Wireline Competition Bureau

Just before suspending most operations due to the ongoing partial federal government shutdown, the FCC announced its tentative agenda for its next open meeting, scheduled for January 30, 2019. While the January agenda is brief compared to the jam-packed meetings that typified 2018, the FCC plans to adopt items to advance new anti-spoofing measures combating manipulated caller ID information and take further action to address the management and handling of 911 calls for the IP Captioned Telephone Service (“IP CTS”) that aids communication by those with hearing loss. Rounding out the notable meeting items, the FCC would adopt a mechanism to phase down legacy high-cost support for price cap carriers as well as competitive carriers previously subject to the “identical support rule” and transition such support to the winners of the recent Connect America Fund (“CAF”) Phase II auction.

You will find more details on the significant January meeting items after the break:

Continue Reading FCC Issues Tentative Meeting Agenda Addressing Spoofing and Disabilities Access Before Federal Government Shutdown

Followers of this blog know that appeals relating to Universal Service Fund contribution obligations proliferate.  Despite a rule stating that the FCC will address such appeals in 90 days, contribution appeals routinely linger for two years or more before a decision.  Moreover, the number of new appeals outpaces the number of USF decisions issued by the Commission, leading to a growing backlog of pending appeals.  Bowing to this steady stream of appeals, on July 2, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced that it would henceforth apply the default comment period to Universal Service Fund (USF) appeals, rather than issuing separate public notices for each USF appeal filed.  The default cycle provides ten days for comments after an initial appeal is filed and an additional five days for responses.  Under the previous approach, the Bureau typically allowed 30 days for comments and 15 days for replies.  The new policy is in effect immediately, beginning with an appeal filed on June 30, 2014.

The default comment period is good news for those who seek to speed the pace of USF appeals.  Few appeals generate any comments, and this proposal will significantly shorten the amount of time it takes to compile a record in cases for which there is a significant question.  But it remains to be seen whether the Bureau will be able to generate orders resolving appeals more quickly.  One of our biggest complaints is that certain issues — MPLS, private line jurisdiction, etc. — appear repeatedly in USF appeals.  If the Bureau could provide some clarity on these types of issues (like it did with reseller certification issues in 2012), it will go a long way toward reducing the backlog of appeals.

Six months after Obama took office, it seems that the FCC is almost, finally ready to get moving.  The Mignon Clyburn (D) and Meredith Baker (R) nominations were approved by the Senate this week.  With these confirmations, we will have the full five-member Commission in place for the August 27 open meeting. 

In addition, Chairman Genachowski continues to designate his Bureau and senior staff.  Yesterday, Genachowski announced two appointments relevant to the scope of this blog.  First, in the Wireline Competition Bureau, Genachowski announced that Sharon Gillett will become Chief of the Bureau.  Ms. Gillett is Director of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and previously served as head of the Massachusetts equivalent to the FCC and worked as a professor at M.I.T.  The announcement notes her academic work maintained "a particular focus on broadband."  Clearly, at least in the short term, this Commission’s number 1 goal (and goals numbered 2, 3 and 4) is going to be broadband deployment.   Ms. Gillett will take office on August 28.

In the Enforcement Bureau, Genachowski announced that Suzanne Tetreault will become Deputy Chief of the Enforcement Bureau.  Ms. Tetreault has served in a variety of positions in the Wireline Competition Bureau, Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau and the Office of General Counsel.  Kris Monteith, the current Bureau Chief, will become Deputy Chief of the Media Bureau, effective August 10.  At that point, Ms. Tetreault will become Acting Chief of the Bureau.  The designation of Ms. Tetreault as an Acting Chief signals that Genachowski intends to fill the Enforcement Bureau Chief slot with a person not currently employed by the Commission.  I would expect that announcement fairly soon.