[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 72 (Monday, April 15, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 22198-22201]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-08679]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 54

[WC Docket Nos. 10-90, 07-135, 05-337, 03-109; GN Docket No. 09-51; CC 
Docket Nos. 01-92, 96-45; WT Docket No. 10-208; DA 13-332]


Connect America Fund; A National Broadband Plan for Our Future; 
Establishing Just and Reasonable Rates for Local Exchange Carriers; 
High-Cost Universal Service Support; Developing a Unified Intercarrier 
Compensation Regime; Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service; 
Lifeline and Link-Up; Universal Service Reform--Mobility Fund

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: In this document, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) 
addresses a petition for clarification and reconsideration, or in the 
alternative waiver, filed by the United States Telecom Association and 
CTIA--The Wireless Association. The Bureau also clarifies and waives 
certain aspects of the reporting requirements adopted in the USF/ICC 
Transformation Order for eligible telecommunications carriers relating 
to five-year build-out plans and broadband network testing.

DATES:  Effective May 15, 2013, except for the amendments made to Sec.  
54.313(a) in this document, which contain information collection 
requirements that are not effective until approved by the Office of 
Management and Budget. The Federal Communications Commission will 
publish a document in the Federal Register announcing the effective 
date for that section.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alexander Minard, Wireline Competition 
Bureau, (202) 418-7400 or TTY: (202) 418-0484.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Order 
in WC Docket Nos. 10-90, 07-135, 05-337, 03-109; GN Docket No. 09-51; 
CC Docket Nos. 01-92, 96-45; WT Docket No. 10-208; DA 13-332, adopted 
on March 5, 2013 and released on March 5, 2013. 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. Or at the following Internet address: http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2013/db0305/DA-13-332A1.pdf.

[[Page 22199]]

I. Introduction

    1. In the Order, the Bureau addresses a petition for clarification 
and reconsideration, or in the alternative waiver, filed by the United 
States Telecom Association (USTelecom) and CTIA--The Wireless 
Association (CTIA) (collectively, Petitioners). The Bureau clarifies 
and waives certain aspects of the reporting requirements adopted in the 
USF/ICC Transformation Order, 76 FR 73830, November 29, 2011, for 
eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) relating to five-year 
build-out plans and broadband network testing. The Bureau also 
clarifies and revises Sec.  54.313(a) of the Commission's rules 
accordingly.
    2. In the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Commission adopted 
several reforms to harmonize and update annual ETC reporting 
requirements. The Commission extended reporting requirements for voice 
service to all ETCs and adopted new reporting requirements to reflect 
new broadband obligations. Shortly after the USF/ICC Transformation 
Order was released, USTelecom filed a Petition for Reconsideration 
seeking reconsideration of, among other things, various of these 
reporting requirements. Specifically, USTelecom argued that the new ETC 
reporting requirements implemented in the USF/ICC Transformation Order 
were unduly burdensome and unnecessary, that they should be applied 
prospectively, and that the effective date of the reporting obligations 
should be delayed. In the Third Reconsideration Order, 77 FR 30904, May 
24, 2012, the Commission granted in part and denied in part aspects of 
the USTelecom Petition for Reconsideration. The Commission granted 
USTelecom's request to revise the filing deadline for Sec.  54.313 
annual reports from April 1 to July 1. The Commission denied 
USTelecom's request to clarify that the Commission intended to preempt 
state reporting requirements pursuant to Sec.  54.313, and the 
Commission also denied USTelecom's request to exempt state-designated 
ETCs from the requirements in the USF/ICC Transformation Order. The 
Commission did not address other aspects of USTelecom's initial 
Petition for Reconsideration in the Third Reconsideration Order.

II. Discussion

    3. In the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Commission delegated to 
the Bureau the authority to revise and clarify rules as necessary to 
ensure that the reforms adopted in the USF/ICC Transformation Order are 
properly reflected in the rules. In this Order, the Bureau acts 
pursuant to this delegated authority to revise and clarify certain 
rules, and acts pursuant to authority delegated to the Bureau generally 
to clarify and waive certain rules relating to five-year plans and 
broadband performance testing.

A. Five-Year Build-Out Plans

    4. Discussion. First, the Bureau clarifies that competitive ETCs 
whose support is being phased down do not have to file new five-year 
plans. The Commission required ETCs to file new five-year plans to 
account for new broadband obligations in a manner consistent with Sec.  
54.202(a)(1)(ii). But the Commission also exempted from new broadband 
obligations those competitive ETCs whose support is being phased down. 
Because the five-year plans are intended to reflect new broadband 
obligations, those competitive ETCs do not have to file such plans.
    5. We underscore that competitive ETCs must continue to file annual 
updates on any five-year plan already filed with the Commission, and 
that competitive ETCs should comply with any other relevant state 
requirements, as stipulated in the Third Reconsideration Order. In the 
USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Commission found it ``necessary and 
appropriate'' to continue to receive annual reports from ETCs that have 
already filed five-year plans in order to ``ensure the continued 
availability of high-quality voice services.'' While competitive ETCs 
may have their support phased down, and aspects of their original five-
year plans may change because of the reduction in support, there is 
significant value in those ETCs continuing to file annual updates to 
their respective five-year plans. Indeed, it would be appropriate for 
those ETCs to reflect any adjustments to their original five-year plans 
in the annual updates. These annual updates will assist the Commission 
in monitoring the impact of its universal service reforms on 
competitive ETCs' provision of voice service, consistent with the 
requirements in the Third Reconsideration Order.
    6. Second, the Bureau waives the requirement that price cap 
recipients of frozen support or incremental support file five-year 
plans by July 1, 2013. The Bureau finds that it is in the public 
interest to grant a limited waiver, at this time, of this aspect of the 
2013 annual report for price cap recipients of frozen support or 
incremental support, so that carriers do not begin the process now of 
developing such plans without knowing which areas they will be serving 
in the future. Instead, price cap carriers that accept the offer of 
support will be required to file five-year plans in the 2014 annual 
report. When the Commission adopted the requirement that price cap ETCs 
file new five-year plans in 2013, it anticipated that the Bureau would 
adopt a forward-looking cost model by the end of 2012 for purposes of 
offering support to price cap carriers beginning January 1, 2013. In 
order for those carriers to develop a five-year plan, they first need 
to make the threshold decision of whether to make a state-level 
commitment. While the Bureau has made significant progress on the 
forward-looking cost model in recent months and expects to complete 
that work in the months ahead, until the cost model is adopted and 
incumbents have the opportunity to accept a state-level commitment, it 
does not serve the public interest to require the filing of five-year 
plans for this group of ETCs. The Bureau therefore grants a limited 
waiver from filing five-year plans to price cap recipients of frozen 
support or incremental support.
    7. Finally, the Bureau affirms that rate-of-return carriers must 
file five-year plans in 2013. Unlike price cap carriers that may 
potentially decline to make a state-wide commitment in Phase II and 
will lose support once an area is auctioned to another provider, the 
existing support mechanisms will continue to provide funding to rate-
of-return carriers. The filing of five-year plans by rate-of-return 
carriers this year will provide valuable information that will assist 
the Commission in monitoring the impact of its universal service 
reforms. In order to monitor progress towards achievement of the 
Commission's broadband objectives, it is important to develop a 
baseline understanding of the current state. The five-year plans should 
describe the carrier's network improvement plan, which should provide 
greater visibility into current plans to extend broadband service to 
unserved locations in rate-of-return service territories.
    8. The Commission adopted a more flexible approach for this group 
of ETCs, allowing them to provide broadband ``upon reasonable 
request.'' Rate-of-return carriers must certify that they are taking 
reasonable steps to offer broadband service in their service area, and 
that requests for broadband service are met within a reasonable amount 
of time. We encourage rate-of-return carriers to explain in their five-
year plans what criteria the carrier will use to determine whether a 
request for broadband is reasonable and how the carrier will decide 
which areas are

[[Page 22200]]

feasible to extend terrestrial broadband service to, and which areas 
are not feasible to serve with terrestrial technologies, given current 
funding levels.
    9. The Bureau does not expect a rate-of-return carrier to plan to 
build out terrestrial wireline broadband service to all locations 
within its study area. The Commission has recognized that there are 
some areas of the country where it is cost prohibitive to extend 
broadband using terrestrial wireline technology, and that in some areas 
satellite or fixed wireless technologies may be more cost-effective 
options to extend service. Indeed, we are aware anecdotally that rate-
of-return carriers today use a mix of technologies to serve their 
customers. For that reason, we expect rate-of-return carriers to 
develop plans that reflect the cost characteristics of their service 
territories and current funding levels, setting forth what sort of 
broadband service build-out is reasonable over the five-year time 
period.

B. Network Performance Testing and Reporting Requirements

    10. Discussion. First, the Bureau, pursuant to its delegated 
authority, revises Sec.  54.313(a)(11). The Bureau agrees with 
Petitioners that the wording of Sec.  54.313(a)(11) should be modified 
to more clearly reflect the USF/ICC Transformation Order. Therefore, we 
delete the final phrase from Sec.  54.313(a)(11), ``and the information 
and data required by this paragraphs (a)(1) through (7) of this section 
separately broken out for both voice and broadband service.'' 
Consequently, revised Sec.  54.313(a)(11) will state: ``The results of 
network performance tests pursuant to the methodology and in the format 
determined by the Wireline Competition Bureau, Wireless 
Telecommunications Bureau, and Office of Engineering and Technology.'' 
We move the deleted phrase to paragraph (a) in Sec.  54.313, which will 
now state: ``(a) Any recipient of high-cost support shall provide the 
following, with the information and data required by paragraphs (a)(1) 
through (7) of this section separately broken out for both voice 
service and broadband service.'' As the Commission stated in the USF/
ICC Transformation Order, collecting this information from ETCs 
``ensure[s] the continued availability of high-quality voice services 
and monitor[s] progress in achieving our broadband goals.''
    11. Second, the Bureau clarifies that Sec.  54.313(a)(11), as 
revised, does not apply to competitive ETCs whose support is being 
phased down, consistent with the language in the USF/ICC Transformation 
Order. The Commission stated that ``[c]ompetitive ETCs whose support is 
being phased down will not be required to submit any of the new 
information or certifications * * * related solely to the new broadband 
public interest obligations.''
    12. Finally, the Bureau clarifies that no ETCs will be required to 
begin testing the performance of their broadband networks until after 
the Bureaus, pursuant to the Commission's direction, have specified the 
format and methodology for such testing, and PRA approval for this data 
collection has been obtained. Because this has not yet occurred, no 
ETCs will be required to file network performance results with their 
2013 annual reports.
    13. We decline at this time to address Petitioners' argument that 
the Commission should not impose any broadband data reporting 
requirements under Sec.  54.313(a)(11) on ETCs that are receiving CAF I 
incremental support or frozen high-cost support. The Bureau will be in 
a better position to assess the merits of that argument once it has 
taken further action to define the scope of the requirement.

III. Procedural Matters

A. Paperwork Reduction Act

    14. Although this document clarifies several existing information 
collection requirements, it does not contain new or modified 
information collection requirements subject to the PRA. In addition, 
therefore, it does not contain any new or modified information 
collection burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25 
employees, pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, 
Public Law 107-198.

B. Final Regulatory Flexibility Certification

    15. The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended (RFA), 
requires that a regulatory flexibility analysis be prepared for 
rulemaking proceedings, unless the agency certifies that ``the rule 
will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities.'' The RFA generally defines ``small entity'' as having 
the same meaning as the terms ``small business,'' ``small 
organization,'' and ``small governmental jurisdiction.'' In addition, 
the term ``small business'' has the same meaning as the term ``small 
business concern'' under the Small Business Act. A small business 
concern is one which: (1) Is independently owned and operated; (2) is 
not dominant in its field of operation; and (3) satisfies any 
additional criteria established by the Small Business Administration 
(SBA).
    16. This Order clarifies, but does not otherwise modify, the USF/
ICC Transformation Order. These clarifications do not create any 
burdens, benefits, or requirements that were not addressed by the Final 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis attached to USF/ICC Transformation 
Order. Therefore, we certify that the requirements of this Order will 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The Commission will send a copy of the Order, including a 
copy of this final certification, in a report to Congress pursuant to 
the SBREFA. In addition, the Order and this certification will be sent 
to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, 
and will be published in the Federal Register.

C. Congressional Review Act

    17. The Commission will send a copy of this Order to Congress and 
the Government Accountability Office pursuant to the Congressional 
Review Act.

IV. Ordering Clauses

    18. Accordingly, it is ordered, pursuant to the authority contained 
in sections 1, 2, 4(i), 201-206, 214, 218-220, 251, 252, 254, 256, 
303(r), 332, and 403 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and 
section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 151, 152, 
154(i), 201-206, 214, 218-220, 251, 252, 254, 256, 303(r), 332, 403, 
1302, pursuant to Sec. Sec.  0.91, 0.201(d), 0.291, 1.3, and 1.427 of 
the Commission's rules, 47 CFR 0.91, 0.201(d), 0.291, 1.3, 1.427 and 
pursuant to the delegation of authority in paragraph 1404 of FCC 11-
161, that this Order is adopted, effective May 15, 2013, except for the 
amendments made to Sec.  54.313(a) in this document, which contain 
information collection requirements that are not effective until 
approved by the Office of Management and Budget. The Federal 
Communications Commission will publish a document in the Federal 
Register announcing the effective date for that section.
    19. It is further ordered that, pursuant to the authority contained 
in Sec. Sec.  0.91, 0.201(d), 0.291, 1.3, 1.427 of the Commission's 
rules, 47 CFR 0.91, 0.201(d), 0.291, 1.3, 1.427 and pursuant to the 
delegations of authority in paragraphs 584 and 1404 of FCC 11-161, the 
petition for clarification and reconsideration or, in the alternative, 
for waiver, of CTIA--The Wireless Association and the United States

[[Page 22201]]

Telecom Association, IS granted in part, to the extent described 
herein, and denied in part, to the extent described herein.
    It is further ordered that part 54 of the Commission's rules, 47 
CFR part 54, is amended as set forth in the Appendix, and such rule 
amendment shall be effective May 15, 2013, except for the amendments 
made to Sec.  54.313(a) in this document, which contain information 
collection requirements that are not effective until approved by the 
Office of Management and Budget. The Federal Communications Commission 
will publish a document in the Federal Register announcing the 
effective date for that section.

List of Subjects in 47 CFR Part 54

    Communications common carriers, Reporting and record keeping 
requirements, Telecommunications, Telephone.

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

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal 
Communications Commission amends 47 CFR part 54 as follows:

PART 54--UNIVERSAL SERVICE

0
1. The authority citation for part 54 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i), 201, 205, 214, 219, 220, 254, 
303(r), 403, and 1302 unless otherwise noted.

Subpart D--Universal Service Support for High Cost Areas

0
2. Amend Sec.  54.313 by revising paragraph (a) introductory text and 
paragraph (a)(11) to read as follows:


Sec.  54.313  Annual reporting requirements for high-cost recipients.

    (a) Any recipient of high-cost support shall provide the following, 
with the information and data required by paragraphs (a)(1) through (7) 
of this section separately broken out for both voice service and 
broadband service:
* * * * *
    (11) Beginning July 1, 2013. The results of network performance 
tests pursuant to the methodology and in the format determined by the 
Wireline Competition Bureau, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and 
Office of Engineering and Technology.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2013-08679 Filed 4-12-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P