Telecom Alert: FCC to Update Broadband Benchmarks; OSHA Fall Protection Initiatives; $42 Million RHC Program Settlement; 988 Lifeline Cyber Defense Bill; ECF Funding [Vol. XX, Issue 20]
FCC to Update Broadband Benchmarks
Last week, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau issued a Public Notice seeking comment on its proposal modifying the broadband reasonable comparability benchmarks for the Urban Rate Survey (the “Survey”). The Commission conducts an annual survey of urban broadband rates to ensure that Universal Service Fund recipients offer voice and broadband services at reasonably comparable rates to those in urban areas. Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on methods for calculating benchmarks for a wider spectrum of service speeds as well as a new definition of an urban tract, among other changes. Comments and reply comments are due by June 8, 2023, and June 23, 2023, respectively. For more information, please contact Jim Baller (email@example.com; 202.434.4175).
OSHA Fall Protection Initiatives
OSHA is implementing a new National Emphasis Program (“NEP”) for fall hazards, adopted May 1, 2023. The focus is expected to be on construction activities because OSHA has access to a registry of major construction jobs and those jobs typically involve more personnel working at heights for longer periods of time. However, the NEP targets ten non-construction activities, including work on communication towers. For more information, please contact Tom Magee (firstname.lastname@example.org; 202.434.4128).
$42 Million Rural Health Care Program Settlement
Last week, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau entered into a consent decree with GCI Communications Corp. (“GCI”) resolving its investigation into the company’s violations of Rural Health Care Program (“RHC Program” or the “Program”) rules. The FCC found that GCI charged certain rural rates that did not comply with the Commission’s rate-setting methods and resulted in CGI receiving excessive reimbursements from the Universal Service Fund. CGI also violated Commission rules governing the competitive bidding process in connection with five contracts it signed with health care providers. To resolve the matter, CGI agreed to pay a settlement amount of over $42 million, which includes a repayment of over $26 million to the Universal Service Fund. For more information, please contact Casey Lide (email@example.com; 202.434.4186).
988 Lifeline Cyber Defense Bill Introduced
Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced the 9-8-8 Lifeline Cybersecurity Responsibility Act last week which aims to strengthen the cybersecurity protocols of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (“988 Lifeline”). In December 2022, a cyberattack on the 988 Lifeline caused a nearly daylong outage. This bill would require the network administer to notify the government of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and incidents within 24 hours of discovery and direct the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the risks and vulnerabilities in the 988 system. For more information, please contact Wes Wright (firstname.lastname@example.org; 202.434.4239).
The FCC announced that it is committing over $24 million in a new funding round through the Emergency Connectivity Program (the “Program”). The commitment will support applications from all three application windows and will support nearly 45,000 students in states including Alaska, Arizona, California, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. To date, the Program has provided support to roughly 11,000 schools, 1,000 libraries, and 100 consortia. For more information, please contact Casey Lide (email@example.com; 202.434.4186).
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