Telecom Alert: USF Reform Bill; 3.45 GHz Assignment Phase; $19.5 Million T-Mobile Settlement; Section 253 Petition Dismissed; Affordable Connectivity Guidance Order [Vol. XVIII, Issue 48]
Bipartisan Bill Calls for USF Reform
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Thune (R-SD), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act of 2021 on November 18, which seeks to reform the contribution system of the Universal Service Fund (“USF”). The bill calls on the FCC to conduct a study assessing the need to expand the contribution base of the USF and submit a report to Congress on the results. It would also require the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to reform the contribution system within 1 year of the bill’s enactment.
3.45 GHz Band Auction Assignment Phase
The FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issued a Public Notice last week announcing that the assignment phase of Auction 110 will begin on December 9, 2021 (Vol. XVIII, Issue 47). Bidders that won at least one generic block of spectrum in one Partial Economic Area in the clock phase are eligible to bid in the assignment phase for frequency-specific licensing blocks. Eligible bidders will be able to log in to the assignment phase bidding system between 10:00 a.m. EST on December 2 and 12:00 p.m. EST on December 3 to download their bidding options, view the sequence and timing for the assignment rounds, and identify the rounds they will be eligible to participate. The Bureaus will hold a mock auction on December 6.
T-Mobile, FCC Reach $19.5 Million Settlement
Last week, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau entered into a Consent Decree with T-Mobile for failing to comply with the Commission’s 911 rules. On June 15, 2020, T-Mobile suffered an outage across its 4G, 3G, and 2G networks for over 12 hours that caused the failure of more than 23,000 911 calls. The cause of the outage was due to a failure of a link in its network. T-Mobile agreed to pay a $19.5 million settlement payment and implement a compliance plan.
FCC Dismisses Section 253 Petition
Last week, the FCC issued an Order granting a motion by Missouri Network Alliance, LLC, d/b/a Bluebird Network (“Bluebird”), to withdraw its Petition to preempt the City of Columbia, Missouri’s right-of-way fee. In its Petition, Bluebird alleged that the City’s fees were an impermissible barrier under Section 253 of the federal Communications Act. Bluebird sought to withdraw its Petition in light of changes in state law and the fact that Columbia has ceased charging the right-of-way fees that are the subject of the Petition.
Affordable Connectivity Program Guidance Order
Last week, the Wireless Competition Bureau released an Order providing guidance to help consumers and service providers prepare for the transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBB Program”) to the Affordable Connectivity Program (Vol. XVIII, Issue 47). The EBB Program is set to end on December 31, 2021, at which time enrolled households will continue to receive their current benefits during a 60-day transition period. The Affordable Connectivity Program modifies the eligibility criteria used for the EBB Program and changes the monthly benefit amount from $50 to $30 (except for consumers residing on qualified Tribal lands and high-cost areas).