The FCC issued a further notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on various “interim changes” to the universal service mechanism that provides high-cost support to carriers operating in non-rural areas. The further notice was in response to a 2005 remand by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Denver) in its “Qwest II” decision that had raised questions about the FCC’s non-rural high-cost rules.

The FCC promised in March 2009 to address the court’s remand in a final decision by April 16, 2010. However, the FCC decided that it “should not attempt wholesale reform of the non-rural high cost mechanism at this time” because its national broadband plan will include recommendations for modifying the universal service mechanism. Accordingly, the FCC seeks comment only “on certain interim changes to address the court’s concerns and changes in the marketplace,” including “what changes should be made to the Commission’s rules regarding the rate comparability review and certification process” and whether the FCC should require “carriers to certify that they offer bundled local and long distance services at reasonably comparable rural and urban rates.”

Comments and replies on the further notice are due 30 and 45 days, respectively, after publication in the Federal Register.