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Associations ask FCC to reconsider, clarify portion of E-rate decision

03.09.15 – WTA, NTCA and NECA on Friday asked the FCC to reconsider or clarify a rule adopted in the Second Report and Order on E-rate modernization regarding fixed broadband obligations.

The associations believe the rule requiring high-cost support recipients to bid to provide fixed broadband at yet-to-be-determined national reasonable comparability benchmark(s)—and certify they have done so as a condition of receiving support—should be reconsidered. From an administrative standpoint, proper notice and comment procedures required by administrative law to establish a bidding requirement were not followed; therefore, the associations requested the FCC reconsider and properly release the proposed requirement for public comment. 

If the FCC determines reconsideration of the bidding requirement is not necessary at this time, the associations asked for clarification with respect to the proceeding in which the new methodology for calculating the reasonable comparability benchmark(s) will be determined. They also requested clarification on when the new obligation to bid at benchmarked rates will take effect. 

The associations requested that, at a minimum, the FCC clarify that the Wireline Competition Bureau is instructed to put out proposals for comment prior to adoption of any benchmark(s). This includes data on which such proposals will be based. Also, it must consider all reasonable alternatives the data suggest, including multiple benchmarks and potential cost differences to ensure that rural providers can provide E-rate services at rates that appreciate the actual costs (including middle mile transport costs) of serving their rural schools and libraries. 

The associations requested the FCC clarify the new obligation will not take effect until after the Bureau conducts a full proceeding and adopts the benchmark methodology and necessary guidance for providers offering broadband Internet access transmission services at tariffed rates.