Telecom Alert - FCC Creates Fraud Division; ILEC Portion of Pole Attachment Order; Oral Arguments Scheduled in Tribes' Challenge of Infrastructure Order; National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier; February Open Meeting; KH Broadband - Vol. XVI, Issue 6
FCC Votes to Form New Fraud Division of the Enforcement Bureau
In light of the history of abuse, the FCC voted to create a Fraud Division within its Enforcement Bureau to investigate and prosecute fraud in the Universal Service Fund (USF) programs. Recently, the FCC proposed a $63 million fine against American Broadband for alleged Lifeline Program violations and an $18.7 million fine against DataConnex for allegedly defrauding the Rural Health Care Program. While establishing a Fraud Division is a step in the right direction, simplifying the accounting rules for High-Cost providers could promote greater accountability.
Effective Date of ILEC Portion of Pole Attachment Order
For those of you who are investor-owned utilities in the 30 “FCC States,” the ILEC portion of the FCC’s August 3, 2018, Pole Attachment Order will be effective March 11, 2019, leaving the large remaining provisions of the Order to be effective at a later date. The portion to become effective is Section 1.1413 (Complaints by ILECs), which the Order amended to presume that ILEC joint use partners are entitled to the “new” FCC Telecom Rate.
Oral Arguments Scheduled in Tribes’ Challenge of Infrastructure Order
Oral arguments in United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma et al. v. FCC are scheduled for March 15, 2019. This DC Circuit case consolidates the challenges by Native American tribes and environmentalists of the FCC’s March 2018 Infrastructure Order, which made changes to the tribal review process (Vol. XV, Issue 13). CTIA and Sprint have intervened in the case on behalf of the FCC.
National Verifier Launches in Eight States and D.C.
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) announced a soft launch of the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier (National Verifier) in Alaska, American Samoa, Delaware, D.C., Maine, the Northern Mariana Islands, Rhode Island, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The soft launch period will allow Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) to familiarize themselves with the National Verifier by adjusting and testing their systems and business processes before use of the National Verifier becomes mandatory. Additionally, a full launch of the National Verifier in Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee will take place on March 5.
February Open Meeting
A tentative agenda has been released for the FCC’s February Open Meeting scheduled for February 14. This meeting was initially scheduled for February 21 but was rescheduled because the Commission is only guaranteed funding until February 15. Among other items, the Commission will consider a Report and Order affecting Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase I and II support (Vol. XV, Issue 42). Rather than focus on CAF II policy issues, final Commission action on the long-form applications for the CAF II auction winners would provide more tangible benefits sooner to many unserved communities.