On Friday, November 18th, the FCC released its long anticipated ICC/USF Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that was adopted October 27th. Under Phase I of the Mobility Fund adopted by the FCC, wireless ETCs will be eligible for a one-time shot of $300 million as part of the Mobility Fund. Mobile carriers serving tribal areas will be eligible for an additional $50 million in support. In addition to the one shot Mobility Fund, the FCC will develop a targeted, Phase II mobile fund that will provide up to $500 million per year in support for wireless carriers. Current "portable" support will be phased down over five years for all carriers, including carriers in "Covered Locations" currently not subject to the cap. Mobile carriers that receive high-cost support will have roaming and collocation obligations imposed on them. Rules for Phase I support will form the basis for ongoing Phase II support that will be fleshed out as part of the FNPRM. "Time will tell whether Phase I and Phase II support amounts are sufficient to promote and sustain mobile voice and broadband networks in high-cost rural areas," stated Carri Bennet, RTG's General Counsel. "RTG will work with the FCC's Wireless Bureau to ensure that such limited support is efficiently targeted to genuine high-cost areas and is used to provision mobile voice and broadband services rather than to pad corporate bottom lines," promised Bennet.
The Rural Telecommunications Group (RTG) will continue to digest the Order and FNPRM and analyze its impact on its members, and will hold a webcast on Monday, December 5th from 2:00 to 3:00 PM Eastern.
Join RTG on this webcast to review the FCC's Public Notice and the procedures that will be used for the reverse auction (designated as Auction 901) scheduled to be held on September 27.
Background: The FCC announced on May 2nd the competitive bidding procedures for Phase I of the Mobility Fund, the first-ever reverse auction for Universal Service support, to accelerate delivery of advanced mobile services that currently lack 3G or 4G service. Winning bidders must deploy either 3G service within two years or 4G service within three years of the award. The Mobility Fund will award up to $300M that was reserved out of savings from the Commission’s Universal Service Fund (USF) reforms. As part of last year’s reform, the FCC for the first time made universal mobile service an express universal service goal, and created the Mobility Fund to help close the nation’s gaps in mobile wireless service.
The FCC’s recent USF order is setting the stage for wireless carriers that rely on support to provide mobile services. In particular, the FCC is proposing to streamline Phase II of the Mobility Fund to focus on (1) preserving existing mobile voice and broadband service that would not otherwise exist without governmental support and (2) expanding 4G LTE access to populations that will not have such service through commercial deployments. Until Mobility Phase II is actually implemented and operational, however, the FCC proposes to temporarily halt the continued phase-down of the old identical support at the 60% level, subject to a 1% wireless revenue threshold that for some could mean the instant elimination of USF support. Join us for more details about the USF order and how it might impact your wireless ETC support.Read more >