The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) is slated to consider three telecommunications-related resolutions when it meets next week in Baltimore for its 2017 annual meeting and education conference. Resolutions addressing enhanced 911 (E-911) access and enterprise communications systems, the federal Lifeline fund, and bridging the digital divide are currently on the agenda of NARUC’s telecommunications committee.
The first proposed resolution supports federal and state actions to require enterprise communications systems (ECS) manufacturers, installers, and operators “to design and configure ECS to allow direct dialing of 911, route 911 calls to the proper PSAP regardless of the particular location of the extension used to call 911, provide the PSAP with location information accurate enough for first responders to locate the caller, and to support on-site notification.”
The resolution (TC-1), sponsored by Commissioner Wendy Moser of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, states that “consistency, uniformity, and ubiquity of service is highly desirable in the dialing of 911,” and that “voluntary efforts among ECS manufacturers, installers, and operators are laudable, but may leave many 911 callers vulnerable.”
According to the draft resolution, any federal action should be mandatory for all ECS manufacturers, installers, and operators, and federal requirements regarding ECS “must not be written or implemented in such a way that it preempts states from imposing additional requirements as they see fit, presuming that such additional requirements do not contradict or conflict with federal requirements.”
A second draft resolution is being sponsored by Commissioner Crystal Rhoades, a member of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and would urge the FCC to continue to allow non-facilities based carriers to receive Lifeline funds “because they have been crucial in ensuring that low-income households are connected to telecommunication services.”
The draft resolution is largely in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking released on Oct. 26 by the FCC addressing the federal Lifeline program and “Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Consumers.” Among other things, the FCC is seeking comment on discontinuing Lifeline support for non-facilities-based services. But according to the draft resolution, non-facilities-based Lifeline providers make up a large portion of the Lifeline market, while “facilities-based providers are only 25% of the market and in each year their Lifeline customers have decreased.”
According to the draft resolution, “by discontinuing Lifeline support for non-facilities-based services, the FCC will disconnect millions of low-income households.” The draft resolution, therefore, urges the FCC to continue to cooperate with the states and acknowledge states’ “significant role in the Lifeline program.”
NARUC also “urges the FCC to continue to allow non-facilities based carriers to receive Lifeline funds because they have been crucial in ensuring that low-income households are connected to telecommunication services,” according to the draft resolution.
A third draft resolution also addresses the recent Lifeline NPRM released by the FCC. The NPRM will be considered at the FCC’s Nov. 16 open meeting (10/26/17).
The draft resolution commends the FCC for its tentative decision to: “(1) eliminate the stand-alone Lifeline Broadband Provider designation, (2) reverse its preemption of state regulatory authority to designate eligible telecommunications carriers, and (3) adjust its plans for the Lifeline broadband service program to include a requirement that Lifeline broadband service providers must also provide voice services, which are vital for the public to access E911 and other emergency, health and public safety services and also urges the FCC to eliminate the forbearance that allows non-facilities-based carriers to receive Lifeline funds.”
At the same time, the draft resolution “finds that the FCC’s grant of forbearance from the Telecommunications Act of 1996 section 214(e) requirement for participants in the federal Lifeline program to use their own facilities to provide service removes any incentive for companies to invest in and to build voice-only or voice and broadband-capable facilities and, thereby, subverts the Act’s principle of promoting access to advanced telecommunications services as set forth in section 254(b).”
According to the draft resolution, “there has been no independent empirical evidence filed with the FCC that demonstrates the FCC’s grant of forbearance from the section 214(e)(1)(A) facilities requirement and the subsequent payment of billions of dollars in USF Lifeline support payments (in 2016 $1,362,149,000 paid to wireless ETCs & $148,916,000 paid to wireline ETCs) has directly resulted in the timely deployment of voice-only and/or broadband-capable facilities.”
Commissioner Betty Ann Kane, chair of the District of Columbia Public Service Commission, is the sponsor of TC-3. NARUC’s board of directors meets Nov. 14 to vote on the resolutions. -Carrie DeLeon, firstname.lastname@example.org