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Associations reply to parties opposing petition for reconsideration of E-rate Order

05.12.15 – WTA, NTCA and NECA yesterday responded to oppositions to their Petition for Reconsideration and/or Clarification of a rule adopted in the FCC’s Second Report and Order on E-rate modernization.

The associations asked the FCC to reconsider or clarify the rule requiring high-cost support recipients to bid to provide fixed broadband at yet-to-be-determined national reasonable comparability benchmark(s). Recipients must also certify they have done so as a condition of receiving support.

Contrary to claims by two parties who opposed the associations’ petition, adequate notice of this new requirement was not provided in proceedings leading up to the FCC’s Order.  As a result, the record does not support adoption of the rule.  In fact, one party posed many of the same questions as the associations’ Petition, including how the FCC will develop the national benchmark on broadband speed and costs, whether the benchmark will be wholly based on urban/suburban rates, and whether there will be regional benchmarks.

The associations reiterated their request for the FCC to reconsider the bidding requirements rule and seek focused comment on the implications of such a requirement. At a minimum, they said the Commission should clarify that:

  • benchmarks must reflect the actual costs of providing E-rate services in rural areas, and be adopted by the Bureau only after interested parties have a reasonable opportunity to examine relevant data and suggest alternative approaches; and
  • bidding requirements will not take effect until such proceedings are completed.