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ACA Opposes Larger Telephone Trade Association’s Suggested Process For Settling Upon Areas Eligible For Broadband Support

Cable Group Rejects Notion That National Broadband Map Is Unreliable

PITTSBURGH, March 6, 2013 - In comments filed Monday, the American Cable Association urged the Federal Communications Commission to reject a number of proposals of the trade association for large phone carriers related to the process for settling upon the areas eligible for financial support for broadband deployment through the Connect America Fund (CAF).  ACA explained that the large telephone association's suggestions are impractical and burdensome and would significantly delay the agency's goal of providing support to areas where needed and frustrate the efforts of ACA Members to ensure that government support flows to truly unserved areas.

"ACA overriding message to the FCC is that it should continue to stand behind the work done on the National Broadband Map," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.  "The development of the map is a process with checks and balances, and while there is some under- and over-reporting, this can be addressed by a reasonable and fair process such as proposed by the FCC with refinements suggested by ACA.  Starting over is not an option."

ACA's comments on March 4 came in connection with the FCC's plan to allocate $1.8 billion annually over the next five years to subsidize broadband deployment in unserved areas designated on the NBM.  Large phone companies, known by the industry term "price cap carriers," have the right of first refusal to CAF money, with unclaimed funds to be awarded through reverse auctions open to ACA Members and other broadband providers.

ACA's comments were a response to an FCC notice about various CAF- and NBM-related issues with respect to price cap carriers.

In its comments, ACA's expressed concerns with a number of CAF adjustments sought by the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom).  For example, USTelecom urged the FCC not to rely on the NBM, but instead to utilize the state broadband mapping authorities to solicit data and information from all broadband providers anew for purposes of the CAF.  In response, ACA noted that state authorities have been retained by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), pursuant to the State Broadband Initiative, for the specific task of collecting data twice annually for a limited time to populate and update the NBM.

By adding the new task proposed by USTelecom, NTIA would need to rewrite the contracts with each of these state authorities.  It also would involve providing the state authorities with additional funding, which currently does not exist and would need to be obtained by Congressional authorization and appropriation.

Further, because new information would be collected, the change to the contracts would trigger a Paperwork Reduction Act review by the Office of Management and Budget.  Lastly, the FCC could only "invite" the states to participate as the FCC has no direct authority to require state action.

"For all of these reasons, the USTelecom suggestion to use the state mapping authorities should not be adopted," Polka said.

ACA's comments called on the FCC to reject USTelecom's idea of permitting challenges to the NBM based upon additional technical and other factors related to broadband service (other than speed) that are not reflected on the map.  ACA argued that USTelecom's proposal has the potential to open every census block in the country to challenge since the NBM is based only on broadband speed.  Instead, the FCC should presume cable operators that meet the speed requirement also meet other factors, and any challenger must produce clear and convincing evidence to overturn this presumption.

ACA said that although it supported USTelecom's call for the FCC to create a website to handle all filings for the NBM challenge process, price cap carriers should still be required to serve providers designated on the NBM as serving an area.

ACA said because most of its members are small entities without regulatory departments that regularly follow FCC notices and filings, it would place a significant burden on them to keep checking a website to see if a challenge is filed.

ACA stressed that USTelecom provided no evidence to support its argument that serving notice on providers would be burdensome and unreliable because the NBM does not contain reliable contact information.  In any event, the FCC should be able to account for any concern about unreliable contact information in adopting the service requirement.

About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7.4 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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