Telecom Alert — 3.5 GHz Band Auction Qualified Bidders; Flexible Financing for Rural America Act; FCC Increases Rural Health Care Funding Cap; House Passes Moving Forward Act — Vol. XVII, Issue 27
3.5 GHz Band Auction Qualified Bidder Public Notice
The FCC issued a Public Notice announcing the qualified bidders for Priority Access tier licenses in the upcoming Citizens Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”) auction (Auction 105) (Vol. XVII, Issue 24). 271 Applicants qualified as bidders for the auction. The list includes all three nationwide carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, as well as many smaller service providers and enterprise companies. The auction will offer 22,631 licenses making it the largest auction, in terms of total number of licenses, ever held by the FCC. Qualified bidders will receive materials in the mail and will be able to access the auction system at 9:00 am EST on July 16, 2020. Educational material, including a bidding and post-auction tutorial, will be posted to the Auction 105 page on the FCC’s website. The first round of the auction will begin at 10:00 am EST on July 23, 2020.
Flexible Financing for Rural America Act
Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators and Members of Congress introduced the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, which would allow electric cooperatives and small, rural telecommunications providers to refinance their Rural Utilities Service (RUS) debt at current market rates without penalty. The bill aims to provide borrowers more flexibility as they face challenges due to COVID-19, and the bill’s sponsors estimate that the savings amount to approximately $2 million per year for the average rural electric cooperative. The text and summary of the bill have not yet been published.
FCC Increases Rural Health Care Funding Cap for 202
The Commission issued a Public Notice, which announced that unused funds will be used to increase the Rural Health Care Program funding cap for 2020. In 2018, the Commission adopted rules to address increasing demand in the Rural Health Care Program, establishing a process to carry-forward unused funds from past funding years for use in future funding years. Through this process, the Commission will increase the cap from $604.76 million to $802.74 million to support rural health care providers as they serve their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Passes Moving Forward Act
On July 1, 2020, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a large infrastructure package which includes $100 billion to promote broadband infrastructure (Vol. XVII, Issue 26). During debate of the bill on the House Floor, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to ensure that all Americans have access to high speed Internet and that this bill will help to close the digital divide. The bill passed largely along party lines and it is unlikely to move forward in the Senate.