCC issues waivers for small carriers or delays the effective date, the requirement begins January 1, 2022. Contact Bridget Alexander White at 301-459-7590 if you have any questions regarding this requirement or any other robocall mitigation efforts.

FCC Pauses Elimination of Lifeline Support for Voice-Only Service

2021-11-08T14:14:30-05:00November 8, 2021|e-Lerts|

On Friday, November 5, 2021, the FCC paused for one year its plan to eliminate Lifeline support for eligible customers that subscribe to voice-only service. The current $5.25 per month of support will remain in effect for all eligible voice-only customers until December 1, 2022. During that time, the FCC will evaluate whether the changed circumstances warrant longer-term modifications of the Lifeline program.

Lifeline support for voice-only service originally was scheduled to end on December 1, 2021. Companies should make sure that their billing systems are updated to ensure the continued Lifeline support to eligible voice-only customers.

Please contact Liz Kayser at 512-338-0473 or Lans Chase at 770-569-2105 if you have any Lifeline-related questions or need assistance.

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