Schools and Libraries (E-Rate)
- On July 9, 2019, the FCC released an NPRM that proposes to make the Category Two budget approach permanent, and seeks comment on potential modifications that could simplify the budgets, decrease the administrative burden of applying for Category Two services. The category two approach involves five-year budgets for schools and libraries that provide a set amount of funding to support internal connections.
- On July 17, Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) announced that sufficient funding was available to meet the estimated demands for E-Rate supported services for funding year 2019. The 2019 E-Rate funding cap is $4.15 billion and according to USAC projections there is an additional $1 billion in unused funds from previous years available for use in E-Rate funding year 2019.
- In a July 29 report assessing the “homework gap,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended that the FCC consider allowing schools to use E-Rate funds to provide wireless service to students when they are off school grounds. The FCC agreed to consider the recommendation and tasked the Office of Economics and Analytics and WCB, with assessing the potential benefits, costs, and challenges of adopting a policy of making off-premise broadband access eligible for E-rate support. The FCC intends to release a report analyzing data from a 2012 pilot that tested this approach, conduct an additional E-rate pilot, and consider data from the recently proposed telehealth pilot program.
- On July 25, WCB issued a Public Notice announcing the updated minimum service standards (MMS) for fixed and mobile broadband for Lifeline-supported services. As of December 1, 2019, the MMS for mobile broadband will be 8.75 GB per month and for fixed broadband, 20 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. As noted in the June edition, the update to mobile MMS is currently the subject of a joint petition to prevent the update from going into effect until the planned study of the market for mobile services is completed. WCB also announced the indexed budget for the calendar year beginning January 1, 2020 will be $2,385,292,106.
- The WCB issued a Public Notice announcing the counties in which conditional forbearance from the obligation to offer Lifeline-supported voice service applies. This forbearance applies for ETCs that are designated to receive both high-cost and Lifeline support.
- The FCC will consider a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, to be voted on at the August Open Meeting, establishing the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to target support to areas that lack access to 25/3 Mbps broadband service. The RDOF would provide a budget of $20.4 billion in high cost support over a 10 year period through a two phase clock auction.
- On July 15, WCB put out a Public Notice authorizing CAF Phase II support for five winning NY bidders.
- WCB also issued a Public Notice announcing it was ready to authorize CAF Phase II auction support for an additional set of winning bidders identified in the attachment to that notice.
Rural Health Care
- At the August Open Meeting, the FCC will vote on a draft Report and Order (R&O) to reform the way the Rural Health Care (RHC) program distributes funding. The R&O would adopt the following changes: “clarify the scope of similar services for rate determination; (2) define the geographic contours of urban and comparable rural areas for rate determination; (3) reassign to the Administrator the task of determining urban and rural rates for similar services from health care and service providers; (4) reform the determination of rates based on the median of all available rates for functionally similar services; (5) direct the Administrator to create a publicly available database for the posting of urban and rural rates; (6) eliminate the limitation on support for satellite services; and (7) eliminate distance-based support.”
- On July 9, 2019, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) sent WCB non-confidential data on the two components of the RHC Program in response to a request from WCB. The data shows that original commitments increased by $260 million from FY 2012 to 2017 with the healthcare fund continually taking up a larger portion compared to telecom which was almost the full amount in 2012.