Telecom Business Alert -- Vol VI Issue 50

Date: Dec 22, 2009

Initial Broadband Grant Recipients Announced
On December 17, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the USDA's Rural Utility Service (RUS) announced the first recipients of $7.2 billion in funds allocated to support broadband deployment under the American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA). A total of $182 million in funding was announced for 18 projects in 17 states. The list of initial grant recipients, who have agreed to invest more than $46 million in matching funds, is available by clicking here. Over the next few months, NTIA and RUS will announce additional grant recipients and expect to have awarded approximately $2 billion by the end of February. The anticipated $2 billion in funding pales in comparison to the $28 billion in funding requests the agencies received from 2,200 applicants in August (See Vol VI, Issue 35). In November the agencies issued a joint Request for Information seeking input to help with the second round of funding, which is expected to commence in the first half of 2010. Under the ARRA, the agencies are required to award the entire $7.2 billion by October 1, 2010. National Broadband Plan to Address Smart Grids At its Open Meeting earlier this month, the FCC reported it is considering addressing smart grid, municipal broadband and critical infrastructure cyber security protection as part of its National Broadband Plan, which must be provided to Congress by February 17, 2010. Through a series of workshops and dozens of comments filed by industry groups, the FCC has determined there is both a smart grid connectivity gap and a data accessibility gap to be addressed with regard to the smart grid. The Commission is developing a strategy to make sure the networks are strong enough to support smart grid technology. Utilities Beware: National Broadband Plan Will Also Address Pole Attachments

With respect to pole attachments, the FCC stated that its National Broadband Plan will explore "reducing the costs of rights-of-way and pole attachments" and will consider new rules to "establish a uniform and fair rental rate for pole attachments," "lower make-ready costs and speed access to poles, ducts, conduits, and rights of way," and "create a streamlined dispute resolution mechanism for pole attachments." A member of the FCC's Broadband Task Force explained that make-ready costs can add approximately $4,000 per mile to the costs of deploying fiber optics and delays can last 4-6 months. The Commission also is considering recommending that Congress amend the Pole Attachment Act to establish a consistent national framework for all poles, ducts, and conduits. The Coalition of Concerned Utilities, through Keller and Heckman LLP, has expressed strong concerns with these proposals because they would be damaging to electric utility consumers and pole owners and would adversely impact the safe and efficient operation of electric utility distribution systems. For details or to join in the fight, please contact Tom Magee (202 434 4128; magee@khlaw.com).

Broadband-USF Bill Introduced in Senate

A bill was introduced in the Senate to extend the FCC's Universal Service Fund to support broadband for low-income households. The bill proposes to create a two-year pilot program to expand the current Lifeline Program covering the recurring cost of basic broadband service for eligible low-income households in addition to phone service. A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on September 24th. The bill would require the FCC to report to Congress 18 months after the pilot program on possibly adding broadband services to the federal Link-Up program. Radio Spectrum Inventory Act Progresses On Tuesday, December 15th the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet held a hearing on the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act and Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act. (See, Vol VI Issue 27). The Radio Spectrum Inventory Act would require the FCC and NTIA to create and manage an inventory of radio spectrum bands and submit an annual report to Congress on the status of the inventory, identifying the least utilized blocks of spectrum and recommending whether any of the least utilized spectrum should be reallocated. The Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act would streamline the incumbent relocation process.

Keller and Heckman LLP Continues Twitter Service Receive regular updates on telecommunications law and policy developments throughout the week via Keller and Heckman LLP's Twitter account at http://twitter.com/KHTelecom.