[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 18 (Monday, January 28, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 5750-5753]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-00840]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 54

[WC Docket Nos. 10-90 and 05-337; DA 12-1777]


Data Specifications for Collecting Study Area Boundaries

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: In this document, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) 
adopts data specifications for collecting incumbent local exchange 
carrier (LEC) study area boundaries. The Bureau will use the maps to 
analyze costs of LECs and determine which LECs are eligible for support 
to deliver telecommunications and information services in rural and 
high cost areas, and to implement certain reforms to universal service 
support. The data will be used as an essential input in a model that 
determines the level of high cost support for rate of return carriers. 
The Bureau will also use the data to determine whether unsubsidized 
competitors offer service within all or a portion of an incumbent LEC's 
study area, and to phase out support where unsubsidized competitors 
offer voice and broadband service throughout an entire study area. 
Commission intends to allocate support among eligible LECs in a manner 
that best ensures that consumers in rural and high cost area have 
services and rates that are reasonably comparable to those in urban 
areas.

DATES: Effective February 27, 2013, except for the requirements 
contained in paragraph 16 and Appendix A of document DA 12-1777, which 
contain new or modified information collection requirements, and 
require approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), Public Law 104-13. These 
requirements shall become effective after the Commission publishes a 
separate document in the Federal Register announcing such approval and 
the relevant effective date(s).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chelsea Fallon, Assistant Division 
Chief, at 202-418-7991, Industry Analysis & Technology Division, 
Wireline Competition Bureau. For additional information concerning the 
PRA information collection requirements contained in this document, 
send an email to PRA@fcc.gov or contact Judith B. Herman at 202-418-
0214.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Bureau's Report and 
Order (R&O) in WC Docket No. 10-90; WC Docket No. 05-337; DA 12-1777, 
released on November 6, 2012. The full text of this document is 
available for public inspection during regular business hours in the 
FCC Reference Center, Room CY-A257, 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 
20554, and may also be purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, 
BCPI, Inc., Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, 
DC 20554. Customers may contact BCPI, Inc. via their Web site, http://www.bcpi.com, or call 1-800-378-3160. This document is available in 
alternative formats (computer diskette, large print, audio record, and 
Braille). Persons with disabilities who need documents in these formats 
may contact the FCC by email: FCC504@fcc.gov or phone: 202-418-0530 or 
TTY: 202-418-0432.

Synopsis of Report and Order

    1. In this Report and Order (R&O), the Wireline Competition Bureau 
(Bureau) adopts data specifications for collecting study area 
boundaries for purposes of implementing various reforms adopted as part 
of the USF/ICC Transformation Order, 76 FR 73830, November 29, 2011. In 
the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Commission comprehensively 
reformed universal service funding for high-cost, rural areas, adopting 
fiscally responsible, accountable, incentive-based policies to preserve 
and advance voice and broadband service. As discussed below, confirming 
the relevant geographic boundaries is important for implementing 
several components of those reforms, including: the Commission's 
benchmarking rule and the elimination of support where an unsubsidized 
competitor offers voice and broadband service that overlaps an 
incumbent carrier's study area. On June 1, 2012, the Bureau issued the 
Study Area Boundaries Public Notice, 77 FR 37402, June 21, 2012, which 
proposed collecting study area and exchange boundary data from all 
incumbent LECs. Specifically, the Bureau proposed requiring all 
incumbent LECs to submit study area boundary data in an esri shapefile 
format with certain identifying feature attributes. The R&O adopts that 
proposal.
    2. Benchmarking Rule. In the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the 
Commission adopted a benchmarking rule intended to moderate the 
expenses of rate-of-return carriers with very high costs compared to 
their similarly situated peers, while encouraging other rate-of-return 
carriers to advance broadband deployment. On April 25,

[[Page 5751]]

2012, the Bureau adopted the methodology for implementing this rule, 
which establishes limits on recovery of capital costs and operating 
expenses for high-cost loop support (HCLS). The methodology uses 
quantile regression analyses to generate a capital expense limit and an 
operating expense limit for each rate-of-return cost company study 
area. In the HCLS Benchmarks Implementation Order, the Bureau relied on 
Tele Atlas wire center boundaries as an interim source for study area 
boundaries. Tele Atlas is a widely-used commercial source of this 
information. As an interim measure to address expressed concerns that 
the Tele Atlas boundaries used in the benchmark methodology misstate 
some rate-of-return study areas, the Bureau provided a streamlined, 
expedited waiver process for incumbent LECs affected by the HCLS 
benchmarks to correct errors on an ad hoc basis, while obtaining public 
input on a proposed process to collect new nationwide data on study 
areas boundaries.
    3. In the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Commission adopted a 
rule to phase out universal service support where an unsubsidized 
competitor--or a combination of unsubsidized competitors--offers voice 
and broadband service throughout 100 percent of an incumbent's study 
area. In the USF/ICC Transformation FNPRM, 76 FR 78384, December 16, 
2011, the Commission sought comment on a process to reduce support 
where such an unsubsidized competitor offers voice and broadband 
service to a substantial majority, but not 100 percent of the study 
area. Study area boundaries are needed to determine whether 
unsubsidized competitors offer service within all or a portion of an 
incumbent's study area.
    4. On June 1, 2012, the Bureau issued the Study Area Boundaries 
Public Notice which proposed collecting study area and exchange 
boundary data from all incumbent LECs. Specifically, the Bureau 
proposed requiring all incumbent LECs to submit study area boundary 
data in an esri shapefile format with certain identifying feature 
attributes. The Bureau sought comment on this proposal, along with 
whether to allow states to assist incumbent LECs in submitting boundary 
data and how to resolve any overlap issues.

Collection and Certification of Study Area Boundaries

    5. Collecting Study Area and Exchange Boundaries. In this R&O, the 
Bureau requires incumbent LECs to submit esri shapefiles of their study 
area boundaries, with each submitted shapefile representing a single 
study area in each state that the incumbent LEC serves. The shapefile 
for each study area must depict each exchange within the study area as 
a closed, non-overlapping polygon. Each exchange-area polygon must 
constitute one record in the shapefile and must contain associated data 
with certain attributes used to identify the exchange, such as the 
exchange name and CLLI (Common Language Location Identifier) code. The 
Bureau will collect study area boundary data at the exchange level so 
that it can distinguish those exchanges that are subject to ``frozen'' 
support levels from those that are not, and so that the data can be 
updated to reflect any exchanges that have been transferred from one 
incumbent LEC to another.
    6. Collecting Data in ESRI Shapefile Format. The Bureau finds that 
collecting study area boundary data in an esri shapefile format best 
balances the need for accurate and timely data with the goal of 
minimizing burdens on providers. A number of commenters support this 
approach. The use of a single data format will facilitate the creation 
of a complete, accurate, uniformly-formatted, publicly-available, and 
easily-accessible set of study area boundary data. Having all of the 
data submitted in a uniform format will enable us to access, analyze, 
and aggregate the study area boundaries using the same software 
program, thereby minimizing the delay and inaccuracies associated with 
analyzing data in inconsistent formats or converting data to a single 
format.
    7. The Bureau finds that the esri shapefile is the best among 
possible data formats. Since its introduction in the 1990s, the esri 
shapefile has become the industry standard for storing, depicting, and 
analyzing spatial data. As a result, there are multiple geographic 
information system (GIS) platforms capable of creating and managing 
esri shapefiles, and multiple software programs can convert spatial 
data stored in other formats (such as MapInfo) to an esri shapefile 
format. Therefore, incumbent LECs or state entities that maintain 
spatial data on study area boundaries in another format should be able 
to convert such data to an esri shapefile format. In addition, there 
are many GIS specialists and engineering consultants in the United 
States that are able to provide expertise and develop spatial data for 
incumbent LECs and state entities without internal GIS resources.
    8. Incumbent LECs and states entities are most familiar with the 
various factors--such as local geography and topography, customer 
locations, network configuration, and state obligations--that determine 
individual study area boundaries, and therefore are best suited to 
undertake the conversion of existing map data to an esri shapefile, 
because they can identify and immediately correct any errors that might 
occur in this conversion process. Incumbent LECs that do not already 
have esri shapefiles of their study area boundaries may either use 
software and information technology, and/or rely on the expertise of 
consultants, to develop a shapefile based on the presumably known 
locations of their physical plant and their customers. Thus, the 
benefits gained by requiring incumbent LECs to provide and verify esri 
shapefiles warrant the potential burdens imposed.
    9. Incumbent LECs or other entities are not expected to conduct 
physical surveys in order to produce the degree of accuracy required by 
the data specification. Incumbent LECs reasonably can be expected to 
know where they offer services and thus should be able to create and 
submit an esri shapefile to the degree of accuracy required based 
largely on existing information.
    10. The Bureau also rejects the argument that the boundary data 
collection requirements should be shifted to the state commission in 
cases where the incumbent LEC is unable to reasonably comply. The 
Bureau encourages states to assist in this endeavor, but recognizes 
that some state commissions may have limited resources to undertake 
this responsibility, particularly if there are numerous incumbent LECs 
within the state.
    11. State Involvement. State entities to voluntarily submit 
shapefiles on behalf of any and/or all incumbent LECs within their 
states. State entities are well situated to assist incumbent LECs with 
their responsibilities under this R&O. Involvement of state entities 
that undertake or assist with this data collection effort could reduce 
the burden on incumbent LECs and on Commission staff, particularly 
because some states already have digitized service territory 
boundaries. State entities wishing to submit such data should notify 
the Commission in writing of their intention to do so and submit that 
notice to WC Docket No. 10-90 via the Commission's Electronic Comment 
Filing System (ECFS). The Bureau will release a Public Notice 
identifying the deadlines for these notices (as well as the deadlines 
for the shapefile submissions and incumbent LEC certifications).
    12. Ultimately, however, the incumbent LECs are responsible for

[[Page 5752]]

reviewing, verifying, and certifying that the study area boundary data 
are accurate and for ensuring that the ongoing obligations, such as 
updating of information, are satisfied. Accordingly, in cases where a 
state entity uploads data to the Commission-sponsored Web site on 
behalf of one or more incumbent LECs, each incumbent LEC whose data are 
submitted by the state must log into the Web site to review the 
shapefile. If the incumbent LEC has a reasonable basis to conclude the 
shapefile is correct, the incumbent LEC can certify and submit the data 
using the same web interface. The reporting obligation set forth in 
this R&O ultimately rests with incumbent LECs; state commissions may 
not certify as to the accuracy of the data on behalf of incumbent LECs. 
If the incumbent LEC cannot certify that the data submitted by the 
state commission are correct, the incumbent LEC must so notify the 
Bureau and upload corrected data, either on its own or in conjunction 
with the state entity that filed it. The incumbent LEC can then certify 
that the study area boundary data are accurate.
    13. Incumbent LEC Certification. After reviewing and, if necessary, 
correcting the study area boundary data submitted by itself or a state 
entity, each incumbent LEC must certify the accuracy of the data. An 
official of the firm, such as a corporate officer, managing partner, or 
sole proprietor, must provide an electronic signature certifying that 
he or she has examined the study area boundary shapefile and that, to 
the best of his or her knowledge, information, and belief, the data 
contained in the shapefile are accurate and correct. The certifying 
official may be different from the GIS specialist or other individual 
who developed the study area boundary shapefile, and the web interface 
will allow filers to enter contact information for both the certifying 
official and the individual most knowledgeable about the spatial data.
    14. Data Reconciliation. Once the shapefiles have been submitted 
and certified, the Bureau will review the study area boundaries and 
resolve any voids and overlaps. Overlap areas would be those shown to 
be served by more than one incumbent LEC, while void areas would be 
those shown to be served by no incumbent LEC. The Bureau will attempt 
to distinguish unpopulated void areas from populated void areas that 
are likely to be served by some incumbent LEC, in which case an error 
in the submitted data may need to be resolved. The Bureau may also seek 
help from state commissions to resolve gaps, voids, and overlap issues. 
During review, if boundary overlaps or void areas are found in the 
submitted boundary data, the Bureau will contact the filer(s) to 
resolve such issues. Once these issues are resolved, the Bureau will 
ask incumbent LECs to recertify the new, corrected boundaries. When a 
complete set of the reconciled boundaries has been compiled the study 
area boundary data will be published.

Non-Filers

    15. The Bureau will contact, either directly or via a state entity, 
any incumbent LEC that does not submit study area boundary data in the 
format requested by the required date and request that the incumbent 
LEC submit the required shapefiles within 30 days. The Bureau will also 
contact any incumbent LEC that has not certified the accuracy of the 
required study area data, whether filed by the incumbent LEC itself or 
by another party, and request that the incumbent LEC certify the data, 
or submit corrected data, within 30 days. Compliance with the rules 
adopted in this R&O is mandatory, and failure to comply may lead to 
enforcement action, including forfeiture penalties, pursuant to the 
Communications Act and other applicable law.

Mandatory Updating and Recertification of Study Area Boundaries

    16. It is critical to our universal service reform implementation 
efforts to ensure that the boundary area data do not become out-of-
date. Therefore, incumbent LECs must provide updated data when their 
study area boundaries change. Study area boundaries can change as the 
result of a transaction involving the addition or sale of exchanges; 
new deployment into previously-unserved areas, such as a new housing 
subdivision; or an incumbent LEC relinquishing its ETC designation and 
no longer being obligated to serve an area as a carrier of last resort. 
Incumbent LECs and/or state entities must submit updated data by March 
15 of each year, beginning the year following the initial data 
submissions, showing any changes made by December 31 of the previous 
year. The incumbent LEC is responsible for making any necessary changes 
and for filing the revised shapefile. The changes cannot be made using 
the web interface itself; incumbent LECs will need to modify the 
shapefile. However, incumbent LECs can upload a revised shapefile to 
the same Web site used for the original filing. In addition, all 
incumbent LECs must recertify their study area boundary data every two 
years. Filers will need to examine, through the web interface described 
below, the boundary data previously submitted, and then either certify 
that they are correct or submit revised data.

Filing Procedures

    17. Once OMB has completed its review of the study area boundary 
data collection requirements adopted today, the Bureau will issue a 
Public Notice providing detailed instructions and announcing the 
deadline for the submission of data. Each incumbent LEC or submitting 
state entity will need to log into the web interface, at the announced 
Web site URL, to upload the data. After logging in, the submitting 
entity will provide contact information for the individual most 
knowledgeable about the study area boundary data, in case questions 
about the submitted data arise. After completing the contact 
information, the incumbent LEC or state entity will upload a single zip 
file containing the required files per Appendix A. Once the zip file 
has been uploaded, the web interface will display a map of the 
submitted data on the filer's screen, allowing the filer to review the 
map and associated data for accuracy and completeness before certifying 
and submitting it. In cases where a state entity has uploaded data on 
behalf of an incumbent LEC(s), each incumbent LEC will be required to 
log in to the filing system separately to review and certify that the 
data are correct prior to submitting them. A corporate officer of an 
incumbent LEC will need to provide contact information and certify 
under penalty of perjury that he or she has examined the study area 
boundary shapefile and that--to the best of his or her knowledge, 
information, and belief--the data contained in the shapefile are 
accurate and correct. If the data need to be revised, the incumbent LEC 
or state entity will have to correct the data before the incumbent LEC 
certifies and submits them.

Congressional Review Act

    18. The Commission will send a copy of this R&O in a report to be 
sent to Congress and the Government Accountability Office, pursuant to 
the Congressional Review Act.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    19. This R&O contains new information collection requirements 
subject to the PRA. It will be submitted to OMB for review under 
section 3507(d) of the PRA. OMB, the general public, and other Federal 
agencies are invited to comment on the new information collection 
requirements contained in this proceeding.

[[Page 5753]]

Ordering Clauses

    1. Pursuant to sections 1, 2, 4(i), 201-205, 218-220, 254, 256, 
303(r), and 403 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 
U.S.C. 151, 152, 154(i), 201-205, 218-220, 254, 303(r), and 403, and 
Sec. Sec.  0.91, 0.201(d), 0.291, and 1.427 of the Commission's rules, 
47 CFR 0.91, 0.201(d), 0.291, 1.427, and pursuant to the delegations of 
authority in paragraphs 157, 184, 187, 192, 217 of the USF/ICC 
Transformation Order, document DA 12-1777 is adopted.
    2. Document DA 12-1777 shall be effective thirty (30) days after 
publication in the Federal Register, except for the requirements 
contained in paragraph 16 and Appendix A, which are subject to the PRA. 
These requirements include new or modified information collection 
requirements that require approval by OMB under the PRA, and shall 
become effective after the Commission publishes a document in the 
Federal Register announcing such approval and the relevant effective 
date(s).
    3. The Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, 
Reference Information Center, shall send a copy of document DA 12-1777, 
including the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief 
Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration.
    4. The Commission shall send a copy of document DA 12-1777 to 
Congress and the Government Accountability Office pursuant to the 
Congressional Review Act, see 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).

Federal Communications Commission.
Julie A. Veach,
Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau.

Appendix A--Specification for Study Area Boundary Submission

    1. General. Incumbent local exchange carriers (LECs) must submit 
study area and exchange boundaries. For the purposes of this 
collection, boundary does not refer to an architectural or 
engineering drawing, meets and bounds descriptions or other surveyed 
body of work. Boundary does refer to the general extent of the 
incumbent LEC's exchange which can be identified on a base map scale 
of 1:24,000. Boundaries must be submitted in esri compatible 
shapefile format such that each shapefile represents a single study 
area. The shapefile must contain one data record for each exchange 
that constitutes the study area. Each exchange should be represented 
as a closed, non-overlapping polygon with the associated feature 
attributes described below. Uploaded boundaries must be accompanied 
by metadata or a plain text ``readme'' file containing the 
information listed below. When submitting the study area boundaries, 
an officer of the LEC must certify under penalty of perjury that the 
information accurately portrays the LEC's study area to the best of 
his/her knowledge.
    2. Since shapefiles typically consist of 3 to 9 individual 
files, the shapefile for the study area should be submitted as a 
single, zipped file containing all the component files. The 
shapefile and encapsulating zip file names must contain the company 
name and the 6-digit study area code. Shapefile templates are 
available at http://transition.fcc.gov/wcb/iatd/neca.html.
    Note that submitted boundaries are public data and may be used 
in published FCC documents and Web pages.
    3. Shapefile. A shapefile template is available at http://transition.fcc.gov/wcb/iatd/neca.html. Submitted shapefiles must:
    A. Contain one closed, non-overlapping polygon for each exchange 
in the study area that represents the area served from that 
exchange.
    B. Have associated with each exchange polygon the following 
identifying feature attributes:
    1. OCN-NECA-assigned operating company number as in the LERG.
    2. Company Name.
    3. Exchange Name.
    4. Acquired Exchange subject to Sec.  54.305 of the Commission's 
rules.
    5. CLLI Code(s) associated with the exchange.
    6. Study Area Code.
    7. State.
    8. FRN (please use the FRN used for the 477 filing in the 
state).
    C. Have an assigned projection w/accompanying .prj file.
    D. Use unprojected (geographic) WGS84 geographic coordinate 
system.
    E. Have a minimum horizontal accuracy of +/- 40 feet or less, 
conforming to 1:24K national mapping standards.
    F. Be submitted as a WinZip archive with a name containing the 
company name and study area code (e.g., CompanyName--123456.zip).
    4. Cover Page Information. In addition to the shapefile data 
described above, the Bureau also will collect electronically the 
following information:
    A. Contact person name.
    B. Contact person address.
    C. Contact person phone number.
    D. Contact person email address.
    E. Date created/revised.
    F. Methodology--process steps to create the data.
    G. Certifying official name.
    H. Certifying official address.
    I. Certifying official phone number.
    J. Certifying official email address.

Federal Communications Commission.

Julie A.Veach,
Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau.

[FR Doc. 2013-00840 Filed 1-25-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P