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Hitting the Ground Running with the Lifeline Accountability Database

by Kimberly Scardino, Chief, Telecommunications Access Policy Division
June 20, 2013

Nearly 600 participants logged onto our webinar yesterday demonstrating a key component of our comprehensive reforms to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in the FCC’s Lifeline program: the National Lifeline Accountability Database.  The database will ensure compliance with one of our most important rules to protect the integrity of the program: limiting Lifeline benefits to one subscription per household.  By harnessing communications and information technology to enforce this rule, the Commission will protect the universal service fund and the consumers who pay into it, promote fairness to beneficiaries and companies who play by the rules, and reduce the burden on providers.

My colleagues at the FCC, along with representatives from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and the database vendor, shared information about the database and answered questions to ensure that Lifeline providers, states, consumers and others users can hit the ground running once the database is online.  We will conduct training workshops and additional outreach to ensure all interested parties are prepared for the database.

Implementation of the database will begin in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma and Washington this fall, with other states to follow shortly thereafter.  Importantly, USAC will “scrub” the subscriber information to eliminate duplicates BEFORE loading it into the database. The database will be operational by the end of the year and going forward will permanently detect and prevent duplicative Lifeline support before a consumer enrolls in the Lifeline program.

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FCC Hosts a Power-Packed Conference on Angel Investing for Small, Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses

by Calvin Osborne, Attorney Advisor
June 18, 2013

On July 11, 2013, from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m, the FCC‘s Office of Communications Business Opportunities (“OCBO”) will host an Access to Capital Conference and Workshop focusing on telecommunications and technology-related businesses interested in obtaining funding from angel investors.  This conference, which includes one on one breakout sessions, will be held at FCC Headquarters, 445 12th Street, Washington, DC on Thursday, July 11, 2013 from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm in the Commission Meeting Room. 

We have invited representatives from the angel investment community from across the country to discuss their investment strategies in the telecommunications, technology, and media-related industries.  Our panelists will examine what entrepreneurs need to know when seeking potential funding from angel investors and, once successful, how to navigate the investment relationship.     

The program will begin with a panel discussion from 9:00 am to 11:30 am.  The afternoon, from 1:00 to 4:30 pm, will feature one-on-one sessions between our panelists and any small business owners who would like individualized advice on angel investing and information on current funding opportunities. 

The goal of this program is to identify trends in angel investing, delve into the differences between angel investors and venture capitalists, and explain why would-be entrepreneurs should seek funding from angel investors rather than venture capitalists.  We will also highlight how angel investors select projects as well as the special challenges angel investors and entrepreneurs face in getting to an agreement. 

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Crossing the Digital Divide

by Mignon Clyburn, Acting Chairwoman
June 7, 2013

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My posts here at the FCC --first as a Commissioner and now as Acting Chair, have taken me across  the country, to other parts of the world – and occasionally, right over the bridge to Alexandria, Va.

That’s where I met a wonderful group of kids on June 2 at the Murraygate Village Community Center. Their energy eclipsed the enthusiasm shown by the many guests at their Boys and Girls Club. On a normal day, I was told they’d be poring over their homework in what Wonhee Kang, Fairfax County Regional Director of the Boys and Girls Club, dubs “The Power Hour.” But on this day, they broke their routine and welcomed guests like me who overflowed the modest facility to celebrate a major step forward in closing the digital divide. Cox Communications Virginia and Connect2Compete – along with a host of corporate, nonprofit, state, regional and local officials – were on hand to announce the launch of the collaborative initiative that aims to extend affordable broadband Internet access to all.

In my remarks, I noted that almost a year ago to the day, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was in San Diego, with Cox CEO Pat Esser, to launch the first-ever Connect2Compete pilot program, which made discounted broadband available to tens of thousands of southern California families. What a difference a year makes! Now I’m in the role of Acting Chair of the FCC and the Connect2Compete has made its way to Northern Virginia, where families will have the same opportunity to get online at a price that fits their budgets.

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Preparing for Hurricane Season

by David Turetsky, Chief, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau
June 7, 2013

Hurricane season officially began on June 1 and will last through November 30. While recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy are still underway, and we grapple with devastating tornadoes too, we must also prepare for the possibility of more hurricanes. And unfortunately, NOAA is forecasting an “active or extremely active” season this year.

A principal focus of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, which also draws on expertise from across the FCC, is to promote the reliability and resiliency of the nation’s communications infrastructure in times of disaster.

Communications services are vital to keeping us safe, informed and connected to our loved ones.   Broadcasters play a critical role in providing vital and timely information, and commercial phone service and broadband enable us to connect with 911 and our families. Our Nation’s First Responders rely on their own communications infrastructure to keep communities safe, but sometimes use the commercial infrastructure too.

That’s why I want to discuss preparation, by communications service providers and by the public.

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Celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month – Honoring our Partners and Building New Bridges For Collaboration and Outreach

by Diana Coho, Consumer Affairs and Outreach Specialist, Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau
May 20, 2013

In June 1977, a House resolution called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Over time, additional resolutions passed and in 1992, the official designation of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was signed into law. This year’s theme is: BUILDING LEADERSHIP: EMBRACE THE CULTURAL VALUES AND INCLUSION.  Click on the link below to see this year’s White House proclamation on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/04/30/presidential-proclamation-asian-american-and-pacific-islander-heritage-m.

The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau works to build dynamic partnerships with the Asian American community. To that end, we have begun plans for an interactive dialogue among Asian American leaders with FCC leaders and subject matter experts to address stakeholder concerns and provide technical assistance.  This event will be announced and held sometime in the next few months – stay tuned to our website as more details are posted.  We also plan to expand our Asian American outreach to the Asian owned business community, another rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population that continues to contribute greatly to our economy.

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WCB Cost Model Virtual Workshop 2012 - Support Thresholds

May 17, 2013

Please provide comments to the issue below as part of the 2012 WCB cost model virtual workshop for inclusion in the record. Comments are moderated for conformity to the workshop’s guidelines.

Background

In the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Commission adopted a methodology “that will target support to areas that exceed a specified cost benchmark, but not provide support for areas that exceed an 'extremely high cost' threshold.” With regard to the support benchmark, the Commission stated that it would use the model “to identify those census blocks where the cost of service is likely to be higher than can be supported through reasonable end-user rates alone.” With regard to the “extremely high cost” threshold, the Commission also concluded that "a small number of extremely high-cost census blocks that should receive funding specifically set aside for remote and extremely high-cost areas . . . rather than receiving CAF Phase II support." The Commission anticipated that no more than 1 percent of all American household would be in such remote and extremely high-cost areas. Finally, the Commission directed that "[t]he threshold should be set to maintain total support in price cap areas within our up to $1.8 billion annual budget.”

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WCB Cost Model Virtual Workshop 2012 - Connect America Fund-Intercarrier Compensation Recovery Mechanism Set Aside Amount

May 17, 2013

Please provide comments to the issue below as part of the 2012 WCB cost model virtual workshop for inclusion in the record. Comments are moderated for conformity to the workshop’s guidelines.

Background

In the USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Commission established an annual funding target of $4.5 billion for high-cost universal service support. Within the $4.5 billion budget, the Commission set aside up to $1.8 billion annually for a five-year period to support areas served by price cap carriers. This amount includes the support that price cap carriers receive through the Connect America Fund intercarrier compensation (CAF-ICC) recovery mechanism. The CAF-ICC recovery mechanism is an explicit support mechanism that replaces the implicit support previously received by carriers from carrier-to-carrier revenues.

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WCB Cost Model Virtual Workshop 2012 - Finalizing Input Values for Connect America Cost Model Cost Estimation Module

May 17, 2013

Please provide comments to the issue below as part of the 2012 WCB cost model virtual workshop for inclusion in the record. Comments are moderated for conformity to the workshop’s guidelines.

Background

The Connect America Cost Model (CAM v3.1.2) has two input collections for the cost estimation module. The two input collections contain identical default inputs, except one includes values for Annual Charge Factors (ACFs) calculated with a nine percent cost of capital, and the other includes values for ACFs calculated with an eight percent cost of capital. Parties who have signed the Third Supplemental Protective Order will be able to view the input collections by accessing the model and viewing the “ICCQA20130516CAM312ACF8SBI6VoiceCblVoiceFW2” and “ICCQA20130516CAM312ACF9SBI6VoiceCblVoiceFW2” ZIP files on the “Posted Data Sets” page under “Model Inputs.” The input collections include values for such variables as plant mix, network sizing and sharing, company size categories, operating expenses, capital investments by density and terrain, state property tax factors, regional cost adjustments, bandwidth, business and residential take rate, and state sales tax.

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Setting the Right Incentives for Investment in Rural Broadband

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
May 16, 2013

Today, the Wireline Bureau is seeking comment on a number of issues relating to broadband funding for smaller rural carriers, known as rate-of-return carriers.

One of the problematic results of the Commission’s old Universal Service System was what we called the rural-rural divide: because the system failed to target support where it was needed and provided little accountability, some rural communities received world-leading broadband, while others, often right next door, were left behind.  In part, this problem arose because of the different systems governing smaller, rate-of-return carriers, and larger companies, known as price cap carriers.

About two-thirds of all universal service support for landline service went to rate-of-return carriers, although they serve about 20-30% of the expensive rural areas where no other provider is offering voice and broadband, the areas where support is most likely needed.  In many cases, disparities arose because these smaller carriers serve some of the very hardest areas to reach or because they have been aggressively extending broadband where it wouldn’t otherwise reach.  But to a significant extent, the disparity simply had to do with regulatory distinctions, or arose because the old rules lacked safeguards or accountability. 

In order to help ensure all Americans get access to broadband while increasing efficiency and accountability -- no matter what kind of company serves an area -- we overhauled universal service and created the Connect America Fund.  These reforms required making support for all types of carriers more efficient and accountable. 

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How We’re Investing Smart To Expand Rural Broadband

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
May 16, 2013

The Connect America Fund is the FCC’s 21st Century solution to expanding broadband to unserved areas of rural America.  One reason why the Connect America Fund can stay within a budget as it accomplishes this task – while continuing to support traditional voice service as its 20th Century predecessor program did – is because we are targeting the right amount of subsidies to the right places: places where help is needed the most. The old universal service fund did little to protect against unneeded subsidies. Developing ways to stop this fiscal waste was a major focus of our 2011 Connect America reforms.

We are well on the way to implementing these reforms, including making initial decisions on a Cost Model that will calculate what level of support is needed, down to the Census block level.  Today, we’re adopting another set of policies to make sure that we don’t support providers in Census blocks where another provider is delivering service without subsidies.

It’s fiscally prudent to reserve the Fund for areas where there’s no business case to serve consumers. And it’s common sense that in areas where a provider delivers voice and broadband without subsidies, a business case has been made.  Moreover, giving subsidies to one provider and not the other is unfair.

So accounting for unsubsidized providers is critical as we distribute support for rural voice and broadband in this phase, Phase II, of the Connect America Fund.  Here’s how we are going to do it.

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