Back for its 10th year, our most popular webinar offers an in-depth discussion on the federal Universal Service Fund for participants in USF programs and for contributors to the Fund. This webinar will address major developments in the four support funds and discuss the pressures on the USF contribution system in an era of 20% contribution rates. In addition, as usual, we will offer tips and insights into managing audits and investigations in these highly scrutinized programs.
AT&T has joined the ranks of petitioners seeking to overturn the Wireline Competition Bureau’s tough stance on contributors’ late-filed USF forms. On September 13, AT&T joined Airband Communications in seeking Commission-level review of the Bureau’s Denial Order.
Note: A third carrier, Airnex Communications, filed a petition for reconsideration of the Denial Order.
AT&T asserts that the Denial Order is inconsistent with other orders granting waivers of Form 499 filing deadlines. For good measure, AT&T also asks the FCC to act on its 5-1/2 year old petition to reverse the 1-year amendment deadline that it missed in this instance.
Last week, we posted an entry about the tough stance the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau is taking on late-filed Universal Service Forms submitted by contributors. One of the parties whose USF appeal was denied, Airband Communications, has filed an application for review of the Bureau decision. The Commission yesterday asked for comment on the request. Comments are due September 30 and October 15.
The FCC’s quick action is unusual in one sense: the deadline for petitions for reconsideration or applications for review of the Denial Order is not until September 14. Other parties to the same order may file additional petitions on the same issue.
In stark contrast to the Bureau’s more liberal waiver policy for recipients of Universal Service Funds, the Wireline Competition Bureau recently released orders affirming a tough stance for contributors who miss USF filing deadlines. In the Waiver Order, the Bureau granted two waviers of the deadline to file 499-A revisions. In the Denial Order, the Bureau denied ten requests for similar waivers. The difference? In the Waiver Order, the Bureau found "special circumstances" — complex revisions undertaken after a merger and late-filing due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. By contrast, in the Denial Order, the Bureau characterized the reasons for late-filing as "simple negligence."
The Bureau’s stance is summarized with this quote from the Denial Order:
We reaffirm the importance of filing revisions to FCC Forms 499 promptly and within the windows established by the Commission’s rules and requirements. In order for USAC to process the thousands of forms it receives each year and for contributors to know that their contributions will not dramatically change each year on account of late-filed revisions, filers must comply with the deadlines we have established for filing and revising FCC Forms 499.
As a public service, we remind readers: Corrections to the quarterly estimates (499-Q) are due within 45 days of the due date. Revisions that reduce USF liability for a year (499-A) are due within one year of the April 1 499-A filing date.