Broadband Labels/FUSC Factor/Pole Attachments

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In this week’s ICORE Blog we provide an update on a few significant issues that we’ve addressed in the recent past that continue to garner a good deal of attention at the FCC:

* In the ICORE Blog issues dated 2/14/23 and 3/3/23 we discussed the FCC’s Order and FNPRM related to Broadband Labels. The Order requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide Broadband Labels regarding their internet service plans. The requirements of the Order are extensive and include the specific information that must be provided on the label as well as the availability of information regarding bundled plans, performance characteristics, and the provision of the information in different languages, among others. In the FNPRM, the FCC sought comment on requiring that additional information be made available relative to pricing, bundled plans, performance metrics, and requiring that information be provided in additional languages. Comments in the FNPRM were due 2/16/23 and Reply Comments were due 3/16/23. Based on the comments that we’ve reviewed; the FCC is urged to refrain from imposing additional obligations until the requirements of the Order can be fully implemented and an informed decision can be made as to whether additional changes are necessary. Reply comments were recently filed on 3/16/23 and the comments that we’ve reviewed echo the opinions filed in the comment round and urge the FCC to not require that additional information be provided until enough time has passed to accurately determine if further changes are warranted. Hopefully the FCC will see the wisdom in a wait and see approach to this issue.

* Another issue receiving considerable attention is the USF contribution factor. In a Public Notice dated 3/14/23, the FCC announced that the contribution factor for the second quarter of 2023 will be 29.0%, down from 32.6% for the first quarter of 2023. In response to this announcement Consumers’ Research et al, filed comments and objections requesting that the FCC reject the proposed second quarter factor and instead set the factor at 0.00% stating that the USF represents an unconstitutional tax raised and spent by an unaccountable agency. Also, in recent ex-partes in regard to the Enhanced ACAM issue, AT&T reiterated its position that the FCC should not increase the size of the USF until it addresses the growth of the contribution factor and the declining contributions base. Meanwhile in last week’s ICORE Blog we reported that bipartisan legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate aimed at growing the USF contributions base to include edge providers. We also reported in last week’s blog that in its 2022 Report on the Future of the Universal Fund the FCC concluded that it believes that there is significant ambiguity in the record regarding its existing authority to make changes to the the contributions methodology and recommends that Congress provide the additional legislative authority. As can be seen from the aforementioned points, the USF contribution factor and contributions base are the subject of much discussion and debate and very possibly any action by the FCC to address these issues will require Congressional action which will take time.

* In the 2/17/23 ICORE Blog we reported on an issue before the FCC regarding its Pole Attachment Rules. In March 2022 the FCC adopted a Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking relative to the Pole Attachment Rules. As reported here several parties filed Comments and Reply Comments and many ex-parte filings and discussions have occurred. Most of the attention has been on the appropriate treatment of pole replacement costs. Commenters from the public utility sector (pole owners) maintain that the current rules are clear that when a pole replacement is undertaken solely for the benefit of a particular party (new attacher), that party should bear the full cost of the replacement. Other parties have posited that the current rules are unfair and maintain that the introduction of broadband service to unserved areas is being negatively affected. Charter Communications recently filed ex-parte comments with the FCC urging prompt action to reform the current rules and to require utilities to share in the cost of replacing poles. Charter’s comments are critical of a report filed by USTA in September of last year that is supportive of the existing rules. In January of this year Chairwoman Rosenworcel responded to inquiries from members of U.S. House of Representatives relative to this issue that Commission staff are reviewing the record in this proceeding and will consider the comments and concerns expressed by all interested parties. We’ll continue to follow this issue and provide updates as appropriate.

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