[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 40 (Friday, February 28, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 11366-11373]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-04312]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Part 54

[GN Docket No. 13-5; WC Docket Nos. 10-90, 13-97, FCC 14-5]


Technology Transitions; Connect America Fund; Numbering Policies 
for Modern Communications

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: In this document, the Federal Communications Commission 
(Commission) seeks comment on a number of discrete issues relating to 
the rural broadband experiments and on the appropriate budget and 
funding to support initiatives for the ongoing need for research into 
the future of telephone numbering. The purpose of these experiments is 
to speed market-driven technological transitions and innovations by 
preserving the core statutory vales that exist today.

DATES: Comments are due on or before March 31, 2014 and reply comments 
are due on or before April 14, 2014. If you anticipate that you will be 
submitting comments, but find it difficult to do so within the period 
of time allowed by this document, you should advise the contact listed 
below as soon as possible.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by either WC Docket No. 
10-90 or WC Docket No. 13-97, by any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Federal Communications Commission's Web site: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/;. Follow the instructions for submitting 
comments.
     People with Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request 
reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language 
interpreters, CART, etc.) by email: FCC504@fcc.gov or phone: (202) 418-
0530 or TTY: (202) 418-0432.
    For detailed instructions for submitting comments and additional 
information on the rulemaking process, see the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Alexander Minard, Wireline Competition 
Bureau, (202) 418-0428 or TTY: (202) 418-0484 for WC Docket No. 10-90, 
Robert Cannon, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, (202) 
418-2421 for WC Docket No. 13-97.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a synopsis of the Commission's 
Further Notice of Proposed Rulemakings (FNPRM's) in WC Docket Nos. 10-
90; 13-97 FCC 14-5, adopted on January 30, 2014 and released on January 
31, 2014. 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://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-5A1.pdf.
    Pursuant to Sec. Sec.  1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's rules, 
47 CFR 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments and reply 
comments on or before the dates indicated on the first page of this 
document. Comments may be filed using the Commission's Electronic 
Comment Filing System (ECFS). See Electronic Filing of Documents in 
Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121, May 1, 1998.
    [ssquf] Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically 
using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.
    [ssquf] Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file 
an original and one copy of each filing. If more than one docket or 
rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers 
must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or 
rulemaking number. Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, 
by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. 
Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's 
Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
    [ssquf] All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for 
the Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 
12th St. SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours are 
8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries must be held together with 
rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be disposed of 
before entering the building.
    [ssquf] Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton 
Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
    [ssquf] U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail 
must be addressed to 445 12th Street SW., Washington DC 20554.
    People with Disabilities: To request materials in accessible 
formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic 
files, audio format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the 
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-
418-0432 (tty).

I. Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (WC Docket No. 10-90)

    1. In the Technology Transitions Order and Further Notice of 
Proposed Rulemaking (Order), adopted concurrently with these FNPRM's, 
the Commission kick started the process for a diverse set of 
experiments and data collection initiatives that will allow the 
Commission and the public to evaluate how customers are affected by the 
historic technology transitions that are transforming our nation's 
voice communications services--from a network based on time-division 
multiplexed (TDM) circuit-switched voice services running on copper 
loops to an all-Internet Protocol (IP) network using copper, co-axial 
cable, wireless, and fiber as physical infrastructure. In this FNPRM, 
the Commission seeks comment on a number of discrete issues relating to 
rural broadband experiments. The final rules that were adopted 
concurrently with these FNPRM's are published elsewhere in this issue 
of the Federal Register.

A. Budget for Rural Broadband Experiments

    2. The Commission intends to provide funding for experiments to 
extend modern networks in rural, high-cost areas without increasing the 
overall size of the universal service fund. The USF/ICC Transformation 
Order, 76 FR 73830, November 29, 2011, directed Universal Service 
Administrative Company (USAC) to collect $4.5 billion annually for the 
Connect America Fund, and, to the extent disbursements in a given year 
are less than collections, deposit the excess in a broadband reserve 
account. Because annual disbursements have been less than $4.5 billion 
to date, and funds have accumulated in the reserve account, a limited 
amount of funding could be awarded for experiments in 2014 from the 
reserve account without exceeding the overall $4.5 billion annual 
budget for the Connect America Fund. The Commission proposes that a 
limited amount of these unallocated funds be made available for 
experiments in any part of the country, whether served by an incumbent 
price cap carrier or rate-of-return carrier. Utilizing these 
unallocated funds for rural

[[Page 11367]]

experiments could serve multiple objectives: First, it would enable us 
to better design the final competitive bidding process that will be 
used nationwide to award support in price cap territories to the extent 
the price cap carrier declines to make a state-level commitment; 
second, it would enable the Commission to provide funding for 
technology experiments across the country (not limited to areas where 
the incumbent provider is a price cap carrier), which will help inform 
future decisions regarding implementation of the Connect America Fund 
in areas where the incumbent is a rate-of-return carrier; and third, it 
would help the Commission identify ways to use the various universal 
service programs together to attack in a coordinated fashion the 
challenges of universal access in rural America. The Commission seeks 
comment on this proposal.
    3. According to USAC, the Connect America reserve account is 
projected to have an ending balance of $1.68 billion as of the first 
quarter of 2014, with $1.45 billion of those funds already allocated to 
Connect America Phase I (incremental support in round one and round 
two), the Mobility Fund Phase I, the Tribal Mobility Fund Phase I, and 
the Mobility Fund Phase II. The Commission does not envision using all 
unallocated funds in the broadband reserve for experiments in rural 
areas, but rather an amount that is sufficient to enable us to award 
funding to a limited number of projects that enable evaluation of the 
four sets of interrelated questions identified above. Should the 
Commission make available $50 or $100 million or some other amount in 
total support for experiments? Should the Commission allocate a lesser 
or greater amount? Should the Commission specifically allocate a 
separate amount for non-recurring support to be awarded on a 
competitive basis, in addition to recurring support, or merely a total 
amount that can used in a variety of ways, depending on the 
applications received? Should the Commission allocate a portion of the 
funds for Phase II experiments in price cap areas, and a separate 
amount for areas outside of price cap territories?

B. Experiments in Areas Where the Incumbent Is a Rate-of-Return Carrier

    4. In the Order, the Commission concluded that it should entertain 
proposals to extend next generation networks in areas where the 
incumbent provider is a rate-of-return carrier. The Commission did so 
with the intention to use experiments as a vehicle to consider how it 
might develop a longer term Connect America mechanism that would be 
appropriately designed to ensure that consumers, businesses, and anchor 
institutions in rate-of-return areas have access to innovative services 
delivered over high-capacity networks.
    5. The Commission remains firmly committed to the goal of ensuring 
that universal service support is utilized efficiently to preserve 
voice and extend broadband-capable networks in high-cost areas in rural 
America. As discussed in the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the 
Commission has taken steps to reform the universal service mechanisms 
that support rate-of-return carriers ``to address the misaligned 
incentives'' of the previous regime ``by correcting program design 
flaws, extending successful safeguards, ensuring basic fiscal 
responsibility, and closing loopholes to ensure our rules reward only 
prudent and efficient investment in modern networks.'' While the 
Commission continues to evaluate various proposals in the docket, the 
Commission intends for rural broadband experiments in rate-of-return 
areas to provide us with valuable data that will help ensure that funds 
are disbursed efficiently and in the public interest in areas served by 
incumbent rate-of-return carriers.
    6. The Commission proposes generally to apply the same application 
process and procedures adopted in the Order for the Connect America 
Phase II experiment to the experiments in rate-of-return areas, 
recognizing that it may be appropriate to adopt an implementation 
schedule different than that used in price cap territories. In 
particular, the Commission proposes to use a two-stage application 
process for applications from entities wishing to participate in 
experiments to extend next generation networks in areas where the 
incumbent is a rate-of-return carrier. NTCA suggests that the 
Commission should provide incumbent rate-of-return carriers an initial 
window to submit applications for the experiment, in advance of 
soliciting applications from other parties, and also should allow the 
rate-of-return carrier to undertake the same deployment proposed by a 
non-incumbent for the same or a lesser amount of support. The 
Commission seeks comment on these proposals. If the Commission was to 
adopt such a framework, how much time should be provided for the 
incumbent to indicate that it is willing to deploy broadband to the 
same geographic area for the same or a lesser amount of support as 
proposed by a non-incumbent applicant? Should the Commission provide an 
opportunity, in turn, for the original applicant (the non-incumbent) to 
modify its proposal? Would the additional time and complexity of 
implementing such a process to make final and best offers be unwieldy 
in what is intended to be a short-term experiment in 2014?
    7. Consistent with the approach adopted for experiments in price 
cap territories and previously implemented by the Commission for the 
second round of Connect America Phase I, the Commission proposes that 
experimental funding would only be made only for locations in high-cost 
census blocks lacking broadband, subject to a challenge process. The 
Commission does not intend such experiments to threaten the financial 
viability of broadband networks that exist today through support from 
our existing high-cost mechanisms. Without prejudging where the funding 
threshold will ultimately be set for purposes of the offer of model-
based support to price cap carriers, we encourage entities interested 
in proposing experiments in rate-of-return areas to focus their 
proposals on high-cost areas similar to those identified in the cost 
model as potentially eligible for the Phase II offer of model-based 
support to price cap carriers. The Commission recognizes that 
representatives of rate-of-return carriers have argued that adjustments 
would need to be made to the cost model before it could be used on a 
voluntary basis for any rate-of-return carrier that wished to elect to 
receive model-based support. Without prejudging the resolution of that 
question, could the model nonetheless be employed to identify potential 
areas where experiments in rate-of-return areas might be useful?
    8. The Commission proposes to allow proposals in areas where the 
incumbent is a rate-of-return carrier to be made at the census block 
level in lieu of the census tract level in recognition that smaller 
providers may wish to develop proposals for smaller geographic areas.
    9. The Commission seeks comment on all of these proposals. To the 
extent parties argue, the Commission should take a different approach 
in rate-of-return areas, they should identify with specificity what 
aspects of the experiments adopted for price cap areas should be 
modified and why.

C. Selective Criteria for Rural Broadband Experiments

    10. A key objective in conducting these experiments is to determine 
whether there is interest in deploying robust, scalable networks for an 
amount equal to or less than model-based support. Here, the Commission 
seeks

[[Page 11368]]

comment on the selective criteria for those experiments.
    11. The Commission seeks comment below on potential selective 
factors and ask commenters to address how the Commission might 
implement these selective factors as part of its objective process for 
selecting experiments. For example, should the Commission adopt a 100 
point scale? The Commission also seeks comment more generally on 
whether any selective factors should be added, deleted or modified.
    12. The Commission proposes that cost effectiveness should be the 
primary criteria in evaluating which applications to select for the 
experiment. How should the Commission measure cost effectiveness? One 
potential measure of cost effectiveness is whether the applicant 
proposes to serve an area for an amount less than model-based support. 
Are there other objective measures for cost-effectiveness that the 
Commission should test in the experimental setting? If the Commission 
were to adopt such a selective factor and a scoring system, how many 
points should be provided to applicants based on the cost effectiveness 
of their proposal? To the extent an applicant seeks one-time funding as 
opposed to recurring support, how should that be evaluated in the 
scoring system, as support amounts determined in the forward looking 
cost model are recurring amounts?
    13. A second potential selective criteria is the extent to which 
the applicant proposes to build robust, scalable networks. In the USF/
ICC Transformation Order, the Commission indicated it would initiate a 
proceeding in 2014 to review the performance requirements in order to 
ensure that Connect America continues to support broadband that is 
reasonably comparable to broadband services in urban areas. The 
Commission hopes to gather valuable data in the rural broadband 
experiments regarding the extent of interest among stakeholders in 
building robust, scalable networks that will meet Commission goals for 
an evolving level of universal service. The Commission adopted an 
``initial minimum speed benchmark'' for recipients of Connect America 
of 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream, but it also specified that some 
number of locations would receive at least 6 Mbps downstream and at 
least 1.5 Mbps upstream by the end of the five-year term of Phase II. 
If the Commission were to adopt such a selective criteria, how much 
weight should be given to applicants that propose to offer services 
more robust than what the Commission established for price cap carriers 
accepting model-based support? Should the Commission assign varying 
weights based on the percentage of locations in the proposed project 
areas that would receive services of varying speeds? Should the 
Commission also assign additional weight for applicants that propose to 
offer service with unlimited usage or usage allowances significantly 
higher than established for the price cap carriers that accept model-
based support? Should additional weight be assigned to applicants that 
commit to offering at least 100 Mbps service to schools with 1,000 
students or more, with the ability to scale that to 1 gigabit service 
within several years, and comparable services to libraries?
    14. A third potential criteria could be the extent to which 
applicants propose innovative strategies to leverage non-Federal 
governmental sources of funding, such as State, local, or Tribal 
government funding. The Commission recognizes the importance of a 
State, local or Tribal government commitment to advance universal 
service in partnership with the Commission. If the Commission were to 
adopt this criteria, how much weight should be given to applications 
that leverage non-Federal governmental funding sources?
    15. A fourth potential criteria could be whether applicants propose 
to offer high-capacity connectivity to Tribal lands. If the Commission 
were to adopt this criteria, how much weight should be given to 
applications that propose to serve Tribal lands?
    16. Finally, the Commission seeks more specific comment on how the 
mechanics of the scoring system would function. What role, if any, 
should there be for more subjective evaluations of the financial and 
technical qualifications of applicants, or of which proposals provide 
the best value for requested funding? For instance, should there be 
flexibility to deviate from the scoring system in order to achieve 
diversity of projects, both in terms of geography and types of 
technologies?
    17. Relatedly, the Commission seeks comment on what information may 
be useful to include in the formal proposals for rural broadband 
experiments, such as: The number of proposed residential and small 
business locations to be served within eligible census blocks in the 
relevant census tract; the number of health care providers, schools and 
libraries that are physically located within the eligible census 
blocks; whether the proposal includes the provision of service on 
Tribal lands and, if so, identification of the Tribal lands to be 
served; the planned service offerings that would be offered to 
residential and small businesses, and such anchor institutions, with 
details regarding the proposed speeds, latencies, usage allowance (if 
any), and pricing of such offerings; whether the services offered to 
residential consumers would be sufficiently robust to utilize advanced 
educational and health care applications; when such services would be 
available to consumers, businesses and such anchor institutions (the 
planned deployment schedule); whether the infrastructure can be 
upgraded later to offer greater throughput (i.e., speeds) and more 
capacity for each user at a given price point; how network speeds and 
other characteristics can be measured; whether any discounted services 
would be offered to specific populations, such as low-income households 
or customers on Tribal lands; proposed strategies for demand 
aggregation; proposed strategies for addressing barriers to adoption 
(e.g., whether the applicant proposes to offer digital literacy 
training or equipment to subscribers); whether and how other service 
providers can use the facilities constructed; availability and cost of 
backhaul and other assets required for project success; whether 
constraints in middle-mile connectivity may limit the services offered; 
whether the applicant plans to rely in part on financing from non-
federal governmental institutions (e.g., State, regional, Tribal, or 
local funding; State universal service fund; private foundations); 
whether the applicant expects to have access to resources that will 
contribute to project success, such as in-kind contributions, access to 
cell towers, poles and rights of way, expedited permitting, or existing 
authorizations; information regarding the proposed network to be 
deployed and the technologies to be utilized (e.g., wireline, fixed 
wireless, or mobile wireless); how the applicant proposes to offer 
voice telephony service to customers at rates reasonably comparable to 
rates charged for similar services in urban areas; and the amount of 
Connect America support requested (total and per location) and the time 
period over which funding would be provided.

D. Additional Considerations for Rural Broadband Experiments

    18. In the Order, the Commission makes clear that the experiments 
will focus on areas where end users lack Internet access that delivers 
3 Mbps downstream/768 kbps Mbps upstream. Here, the Commission seeks 
comment on specific measures to implement that objective. What specific 
numerical measure should be used to determine whether the extent of 
competitive

[[Page 11369]]

overlap is de minimis? The Commission recognizes that unserved 
locations will not neatly align with census block or census tract 
boundaries. What measures should the Commission take to ensure that 
federal funds are focused on bringing next generation networks to the 
unserved?
    19. The Commission expects that the amount of funding to be made 
available for any experiment will not exceed the amount of model-
calculated support for a given geographic area. The Commission seeks 
comment on whether to limit the amount of support available in census 
tracts where the average cost per location is higher than the 
preliminary extremely high cost threshold to the amount per location 
equal to that preliminary extremely high cost threshold.
    20. The Commission seeks comment on allowing applicants for funding 
awarded through this rural broadband experiment to propose to serve 
partially-served census blocks, which are not eligible for the offer of 
model-based support to price cap carriers. In adopting a framework for 
the Phase II challenge process, the Wireline Competition Bureau 
(Bureau) concluded, primarily for administrative reasons, that 
partially served blocks would not be included in the offer of model-
based support, reasoning that the administrative burdens on both 
Commission staff and potential challenges of conducting sub-census 
block challenges outweighed the marginal benefits. That was a 
reasonable approach for determining whether the incumbent would receive 
the opportunity to receive model-based support in exchange for a state-
level commitment, given the assumption that areas not served by price 
cap carriers through the offer of model-based support potentially could 
be eligible for support through the Phase II competitive bidding 
process. The Commission believes it could be valuable to examine on a 
limited scale, in the Phase II experiment, whether the administrative 
difficulties of entertaining challenges to the eligibility of partially 
served census blocks could be mitigated by doing such challenges only 
if a partially served census block is tentatively awarded funding 
(rather than in advance of selection). Such an approach could advance 
the Commission's goal of ensuring that all consumers, businesses and 
anchor institutions--including those that currently lack service in 
these partially served census blocks--will have an opportunity to gain 
broadband access in the future.
    21. The Commission seeks comment on any additional rules or 
requirements it should adopt in the context of rural broadband 
experiments. For instance, should a condition of participation be 
offering discounted broadband services to low-income consumers? For 
applicants whose service areas include Tribal lands, should a condition 
of participation be offering service to residents and anchor 
institutions on Tribal lands? Should a condition of participation be to 
offer to connect community-based institutions, such as schools, 
libraries, and health care providers, within the project area with 
high-capacity services appropriate for educational or healthcare 
activities? To the extent an applicant fails to meet the conditions of 
its experiment, should facilities built using universal service funding 
be made available to others? The Commission asks commenters to refresh 
the record on issues relating to the Eligible Telecommunications 
Carriers (ETC) designation process. Should the Commission adopt federal 
rules regarding the ETC designation process specifically for the rural 
broadband experiments? For instance, should the Commission adopt a 
presumption that if a State fails to act on an ETC application from a 
selected participant within a specified period of time, such as 60 
days, the State lacks jurisdiction over the applicant, and the 
Commission will address the ETC application pursuant to section 
214(e)(6)? The Commission also seeks comment on whether and how the 
competitive bidding requirements and other rules applicable to 
participants and vendors in other universal service programs should 
apply in the context of these experiments, to the extent an applicant 
seeks to offer services to schools, libraries, and/or health care 
providers, as well as to residential end users. Are there other issues 
discussed above in the service experiments section that should be 
addressed in the context of these experiments in rural, high-cost 
areas, and if so, how?
    22. To the extent Connect America Phase II funding is awarded in 
the experiment prior to the offer of model-based support to price cap 
carriers, should the Commission direct the Bureau to adjust the offer 
of support for a state-level commitment to remove those areas from the 
offer? In such situations, should the incumbent price cap carrier be 
relieved of its federal ETC high-cost obligations for the area when 
support is awarded to another entity? The Commission notes that the 
carrier would still be required to comply with current notice 
requirements, including notice of discontinuance and notice of network 
change requirements. Similarly, should areas served by experiments be 
excluded from the Phase II competitive bidding process? How does the 
potential difference in duration, or other aspects, of proposals 
selected for the experiment impact any decision to exclude such areas 
from the general Phase II competitive bidding process?

E. Rural Healthcare Broadband Experiments

    23. In this section, the Commission seeks comment on soliciting 
experiments that focus on ensuring that consumers have access to 
advanced services to address the increased and growing demand for 
telemedicine and remote monitoring. The Commission has a role in 
ensuring universal access to advanced telecommunications and 
information services. Historically, the Commission's high-cost program 
has focused on providing support to providers for the cost of deploying 
and operating networks in high-cost areas. In the Order, the Commission 
invites experiments that would explore how to achieve the goals and 
requirements adopted in the USF/ICC Transformation Order to use the 
Connect America Fund to tackle the challenges of universal access in 
rural areas. Here, the Commission seeks comment more broadly on 
consumer-oriented rural broadband experiments that would improve 
patient access to health care.
    24. When the Commission adopted the Healthcare Connect Fund in 
2012, it sought to advance several goals for the rural healthcare 
program: (1) Increasing access to broadband for health care providers 
(HCPs), particularly those serving rural areas; (2) fostering the 
development and deployment of broadband health care networks, and (3) 
maximizing the cost-effectiveness of the program. It also set aside up 
to $50 million to conduct a pilot program to test expanded access to 
telemedicine at skilled nursing facilities. The Commission seeks 
comment on experiments that focus on the implications of the technology 
transition on health care facilities and their patients. The Commission 
seeks comment on conducting experiments that would explore how to 
improve access to advanced telecommunications and information services 
for healthcare for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and 
veterans in rural, high-cost, and insular areas. For example, 
technological advances hold great promise to enable the elderly to age 
in place, in their home, with remote monitoring of key health 
statistics

[[Page 11370]]

through a broadband-enabled device. Likewise, the Department of Veteran 
Affairs has implemented a telehealth initiative which has reduced the 
number of days spent in the hospital by 59 percent, and hospital 
admissions by 35 percent for veterans across the country, saving over 
$2000 per year per patient, including even when factoring in the costs 
of the program. These programs are critical to achieving savings in 
healthcare costs, and reducing the amount of time patients are away 
from home, but a critical gap remains in ensuring that patients, such 
as the elderly and veterans, have access to sufficient connectivity at 
home to transmit the necessary data for telemedicine applications such 
as remote health care monitoring, to enable patients to access the 
health care provider's patient portal, and for other broadband-enabled 
health care applications.
    25. Consistent with the decision in the USF/ICC Transformation 
Order to connect all areas, including homes, businesses and anchor 
institutions--which the Commission defined as schools, libraries, 
medical and healthcare providers, public safety entities, community 
colleges and other institutions of higher education, and other 
community support organizations and agencies that provide outreach, 
access, equipment, and support services to facilitate greater use of 
broadband service by vulnerable populations, including low-income, the 
unemployed, and the aged--the Commission seeks comment on conducting an 
experiment to support broadband connections to the consumer for 
discrete rural populations, such as the elderly or veterans, to enable 
their participation in telehealth initiatives. One example would be a 
project that seeks to explore how the Connect America Fund can be 
targeted to work with other federal initiatives to serve the needs of 
particular populations, such as ensuring adequate health care for 
veterans in rural America. Another example would be a project that 
seeks to explore how to use the Connect America Fund to extend 
broadband to surrounding rural communities that lack residential 
broadband service.
    26. The Commission seeks comment on the amount of funding it should 
allocate for such experiments. If the Commission moves forward with 
rural healthcare broadband experiments, it proposes to do so in a 
manner that would not impact the size of the Fund. Specifically, the 
Commission proposes funding any such experiments out of the $50 million 
currently authorized for the skilled nursing facility pilot program. 
The Commission has previously decided to set aside that amount of one-
time support for testing broadband use in telemedicine. The Commission 
seeks comment on this proposal and other options that would not impact 
the size of the Fund, such as funding coming from the existing Connect 
America Fund budget or the rural health care mechanism.
    27. The Commission proposes generally to use the application 
process described above for the Connect America rural broadband 
experiments for any healthcare experiments. To the extent parties 
suggest the Commission use different processes for a healthcare 
experiment, they should identify with specificity which aspects of the 
process should be modified and why.
    28. The Commission seeks comment on the specific selective criteria 
for a healthcare broadband experiment. How many projects should be 
funded, and how should applications be prioritized? What auditing and 
recordkeeping measures should be in place for any such experiment to 
protect against waste, fraud and abuse? Are there specific ways in 
which the Commission's experience with the successful Rural Health Care 
Pilot Program or other universal service pilot programs which should be 
reflected in the evaluation of proposals or the operation of the 
experiments? Are there requirements under the existing rural health 
care mechanism (either the Telecommunications Program or the new 
Healthcare Connect Fund), or other universal service programs, that 
would be implicated by such experiments? If so, commenters should 
identify those rules with specificity and indicate how experiments 
would need to be tailored to such rules, or explain whether and how 
those rules should be waived or modified.
    29. Finally, the Commission seeks comment on how these experiments 
might be implemented consistent with our legal authority. Following the 
Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Commission implemented the 
directives in section 254 by adopting rules to administer universal 
service through four separate programs, but nothing in the statutory 
framework requires this result. Sections 254(b)(2) and 254(b)(3) 
require the Commission to ``base policies on the preservation and 
advancement of universal service'' on ``principles'' that ``[a]ccess to 
advanced telecommunications and information services should be provided 
in all regions of the Nation'' and that ``[c]onsumers in all regions of 
the Nation, including low-income consumers and those in rural, insular, 
and high cost areas should have access to . . . advanced 
telecommunications and information services . . . that are reasonably 
comparable to services provided in urban areas.'' Section 254(h)(1) 
contains specific provisions for ``health care providers in rural 
areas'' and section 254(h)(2) requires the Commission ``to establish 
competitively neutral rules to enhance . . . access to advanced 
telecommunications services and information services for all . . . 
health care providers.'' The Commission seeks comment on the 
Commission's legal authority to interpret section 254 to fund 
experiments that focus on providing advanced telecommunications and 
information services to consumers in rural areas, with a particular 
focus deploying broadband that is sufficient to meet consumers' 
healthcare needs. The Commission also seeks comment on experiments that 
would provide support to health care providers.

II. Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regarding Numbering Research 
(WC Docket No. 13-97)

A. Research and Development of a Numbering Testbed

    30. In the Order, the Commission delegates to the Chief Technology 
Officer (CTO) (or, in the absence of a CTO, the Chief of the Office of 
Engineering and Technology (OET), or the OET Chief's designee) in 
consultation with the Chiefs of the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), 
OET and Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis (OSP), the 
authority to facilitate the development of a telephony numbering 
testbed for collaborative, multi-stakeholder research and exploration 
of technical options and opportunities for telephone numbering in an 
all-IP network. The numbering testbed is intended to be a proof of 
concept. Developing ideas in a testbed avoids disrupting current 
systems and would allow interested parties to work through technical 
feasibility constraints to allow for the broadest range of policy 
options and outcomes. The testbed could facilitate the development of a 
future telephone numbering system by exploring what options are 
feasible without undue encumbrance by legacy notions and systems. 
Informed by the research, the Commission would be in a better position 
to consider what steps may be necessary to facilitate the technology 
transitions and make informed decisions toward the creation of a next 
generation, efficient, secure and flexible number management system, 
while

[[Page 11371]]

maintaining backward compatibility to the extent possible.
    31. In the Order, the Commission sets out its intent to facilitate 
cooperative research and development into a numbering testbed that 
builds upon the work of multiple technical bodies and experts to 
explore issues of number management in a post-transition world. The 
Commission describes the general purposes of a numbering testbed and 
direct the CTO to host an initial workshop, open to all technical 
experts, at which outside experts, advisory groups, standards 
organizations and other stakeholders who wish to participate can work 
collaboratively to design and launch a numbering testbed. The 
Commission also seeks comment in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking below 
on the funding and budget for the testbed and other numbering research 
initiatives.
    32. Much work has already been done by the Commission and multiple 
expert bodies to identify issues and concerns with regards to the 
future of telephone numbering. The Commission would expect that any 
testbed launched after the initial workshop would build upon these 
efforts.
    33. In response to the May 10, 2013 Public Notice seeking comment 
on potential trials to explore technology transitions issues, the 
Commission received several comments concerning numbering. Numerous 
parties noted the need for numbering research, testing and trials. 
Commenters stated that a trial is needed to explore the changing role 
of the databases in an all-IP network, and recommended that any trial 
should be open to carriers, Voice over IP (VoIP) providers, database 
administrators, and others with an interest in numbering. In Charge 
Systems noted the need to identify and validate customers and telephone 
numbers. Neustar noted the decoupling of geography from telephone 
number assignments as well as the potential elimination of telephone 
number allocation on a rate center basis. NARUC commented on the need 
to consider numbering resource utilization and optimization.
    34. Building upon the work and recommendations of these expert 
bodies, the Commission directs that it work collaboratively with 
government and non-government experts towards basic research into the 
design and development of a prototype post-transition number management 
system as described below. The Commission believes that the Commission, 
in cooperation with other experts, can play an important, beneficial 
and industry-neutral role in accelerating the development of this pre-
market, non-production system.
1. Developing the Testbed
    35. The testbed goals would be to enable research into numbering in 
an all-IP network, unencumbered by the constraints of the legacy 
network. Such a testbed might address number allocation and management 
as well as database lookup for call routing. The effort could include 
two facets: (i) A small, non-production server system for prototyping, 
and (ii) one or more workshops or electronic fora to convene an open, 
cross-industry, and collaborative group of technical experts, 
including, in particular, software engineers with implementation 
experience, to sketch and prototype a system for managing numbering 
resources and obtaining information about these resources. Any testbed 
should be designed to result in experiences and output that will inform 
the work of relevant industry standards bodies, Commission advisory 
bodies and the Commission, using the Internet principles of ``rough 
consensus and running code.''
    36. The Testbed. As a small, non-production server system, the 
testbed itself would be an engineering sandbox designed by technical 
experts in which to explore the future of numbering in a pre-standards, 
non-operational, and non-production environment. The Commission 
anticipates that the testbed numbering system would use common industry 
approaches, such as HTTP XML or RESTful APIs and JSON, supporting 
operations such as allocating a number ``just in time'' or in a block 
from the available pools of numbers; track to whom the number has been 
allocated (either a traditional carrier, a VoIP provider or, for 800 
numbers, a Responsible Organization (the entity chosen by a toll-free 
subscriber to manage and administer the appropriate records in the toll 
free Service Management System for the toll free subscriber) or end 
user); create credentials for end users and carriers that allow them to 
assert that they have been issued such a number; rapidly port with 
validation, including new mechanisms similar to domain names that 
provide users with secure porting keys for their numbers to greatly 
reduce erroneous and malicious ports (and the related slamming); 
associate validated number user information to prevent spoofing; 
provide information to carriers and providers on how to interconnect to 
the number; facilitate VoIP interconnection; and promote efficient 
number utilization including enabling authorized parties to collect 
information about number usage and assignment, e.g., to effectively 
prevent number hoarding or inefficient utilization.
    37. The Commission further expects that the testbed would include 
features such as security (including the ability to mitigate spoofing, 
phishing, unwanted calls, and denial-of-service attacks), the ability 
to authenticate numbers, traceability, efficiency, portability, and 
reliability. Any testbed should be designed to promote competition and 
create predictable dialing protocols for end users. A properly designed 
testbed should also take into account the needs of emergency 
communications and N11 dialing for special services, as well as any 
potential implications for persons with disabilities. International 
implications should be explored as well as the impact of the IPv6 
migration.
    38. To be most useful to the Commission, the testbed should permit 
exploration of what is feasible for an all-IP, post-transitions number 
system, identify issues, and flag what actions may be necessary in 
order to facilitate the technology transitions. Questions that could be 
explored include those noted above as well as: how can the number 
system be simplified? Can multiple databases exist and can they be 
distributed? What are the implications of decoupling numbering from 
geography or services? How can the Commission measure actual number 
utilization and prevent the inefficient use of numbering resources? 
What interfaces must be specified? What databases are necessary? How 
will routing be handled and what information is necessary within the 
database? What are the implications for number utilization, 
particularly in light of machine-to-machine communications? Who can a 
number be assigned to, how can that person be authenticated, and what 
information about that person needs to be in the database?
    39. While the Commission does not anticipate needing a block of 
NANP numbers to initiate the test bed, would the availability of a 
block of numbers facilitate the goals of this test bed? If so, can the 
block be drawn from existing resources such as pANI or the 555 NXX or 
456 NPA (carrier-specific services) blocks or should they be drawn from 
other numbering resources? How large a resource allocation is needed 
and are there Commission actions that need to be taken to facilitate 
allocation?
    40. Workshop(s). The Commission expects to convene one or more 
workshops to facilitate the design and development of the testbed. 
These workshops are intended to be engineering working sessions, 
modeled

[[Page 11372]]

after `hackathons' in which groups of technical experts collaborate 
intensively to work through technical challenges and create prototype 
systems. Participation is open to any and all technical experts. The 
Commission particularly welcomes software engineers with experience 
implementing telephony-related systems.
    41. The initial workshop will be hosted by the CTO and will focus 
on the basic design and launch of the testbed as a non-production, 
prototype system for managing numbering resources and obtaining 
information about these resources in a post-transitions world. The 
workshop has three objectives: (1) To identify the gaps in the existing 
system for an all-IP environment and opportunities for simplification; 
(2) to facilitate proposals for a general architecture for the testbed; 
and (3) to facilitate the infrastructure and organization (mailing 
list, conference calls) for those individuals that are interested in 
doing the prototyping and participating further in the testbed process. 
Subsequent engineering workshops will continue, as needed, to assist 
participants in refining the testbed and in further exploring the many 
technical questions raised by an all-IP, post transitions numbering 
management system.
2. Process and Timeline
    42. The Commission expects the testbed to run for about a year. The 
Commission anticipates that the testbed would be hosted at a neutral 
but as of yet undetermined location. The Commission anticipates that 
maintaining the physical testbed will involve a modest expense of a few 
thousand dollars per year. For further information concerning the 
testbed and the workshop, please contact Robert Cannon, 
Robert.Cannon@fcc.gov, (202) 418-2421.
3. Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
    43. As indicated by experts and commenters, there is an ongoing 
need for research into the future of telephone numbering. The 
Commission proposes funding telephone numbering research to support 
initiatives like the testbed, and it seeks comment on the appropriate 
budget and funding. For example, the Commission expects funding to 
maintain the testbed to be quite modest (approximately $100 per month 
for server resources), which could potentially be obtained from a 
number of sources, but technical staff resources may accelerate 
progress. The Commission requires the collection of numbering 
contributions associated with telephone numbering management that are 
used to fund the operation of numbering databases and services. Should 
the Commission use some of the revenue collected from these 
contributions to fund the testbed and related research? How would 
funding for such research be determined? What types of awards would be 
appropriate? Should the Commission seek NANC input on what research 
needs to be conducted? If so, what timeframe would be appropriate for 
obtaining input from the NANC? The Commission seeks comment on these 
issues. The Commission also seeks comment on how it can best identify 
any further research that should be facilitated by the Commission to 
supplement the work of stakeholders participating in any testbed and 
under what timeframe that research should be performed. Should the 
Commission solicit other numbering-related research proposals? If so, 
what kind of research would be most helpful and how should the 
Commission facilitate such research?

III. Procedural Matters

A. Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 10-90

1. Paperwork Reduction Analysis
    44. The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking does not contain 
proposed information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork 
Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13. In addition, therefore, it 
does not contain any proposed 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, see 44 
U.S.C. 3506(c)(4).
2. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
    45. The USF/ICC Transformation Order and FNPRM, 76 FR 78384, 
December 16, 2011, included an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(IRFA) pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 603, exploring the potential impact on 
small entities of the Commission's proposal. The Commission invites 
parties to file comments on the IRFA in light of this additional 
notice.
3. Ex Parte Presentations
    46. The proceeding this document initiates shall be treated as a 
``permit-but-disclose'' proceeding in accordance with the Commission's 
ex parte rules. Persons making ex parte presentations must file a copy 
of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral 
presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a 
different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period applies). Persons 
making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda 
summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or 
otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte 
presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and 
arguments made during the presentation. If the presentation consisted 
in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already 
reflected in the presenter's written comments, memoranda or other 
filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such 
data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other 
filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where 
such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the 
memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex 
parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must 
be filed consistent with Sec.  1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by 
Sec.  1.49(f) or for which the Commission has made available a method 
of electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda 
summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, 
must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available 
for that proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g., 
.doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding 
should familiarize themselves with the Commission's ex parte rules.
4. Filing Instructions
    47. Pursuant to sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's rules, 
47 CFR 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments and reply 
comments on or before the dates indicated in the Dates section of this 
document. Comments may be filed using the Commission's Electronic 
Comment Filing System (ECFS). See Electronic Filing of Documents in 
Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121, May 1, 1998.
    For further information, contact Alexander Minard, Acting Deputy 
Chief, Telecommunications Access Policy Division, Wireline Competition 
Bureau, at Alexander.Minard@fcc.gov, or at 202-418-0428.

[[Page 11373]]

B. Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 13-97

1. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Certification
    48. The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended (RFA), 
requires that agencies prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis for 
notice-and-comment 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).
    49. In this Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Commission 
states that there is an ongoing need for research into the future of 
telephone numbering, proposes funding telephone numbering research to 
support initiatives like the testbed described in the Order in WC 
Docket No. 13-97 described above, and seeks comment on the appropriate 
budget and funding. The Commission notes that it expects the funding to 
maintain the testbed to be quite modest (approximately $100 per month) 
for server resources, that it could potentially be funded by 
contributions already collected in association with telephone numbering 
management, and seeks comment on this. The Commission seeks comment on 
how funding for such research should be determined, the types of awards 
that would be appropriate, whether the Commission should seek NANC 
input on what research needs to be conducted, and the timeframe for any 
such input from NANC. This Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking only 
seeks comment on funding and budget for research and development 
projects and does not propose new rules, burdens, or requirements.
    50. The Commission therefore certifies, pursuant to the RFA, that 
the proposals in this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, if adopted, will 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. If commenters believe that the proposals discussed in this 
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking require additional RFA analysis, they 
should include a discussion of these issues in their comments and 
additionally label them as RFA comments. The Commission will send a 
copy of this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including a copy of this 
initial regulatory flexibility certification, to the Chief Counsel for 
Advocacy of the SBA. In addition, a copy of this Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking and this initial certification will be published in the 
Federal Register.
2. Ex Parte Presentations
    51. The proceeding this document initiates shall be treated as a 
``permit-but-disclose'' proceeding in accordance with the Commission's 
ex parte rules. Persons making ex parte presentations must file a copy 
of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral 
presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a 
different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period applies). Persons 
making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda 
summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or 
otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte 
presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and 
arguments made during the presentation. If the presentation consisted 
in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already 
reflected in the presenter's written comments, memoranda or other 
filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such 
data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other 
filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where 
such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the 
memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex 
parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must 
be filed consistent with Sec.  1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by 
Sec.  1.49(f) or for which the Commission has made available a method 
of electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda 
summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, 
must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available 
for that proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g., 
.doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding 
should familiarize themselves with the Commission's ex parte rules.
3. Filing Instructions
    52. Pursuant to sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's rules, 
47 CFR 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments and reply 
comments on or before the dates indicated in the Dates section of this 
document. Comments may be filed using the Commission's Electronic 
Comment Filing System (ECFS). See Electronic Filing of Documents in 
Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121, May 1, 1998.
    For further information, contact Robert Cannon, Senior Counsel, 
Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, at 
Robert.Cannon@fcc.gov, or at (202) 418-2421.

IV. Ordering Clauses

A. Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 10-90

    53. It is further ordered, that pursuant to the authority contained 
in sections 1, 2, 4(i), 201-206, 214, 218-220, 251, 252, 254, 256, 
303(r), 332, 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, and 
1302, and sections 1.1 and 1.1421 of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR 
1.1, 1.421, this Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 
10-90 IS hereby adopted.
    54. It is further ordered that pursuant to applicable procedures 
set forth in sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR 
1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments on the Further 
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 10-90 or WC Docket No. 
13-97 on or before March 31, 2014 and reply comments on or before April 
14, 2014.
    55. It is further ordered, that the Commission's Consumer and 
Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, shall send a 
copy of this Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 10-
90, including the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief 
Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration.

B. Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 13-97

    56. It is further ordered that pursuant to Sections 1, 4, 201, 251, 
and 303(r) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 
151, 154, 201, 251, 303(r), and section 1.1 of the Commission's rules, 
47 CFR 1.1, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 13-97 is 
hereby adopted.

Federal Comunications Commission.
Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2014-04312 Filed 2-27-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P