FCC I/S/O Providers to Experiment with Rural Broadband Deployments Under Connect America Fund Phase II

by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Contact

As we recently reported, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) “IP Transition Order” includes an experiment designed to test the feasibility of directing Connect America Fund (CAF) subsidies to competitive providers that may present real opportunities (and/or challenges) for competitive cable, telco and wireless ISPs deploying broadband in unserved rural areas. Although much of the IP Transition Order is focused on the agency’s proposed IP network “service based” experiments and the transition to all-IP networks, the so-called “rural broadband experiment” will explore methods for distributing CAF subsidies to competitive providers deploying broadband in rural areas.

Providers interested in participating in the CAF experiment may file an “expression of interest” with the FCC no later than March 7, 2014, and submit formal proposals later in the year. As explained below, many details of the experiment remain unresolved. Nonetheless, the FCC wants to hear from those interested in applying for support, so interested parties should begin developing information about rural broadband deployment proposals they may pursue.

Background
Later this year, the FCC will disburse up to $4.5 billion dollars to support the deployment of broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas under Phase II of the CAF program. Initially, that support will only be available to incumbent telecom providers. If the incumbent declines support in its service area, competitive providers (including cable operators, telcos and wireless ISPs) may seek CAF support through a competitive bidding process. The rural broadband experiment is designed to test how a competitive bidding process might be used to disburse subsidies to competitors under Phase II of the CAF program.

Framework of CAF Rural Broadband Experiment
Although details are far from final, the FCC’s order identifies key elements of the program which provides a framework of the likely scope of the program:

Eligible entities. Support under the experiment may be directed to any non-incumbent providers of broadband services include cable operators, competitive telecom providers, wireless ISPs, municipalities, and other.

Eligible areas. Support will be focused on those areas unserved by broadband of at least 3 Mbps downstream/768 kbps upstream. The minimum project level will be by census tract, with support provided in eligible census blocks within the tract.

Last mile broadband facilities. Support will be directed towards those entities deploying last mile broadband facilities in unserved areas lacking access to 3 Mbps downstream/768 kbps upstream. Proposed deployment of so-called “middle mile” facilities will not be supported.

Potential allocation of $50 to $100 million. The FCC has not yet determined how much will be available for the experiment, but has suggested that somewhere between $50 and $100 million may be allocated to the experiment. The final total budget for the experiment will not be finalized until later in the year.

ETC designation required (though not a prerequisite). Recipients of subsidies will need to obtain additional regulatory approvals, including designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC). However, potential applicants need not be ETCs when they apply for support; they may seek designation after they are selected.

Open Issues to Be Resolved Later
Many details of the rural broadband experiment, including total proposed funding, remain unresolved. However, we expect recipients will be required to comply with various reporting requirements, audits, and potential enforcement proceedings for non-compliance. Those requirements and many other questions remain unresolved. The FCC has issued a further notice seeking comment on such issues, and will use that input to decide the proper size of the budget for this experiment, what to require in the formal proposals, what selection criteria to use, and many other details.

Likely Timeline
The rural broadband experiment will unfold in two stages: an “expression of interest” stage and a formal proposal stage. The first stage begins immediately, and interested providers may file a non-binding letter of interest with the FCC by March 7, 2014. (Note, however, that filing an expression of interest is not a prerequisite to later filing an application for support.) In the second stage, formal proposals/applications will be accepted by the FCC some time later this year.

Later this year, probably in the second quarter, the FCC will finalize details of the rural broadband experiment and set a deadline for applications to be filed sometime in the summer. Applications would be subject to a challenge process, and would be open to review and scrutiny by third-party competitors. Final action by the agency could occur in the third or fourth quarter.

Next Steps
The FCC has released preliminary information identifying potentially suitable geographic areas that may be available for support under the CAF broadband experiment. Interested providers can review the FCC’s compilation of census tracts in price cap areas potentially suitable for the experiments, along with potential support amounts based on a recent cost model. This list should help you identify areas in which your company may wish to participate.

Entities interested in participating in this program should consider filing a non-binding expression of interest no later than March 7, 2014. Note that this filing does not commit the filer to participate in the program but allows the FCC to gauge interest in it.

Written by:

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Contact
more
less

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.