e-CFR banner

Home
gpo.gov
govinfo.gov

e-CFR Navigation Aids

Browse

Simple Search

Advanced Search

 — Boolean

 — Proximity

 

Search History

Search Tips

Corrections

Latest Updates

User Info

FAQs

Agency List

Incorporation By Reference

eCFR logo

Related Resources

 

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of November 12, 2019

Title 47Chapter ISubchapter BPart 54 → Subpart D


Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 54—UNIVERSAL SERVICE


Subpart D—Universal Service Support for High Cost Areas


Contents
§54.302   Monthly per-line limit on universal service support.
§54.303   Eligible Capital Investment and Operating Expenses.
§54.304   Administration of Connect America Fund Intercarrier Compensation Replacement.
§54.305   Sale or transfer of exchanges.
§54.306   Alaska Plan for Rate-of-Return Carriers Serving Alaska.
§54.307   Support to a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier.
§54.308   Broadband public interest obligations for recipients of high-cost support.
§54.309   Connect America Fund Phase II Public Interest Obligations.
§54.310   Connect America Fund for Price Cap Territories—Phase II
§54.311   Connect America Fund Alternative-Connect America Cost Model Support.
§54.312   Connect America Fund for Price Cap Territories—Phase I.
§54.313   Annual reporting requirements for high-cost recipients.
§54.314   Certification of support for eligible telecommunications carriers.
§54.315   Application process for Connect America Fund phase II support distributed through competitive bidding.
§54.316   Broadband deployment reporting and certification requirements for high-cost recipients.
§54.317   Alaska Plan for competitive eligible telecommunications carriers serving remote Alaska.
§54.318   [Reserved]
§54.319   Elimination of high-cost support in areas with 100 percent coverage by an unsubsidized competitor.
§54.320   Compliance and recordkeeping for the high-cost program.
§54.321   Reporting and certification requirements for Alaska Plan participants.

§54.302   Monthly per-line limit on universal service support.

(a) Beginning July 1, 2012 and until June 30, 2013, each study area's universal service monthly support (not including Connect America Fund support provided pursuant to §54.304) on a per-line basis shall not exceed $250 per-line plus two-thirds of the difference between its uncapped per-line monthly support and $250. Beginning July 1, 2013 and until June 30, 2014, each study area's universal service monthly support on a per-line basis shall not exceed $250 per-line plus one third of the difference between its uncapped per-line monthly support and $250. Beginning July 1, 2014, each study area's universal service monthly per-line support shall not exceed $250. Beginning July 1, 2019, until June 30, 2021, each study area's universal service monthly per-line support shall not exceed $225. Beginning July 1, 2021, each study area's universal service monthly per-line support shall not exceed $200.

(b) For purposes of this section, universal service support is defined as the sum of the amounts calculated pursuant to §§54.1304, 54.1310, 54.305, and 54.901 through 54.904. Line counts for purposes of this section shall be as of the most recent line counts reported pursuant to §54.903(a)(1).

(c) The Administrator, in order to limit support for carriers pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, shall reduce safety net additive support, high-cost loop support, safety valve support, and Connect America Fund Broadband Loop Support in proportion to the relative amounts of each support the study area would receive absent such limitation.

[76 FR 73870, Nov. 29, 2011, as amended at 79 FR 39188, July 9, 2014; 82 FR 14339, Mar. 20, 2017; 84 FR 4730, Feb. 19, 2019]

§54.303   Eligible Capital Investment and Operating Expenses.

(a) Eligible Operating Expenses. Each study area's eligible operating expenses for purposes of calculating universal service support pursuant to subparts K and M of this part shall be adjusted as follows:

(1) Total eligible annual operating expenses per location shall be limited as follows: Calculate Exp(Ŷ + 1.5 * mean square error of the regression), where

Ŷ = α̂ + β̂1X1 + β̂2X2 + β̂3X3

α̂, β̂1, β̂2, and β̂3 are the coefficients from the regression,

X1 is the natural log of the number of housing units in the study area,

X2 is the natural log of the number of density (number of housing units per square mile), and

X3 is the square of the natural log of the density

(2) Eligible operating expenses are the sum of Cable and Wire Facilities Expense, Central Office Equipment Expense, Network Support and General Expense, Network Operations Expense, Limited Corporate Operations Expense, Information Origination/Termination Expense, Other Property Plant and Equipment Expenses, Customer Operations Expense: Marketing, and Customer Operations Expense: Services.

(3) For purposes of this section, the number of housing units will be determined per the most recently available U.S Census data for each census block in that study area. If a census block is partially within a study area, the number of housing units in that portion of the census block will be determined based upon the percentage geographic area of the census block within the study area.

(4) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section, total eligible annual operating expenses for 2016 will be limited to the total eligible annual operating expenses as defined in this section plus one half of the amount of total eligible annual expense as calculated prior to the application of this section.

(5) For any study area subject to the limitation described in this paragraph, a required percentage reduction will be calculated for that study area's total eligible annual operating expenses. Each category or account used to determine that study area's total eligible annual operating expenses will then be reduced by this required percentage reduction.

(6) For a period of five years following the implementation of paragraph (a) of this section, the total eligible annual operating expenses per location in paragraph (a) shall be adjusted annually to account for changes to the Department of Commerce's Gross Domestic Product Chain-type Price Index (GDP-CPI).

(7) For those study areas where a majority of the housing units are on Tribal lands, as determined by the Wireline Competition Bureau, and meet the following conditions, total eligible annual operating expenses per location shall be limited by calculating Exp (Ŷ + 2.5 * mean square error of the regression): The carrier serving the study area has not deployed broadband service of 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload to 90 percent or more of the housing units on the Tribal lands in its study area and unsubsidized competitors have not deployed broadband service of 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload to 85 percent or more of the housing units on the Tribal lands in its study area.

(b) [Reserved]

[81 FR 24337, Apr. 25, 2016, as amended at 82 FR 14339, Mar. 20, 2017; 82 FR 16127, Apr. 3, 2017; 82 FR 22903, May 19, 2017; 83 FR 18964, May 1, 2018 ;83 FR 30884, July 2, 2018; 84 FR 4730, Feb. 19, 2019]

Editorial Note: At 83 FR 18950, 18964, May 1, 2018, §54.303 was amended by adding paragraph (a)(6), however, the agency provided two different (a)(6)'s and we were not sure which one to add correctly, so the amendment could not be incorporated due to inaccurate amendatory instruction.

§54.304   Administration of Connect America Fund Intercarrier Compensation Replacement.

(a) The Administrator shall administer CAF ICC support pursuant to §51.915 and §51.917 of this chapter.

(b) The funding period is the period beginning July 1 through June 30 of the following year.

(c) For price cap carriers that are eligible and elect, pursuant to §51.915(f) of this chapter, to receive CAF ICC support, the following provisions govern the filing of data with the Administrator, the Commission, and the relevant state commissions and the payment by the Administrator to those carriers of CAF ICC support amounts that the carrier is eligible to receive pursuant to §51.915 of this chapter.

(1) A Price Cap Carrier seeking CAF ICC support pursuant to §51.915 of this chapter shall file data with the Administrator, the Commission, and the relevant state commissions no later than June 30, 2012, for the first year, and on the date it files its annual access tariff filing with the Commission, in subsequent years, establishing the amount of the Price Cap Carrier's eligible CAF ICC funding during the upcoming funding period pursuant to §51.915 of this chapter. The amount shall include any true-ups, pursuant to §51.915 of this chapter, associated with an earlier funding period.

(2) The Administrator shall monthly pay each price cap carrier one-twelfth (1/12) of the amount the carrier is eligible to receive during that funding period.

(d) For rate-of-return carriers that are eligible and elect, pursuant to §51.917(f) of this chapter, to receive CAF ICC support, the following provisions govern the filing of data with the Administrator, the Commission, and the relevant state commissions and the payment by the Administrator to those carriers of CAF ICC support amounts that the rate-of-return carrier is eligible to receive pursuant to §51.917 of this chapter.

(1) A Rate-of-Return Carrier seeking CAF ICC support shall file data with the Administrator, the Commission, and the relevant state commissions no later than June 30, 2012, for the first year, and on the date it files its annual access tariff filing with the Commission, in subsequent years, establishing the Rate-of-Return Carrier's projected eligibility for CAF ICC funding during the upcoming funding period pursuant to §51.917 of this chapter. The projected amount shall include any true-ups, pursuant to §51.917 of this chapter, associated with an earlier funding period.

(2) The Administrator shall monthly pay each rate-of-return carrier one-twelfth (1/12) of the amount the carrier is to be eligible to receive during that funding period.

[76 FR 73871, Nov. 29, 2011, as amended at 78 FR 26268, May 6, 2013]

§54.305   Sale or transfer of exchanges.

(a) The provisions of this section shall not be used to determine support for any price cap incumbent local exchange carrier or a rate-of-return carrier, as that term is defined in §54.5, that is affiliated with a price cap incumbent local exchange carrier.

(b) Beginning January 1, 2012, any carrier subject to the provisions of this paragraph shall receive support pursuant to this paragraph or support based on the actual costs of the acquired exchanges, whichever is less. Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, a carrier that acquires telephone exchanges from an unaffiliated carrier shall receive universal service support for the acquired exchanges at the same per-line support levels for which those exchanges were eligible prior to the transfer of the exchanges. If the acquired exchanges are incorporated into an existing rural incumbent local exchange carrier study area, the rural incumbent local exchange carrier shall maintain the costs associated with the acquired exchanges separate from the costs associated with its pre-acquisition study area. The transferred exchanges may be eligible for safety valve support for loop related costs pursuant to paragraph (d) of this section.

(c) A carrier that has entered into a binding agreement to buy or acquire exchanges from an unaffiliated carrier prior to May 7, 1997 will receive universal service support for the newly acquired lines based upon the average cost of all of its lines, both those newly acquired and those it had prior to execution of the sales agreement.

(d) Transferred exchanges in study areas operated by rural telephone companies that are subject to the limitations on loop-related universal service support in paragraph (b) of this section may be eligible for a safety valve loop cost expense adjustment based on the difference between the rural incumbent local exchange carrier's index year expense adjustment and subsequent year loop cost expense adjustments for the acquired exchanges. Safety valve loop cost expense adjustments shall only be available to rural incumbent local exchange carriers that, in the absence of restrictions on high-cost loop support in paragraph (b) of this section, would qualify for high-cost loop support for the acquired exchanges under §54.1310.

(1) For carriers that buy or acquire telephone exchanges on or after January 10, 2005, from an unaffiliated carrier, the index year expense adjustment for the acquiring carrier's first year of operation shall equal the selling carrier's loop-related expense adjustment for the transferred exchanges for the 12-month period prior to the transfer of the exchanges. At the acquiring carrier's option, the first year of operation for the transferred exchanges, for purposes of calculating safety valve support, shall commence at the beginning of either the first calendar year or the next calendar quarter following the transfer of exchanges. For the first year of operation, a loop cost expense adjustment, using the costs of the acquired exchanges submitted in accordance with §§54.1305 and 54.1306, shall be calculated pursuant to §54.1310 and then compared to the index year expense adjustment. Safety valve support for the first period of operation will then be calculated pursuant to paragraph (d)(3) of this section. The index year expense adjustment for years after the first year of operation shall be determined using cost data for the first year of operation of the transferred exchanges. Such cost data for the first year of operation shall be calculated in accordance with §§54.1305, 54.1306, and 54.1310. For each year, ending on the same calendar quarter as the first year of operation, a loop cost expense adjustment, using the loop costs of the acquired exchanges, shall be submitted and calculated pursuant to §§54.1305, 54.1306, and 54.1310 and will be compared to the index year expense adjustment. Safety valve support for the second year of operation and thereafter will then be calculated pursuant to paragraph (d)(3) of this section.

(2) For carriers that bought or acquired exchanges from an unaffiliated carrier before January 10, 2005, and are not subject to the exception in paragraph (c) of this section, the index year expense adjustment for acquired exchange(s) shall be equal to the rural incumbent local exchange carrier's high-cost loop expense adjustment for the acquired exchanges calculated for the carrier's first year of operation of the acquired exchange(s). At the carrier's option, the first year of operation of the transferred exchanges shall commence at the beginning of either the first calendar year or the next calendar quarter following the transfer of exchanges. The index year expense adjustment shall be determined using cost data for the acquired exchange(s) submitted in accordance with §§54.1305 and 54.1306 and shall be calculated in accordance with §54.1310. The index year expense adjustment for rural telephone companies that have operated exchanges subject to this section for more than a full year on August 8, 2014 shall be based on loop cost data submitted in accordance with §54.1306 for the year ending on the nearest calendar quarter following August 8, 2014. For each subsequent year, ending on the same calendar quarter as the index year, a loop cost expense adjustment, using the costs of the acquired exchanges, will be calculated pursuant to §54.1310 and will be compared to the index year expense adjustment. Safety valve support is calculated pursuant to paragraph (d)(3) of this section.

(3) Up to fifty (50) percent of any positive difference between the transferred exchanges loop cost expense adjustment and the index year expense adjustment will be designated as the transferred exchange's safety valve loop cost expense adjustment and will be available in addition to the per-line loop-related support transferred from the selling carrier to the acquiring carrier pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section. In no event shall a study area's safety valve loop cost expense adjustment exceed the difference between the carrier's study area loop cost expense adjustment calculated pursuant to §54.1310 and transferred support amounts available to the acquired exchange(s) under paragraph (b) of this section. Safety valve support shall not transfer with acquired exchanges.

(e) The sum of the safety valve loop cost expense adjustment for all eligible study areas operated by rural telephone companies shall not exceed five (5) percent of the total rural incumbent local exchange carrier portion of the annual nationwide loop cost expense adjustment calculated pursuant to §54.1302. The five (5) percent cap on the safety valve mechanism shall be based on the lesser of the rural incumbent local exchange carrier portion of the annual nationwide loop cost expense adjustment calculated pursuant to §54.1302 or the sum of rural incumbent local exchange carrier expense adjustments calculated pursuant to §54.1310. The percentage multiplier used to derive study area safety valve loop cost expense adjustments for rural telephone companies shall be the lesser of fifty (50) percent or a percentage calculated to produce the maximum total safety valve loop cost expense adjustment for all eligible study areas pursuant to this paragraph. The safety valve loop cost expense adjustment of an individual rural incumbent local exchange carrier also may be further reduced as described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section.

(f) Once an acquisition is complete, the acquiring rural incumbent local exchange carrier shall provide written notice to the Administrator that it has acquired access lines that may be eligible for safety valve support. Rural telephone companies also shall provide written notice to the Administrator defining their index year for those years after the first year of operation for purposes of calculating the safety valve loop cost expense adjustment.

[70 FR 10060, Mar. 2, 2005, as amended at 76 FR 73871, Nov. 29, 2011; 79 FR 39188, July 9, 2014; 81 FR 24339, Apr. 25, 2016]

§54.306   Alaska Plan for Rate-of-Return Carriers Serving Alaska.

(a) Election of support. For purposes of subparts A, B, C, D, H, I, J, K and M of this part, rate-of-return carriers (as that term is defined in §54.5) serving Alaska have a one-time option to elect to participate in the Alaska Plan on a state-wide basis. Carriers exercising this option shall receive the lesser of;

(1) Support as described in paragraph (c) of this section or

(2) $3,000 annually for each line for which the carrier is receiving support as of the effective date of this rule.

(b) Performance plans. In order to receive support pursuant to this section, a rate-of-return carrier must be subject to a performance plan approved by the Wireline Competition Bureau. The performance plan must indicate specific deployment obligations and performance requirements sufficient to demonstrate that support is being used in the public interest and in accordance with the requirements adopted by the Commission for the Alaska Plan. Performance plans must commit to offer specified minimum speeds to a set number of locations by the end of the fifth year of support and by the end of the tenth year of support, or in the alternative commit to maintaining voice and Internet service at a specified minimum speeds for the 10-year term. The Bureau may reassess performance plans at the end of the fifth year of support. If the specific deployment obligations and performance requirements in the approved performance plan are not achieved, the carrier shall be subject to §54.320(c) and (d).

(c) Support amounts and support term. For a period of 10 years beginning on or after January 1, 2017, at a date set by the Wireline Competition Bureau, each Alaska Plan participant shall receive monthly Alaska Plan support in an amount equal to:

(1) One-twelfth (1/12) of the amount of Interstate Common Line Support disbursed to that carrier for 2011, less any reduction made to that carrier's support in 2012 pursuant to the corporate operations expense limit in effect in 2012, and without regard to prior period adjustments related to years other than 2011 and as determined by USAC on January 31, 2012; plus

(2) One-twelfth (1/12) of the total expense adjustment (high cost loop support) disbursed to that carrier for 2011, without regard to prior period adjustments related to years other than 2011 and as determined by USAC on January 31, 2012.

(d) Transfers. Notwithstanding any provisions of §54.305 or other sections in this part, to the extent an Alaska Plan participant (as defined in §54.306 or §54.317) transfers some or all of its customers in Alaska to another eligible telecommunications carrier, it may also transfer a proportionate amount of its Alaska Plan support and any associated performance obligations as determined by the Wireline Competition Bureau or Wireless Telecommunications Bureau if the acquiring eligible telecommunications carrier certifies it will meet the associated obligations agreed to in the approved performance plan.

[81 FR 69712, Oct. 7, 2016]

§54.307   Support to a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier.

(a) Calculation of support. A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive universal service support to the extent that the competitive eligible telecommunications carrier captures the subscriber lines of an incumbent local exchange carrier (LEC) or serves new subscriber lines in the incumbent LEC's service area.

(1) A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier serving loops in the service area of a rural incumbent local exchange carrier, as that term is defined in §54.5 of this chapter, shall receive support for each line it serves in a particular service area based on the support the incumbent LEC would receive for each such line, disaggregated by cost zone if disaggregation zones have been established within the service area pursuant to §54.315 of this subpart. A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier serving loops in the service area of a non-rural incumbent local exchange carrier shall receive support for each line it serves in a particular wire center based on the support the incumbent LEC would receive for each such line. A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier serving loops in the service area of a rate-of-return carrier shall be eligible to receive Interstate Common Line Support for each line it serves in the service area in accordance with the formula in §54.901.

(2) A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that uses switching purchased as unbundled network elements pursuant to §51.307 of this chapter to provide the supported services shall receive the lesser of the unbundled network element price for switching or the per-line DEM support of the incumbent LEC, if any. A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that uses loops purchased as unbundled network elements pursuant to §51.307 of this chapter to provide the supported services shall receive the lesser of the unbundled network element price for the loop or the incumbent LEC's per-line payment from the high-cost loop support, LTS, and Interstate Common Line Support mechanisms, if any. The incumbent LEC providing nondiscriminatory access to unbundled network elements to such competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive the difference between the level of universal service support provided to the competitive eligible telecommunications carrier and the per-customer level of support that the incumbent LEC would have received.

(3) A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that provides the supported services using neither unbundled network elements purchased pursuant to §51.307 of this chapter nor wholesale service purchased pursuant to section 251(c)(4) of the Act will receive the full amount of universal service support that the incumbent LEC would have received for that customer.

(b) In order to receive support pursuant to this subpart, a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier must report to the Administrator the number of working loops it serves in a service area pursuant to the schedule set forth in paragraph (c) of this section. For a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier serving loops in the service area of a rural incumbent local exchange carrier, as that term is defined in §54.5, the carrier must report, by customer class, the number of working loops it serves in the service area, disaggregated by cost zone if disaggregation zones have been established within the service area pursuant to §54.315. For a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier serving loops in the service area of a non-rural telephone company, the carrier must report the number of working loops it serves in the service area, by customer class if the non-rural telephone company receives Interstate Common Line Support pursuant to §54.901 and by disaggregation zone if disaggregation zones have been established within the service area pursuant to §54.315 of this subpart, and the number of working loops it serves in each wire center in the service area. For universal service support purposes, working loops are defined as the number of working Exchange Line C&WF loops used jointly for exchange and message telecommunications service, including C&WF subscriber lines associated with pay telephones in C&WF Category 1, but excluding WATS closed end access and TWX service. Competitive eligible telecommunications carriers providing mobile wireless service in an incumbent LEC's service area shall use the customer's billing address for purposes of identifying the service location of a mobile wireless customer in a service area.

(c) A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier must submit the data required pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section according to the schedule.

(1) No later than July 31st of each year, submit data as of December 31st of the previous calendar year;

(2) No later than September 30th of each year, submit data as of March 31st of the existing calendar year;

(3) No later than December 30th of each year, submit data as of June 30th of the existing calendar year;

(4) No later than March 30th of each year, submit data as of September 30th of the previous calendar year.

(d) Newly designated eligible telecommunications carriers. Notwithstanding the deadlines in paragraph (c) of this section, a carrier shall be eligible to receive support as of the effective date of its designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier under section 214(e)(2) or (e)(6), provided that it submits the data required pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section within 60 days of that effective date. Thereafter, the eligible telecommunications carrier must submit the data required in paragraph (b) of this section pursuant to the schedule in paragraph (c) of this section.

(e) Support Beginning January 1, 2012. Competitive eligible telecommunications carriers will, beginning January 1, 2012, receive support based on the methodology described in this paragraph and not based on paragraph (a) of this section.

(1) Baseline Support Amount. Each competitive eligible telecommunication carrier will have a “baseline support amount” equal to its total 2011 support in a given study area, or an amount equal to $3,000 times the number of reported lines for 2011, whichever is lower. Each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier will have a “monthly baseline support amount” equal to its baseline support amount divided by twelve.

(i) “Total 2011 support” is the amount of support disbursed to a competitive eligible telecommunication carrier for 2011, without regard to prior period adjustments related to years other than 2011 and as determined by the Administrator on January 31, 2012.

(ii) For the purpose of calculating the $3,000 per line limit, the average of lines reported by a competitive eligible telecommunication carrier pursuant to line count filings required for December 31, 2010, and December 31, 2011 shall be used. The $3,000 per line limit shall be applied to support amounts determined for each incumbent study area served by the competitive eligible telecommunications carrier.

(2) Monthly Support Amounts. Competitive eligible telecommunications carriers shall receive the following support amounts, except as provided in paragraphs (e)(3) through (e)(6) of this section.

(i) From January 1, 2012, to June 30, 2012, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(ii) From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive 80 percent of its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(iii) From July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive 60 percent of its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(iv) From July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive 40 percent of its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(v) From July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive 20 percent of its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(vi) Beginning July 1, 2016, no competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive universal service support pursuant to this section.

(3) Delayed Phase Down for Remote Areas in Alaska. Certain competitive eligible telecommunications carriers serving remote areas in Alaska shall have their support phased down on a later schedule than that described in paragraph (e)(2) of this section.

(i) Remote Areas in Alaska. For the purpose of this paragraph, “remote areas in Alaska” includes all of Alaska except;

(A) The ACS-Anchorage incumbent study area;

(B) The ACS-Juneau incumbent study area;

(C) The fairbankszone1 disaggregation zone in the ACS-Fairbanks incumbent study area; and

(D) The Chugiak 1 and 2 and Eagle River 1 and 2 disaggregation zones of the Matunuska Telephone Association incumbent study area.

(ii) Carriers Subject to Delayed Phase Down. A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall be subject to the delayed phase down described in paragraph (e)(3) of this section to the extent that it serves remote areas in Alaska, and it certified that it served covered locations in its September 30, 2011, filing of line counts with the Administrator. To the extent a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier serving Alaska is not subject to the delayed phase down, it will be subject to the phase down of support on the schedule described in paragraph (e)(2) of this section.

(iii) Baseline for Delayed Phase Down. For purpose of the delayed phase down for remote areas in Alaska, the baseline amount for each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier subject to the delayed phase down shall be the annualized monthly support amount received for June 2014 or the last full month prior to the implementation of Mobility Fund Phase II, whichever is later.

(iv) Monthly Support Amounts. Competitive eligible telecommunications carriers subject to the delayed phase down for remote areas in Alaska shall receive the following support amounts, except as provided in paragraphs (e)(4) through (e)(6) of this section.

(A) From July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive 80 percent of its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(B) From July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive 60 percent of its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(C) From July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive 40 percent of its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(D) From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, each competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive 20 percent of its monthly baseline support amount each month.

(E) Beginning July 1, 2018, no competitive eligible telecommunications carrier serving remote areas in Alaska shall receive universal service support pursuant to this section.

(v) Interim Support for Remote Areas in Alaska. From January 1, 2012, until June 30, 2014 or the last full month prior to the implementation of Mobility Fund Phase II, whichever is later, competitive eligible telecommunications carriers subject to the delayed phase down for remote areas in Alaska shall continue to receive the support, as calculated by the Administrator, that each competitive telecommunications carrier would have received under the frozen per-line support amount as of December 31, 2011 capped at $3,000 per year, provided that the total amount of support for all such competitive eligible telecommunications carriers shall be capped pursuant to paragraph (e)(3)(v)(A) of this section.

(A) Cap Amount. The total amount of support available on an annual basis for competitive eligible telecommunications carriers subject to the delayed phase down for remote areas in Alaska shall be equal to the sum of “total 2011 support,” as defined in paragraph (e)(1)(i) of this section, received by all competitive eligible telecommunications carriers subject to the delayed phase down for serving remote areas in Alaska.

(B) Reduction Factor. To effectuate the cap, the Administrator shall apply a reduction factor as necessary to the support that would otherwise be received by all competitive eligible telecommunications carriers serving remote areas in Alaska subject to the delayed phase down. The reduction factor will be calculated by dividing the total amount of support available amount by the total support amount calculated for those carriers in the absence of the cap.

(4) Further reductions. If a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier ceases to provide services to high-cost areas it had previously served, the Commission may reduce its baseline support amount.

(5) Eligibility for support after Mobility Fund Phase II auction. (i) A mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that receives monthly baseline support pursuant to this section and is a winning bidder in the Mobility Fund Phase II auction shall receive support at the same level as described in paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section for such area until the Wireless Telecommunications and Wireline Competition Bureaus determine whether to authorize the carrier to receive Mobility Fund Phase II support.

(A) Upon the Wireless Telecommunications and Wireline Competition Bureaus' release of a public notice approving a mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier's application submitted pursuant to §54.104(b) and authorizing the carrier to receive Mobility Fund Phase II support, the carrier shall no longer receive support at the level of monthly baseline support pursuant to this section for such area. Thereafter, the carrier shall receive monthly support in the amount of its Mobility Fund Phase II winning bid, provided that USAC shall adjust the amount of the carrier's support to the extent necessary to account for any difference in support the carrier received during the period between the close of the Mobility Fund Phase II auction and the release of the public notice authorizing the carrier to receive Mobility Fund Phase II support.

(B) A mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that is a winning bidder in the Mobility Fund Phase II auction but is not authorized to receive Mobility Fund Phase II support shall receive monthly support as set forth in paragraphs (e)(5)(iii) and (iv) of this section for such area, as applicable, provided that USAC shall decrease such amounts to account for support payments received prior to the Wireless Telecommunications and Wireline Competition Bureaus' authorization determination that exceed the amount of support for such area as set forth in paragraphs (e)(5)(iii) and (iv), and the monthly support in the mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier's winning Mobility Fund Phase II, which USAC shall treat as the carrier's monthly baseline support for purposes of paragraphs (e)(5)(iii) and (iv) to the extent the carrier's winning bid is below that amount.

(ii) A mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that receives monthly baseline support pursuant to this section shall receive the following monthly support amounts for areas that are ineligible for Mobility Fund Phase II support, as determined by the Wireless Telecommunications and Wireline Competition Bureaus:

(A) For 12 months starting the first day of the month following the close of the Mobility Fund Phase II auction, each mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive two-thirds ( 23 ) of the carrier's support pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section for the ineligible area.

(B) For 12 months starting the month following the period described in paragraph (e)(5)(ii)(A) of this section, each mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive one-third ( 13 ) of the carrier's support pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section for the ineligible area.

(C) Following the period described in paragraph (e)(5)(ii)(B) of this section, no mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive monthly baseline support for the ineligible area pursuant to this section.

(iii) Except as provided in paragraph (e)(3) of this section, to the extent Mobility Fund Phase II support is not awarded at auction for an eligible area, as determined by the Wireless Telecommunications and Wireline Competition Bureaus, the mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier receiving the minimum level of sustainable support for the eligible area shall continue to receive support at the level described in paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section until further Commission action, but such support shall not extend for more than 60 months from the first day of the month following the close of the Mobility Fund Phase II auction. The “minimum level of sustainable support” is the lowest monthly baseline support received by a mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that deploys the highest technology for the eligible area.

(iv) All other mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carriers shall receive the following monthly support amounts for areas that are eligible for Mobility Fund Phase II support, as determined by the Wireless Telecommunications and Wireline Competition Bureaus:

(A) For 12 months starting the first day of the month following the close of the Mobility Fund Phase II auction, each mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive two-thirds ( 23 ) of the carrier's support pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section for the eligible area.

(B) For 12 months starting the month following the period described in paragraph (e)(5)(iv)(A) of this section, each mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive one-third ( 13 ) of the carrier's support pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section for the eligible area.

(C) Following the period described in paragraph (e)(5)(iv)(B) of this section, no mobile competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive monthly baseline support for the eligible area pursuant to this section.

(v) Notwithstanding the foregoing schedule, the phase-down of identical support below the level described in paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section shall be subject to the restrictions in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, Public Law 114-113, Div. E, Title VI, section 631, 129 Stat. 2242, 2470 (2015), unless and until such restrictions are no longer in effect.

(6) [Reserved]

(7) Line Count Filings. Competitive eligible telecommunications carriers, except those subject to the delayed phase down described in paragraph (e)(3) of this section, shall no longer be required to file line counts beginning January 1, 2012. Competitive eligible telecommunications carriers subject to the delayed phase down described in paragraph (e)(3) of this section shall no longer be required to file line counts beginning July 1, 2014, or the date after the first line count filing following the implementation of Mobility Fund Phase II, whichever is later.

(8) Eligibility for support after Connect America Phase II auction. Starting the first day of the month following the first authorization of Connect America Phase II auction support nationwide, fixed competitive eligible telecommunications carriers shall have the option of receiving support pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section as described in the following paragraphs (e)(8)(i) through (iv):

(i) For 12 months following the first authorization of Connect America Phase II auction support nationwide, each fixed competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive two-thirds ( 23 ) of the carrier's total support pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section.

(ii) For 12 months starting the month following the period described in paragraph (e)(8)(i) of this section, each fixed competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive one-third ( 13 ) of the carrier's total support pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section.

(iii) Following the period described in paragraph (e)(8)(ii) of this section, no fixed competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive any support pursuant to paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section.

(iv) Notwithstanding the foregoing schedule, the phase-down of support below the level described in paragraph (e)(2)(iii) of this section shall be subject to the restrictions in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, Public Law 114-113, Div. E, Title VI, section 631, 129 Stat. 2242, 2470 (2015), unless and until such restrictions are no longer in effect.

[62 FR 32948, June 17, 1997, as amended at 63 FR 2128, Jan. 13, 1998; 64 FR 67431, Dec. 1, 1999; 65 FR 26516, May 8, 2000; 66 FR 30087, June 5, 2001; 66 FR 59726, Nov. 30, 2001; 68 FR 31623, May 28, 2003; 69 FR 34602, June 22, 2004; 70 FR 29979, May 25, 2005; 76 FR 73871, Nov. 29, 2011; 77 FR 14302, Mar. 9, 2012; 77 FR 30913, May 24, 2012; 77 FR 52618, Aug. 30, 2012; 82 FR 15449, Mar. 28, 2017; 84 FR 8623, Mar. 11, 2019]

§54.308   Broadband public interest obligations for recipients of high-cost support.

(a) Rate-of-return carrier recipients of high-cost support are required to offer broadband service, at speeds described below, with latency suitable for real-time applications, including Voice over Internet Protocol, and usage capacity that is reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas, at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates for comparable offerings in urban areas. For purposes of determining reasonable comparability of rates, recipients are presumed to meet this requirement if they offer rates at or below the applicable benchmark to be announced annually by public notice issued by the Wireline Competition Bureau.

(1) Carriers that elect to receive Connect America Fund-Alternative Connect America Cost Model (CAF-ACAM) support pursuant to §54.311 are required to offer broadband service at actual speeds of at least 10 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream to a defined number of locations as specified by public notice, with a minimum usage allowance of 150 GB per month, subject to the requirement that usage allowances remain consistent with median usage in the United States over the course of the term.In addition, such carriers must offer other speeds to subsets of locations, as specified below:

(i) Fully funded locations. Fully funded locations are those locations identified by the Alternative-Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) where the average cost is above the funding benchmark and at or below the funding cap. Carriers are required to offer broadband speeds to locations that are fully funded, as specified by public notice at the time of authorization, as follows:

(A) Carriers with a state-level density of more than 10 housing units per square mile, as specified by public notice at the time of election, are required to offer broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream to 75 percent of all fully funded locations in the state by the end of the ten-year period.

(B) Carriers with a state-level density of 10 or fewer, but more than five, housing units per square mile, as specified by public notice at the time of election, are required to offer broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream to 50 percent of fully funded locations in the state by the end of the ten-year period.

(C) Carriers with a state-level density of five or fewer housing units per square mile, as specified by public notice at the time of election, are required to offer broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream to 25 percent of fully funded locations in the state by the end of the ten-year period.

(ii) Capped locations. Capped locations are those locations in census blocks for which A-CAM calculates an average cost per location above the funding cap. Carriers are required to offer broadband speeds to locations that are receiving capped support, as specified by public notice at the time of authorization, as follows:

(A) Carriers with a state-level density of more than 10 housing units per square mile, as specified by public notice at the time of election, are required to offer broadband speeds of at least 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream to 50 percent of all capped locations in the state by the end of the ten-year period.

(B) Carriers with a state-level density of 10 or fewer housing units per square mile, as specified by public notice at the time of election, are required to offer broadband speeds of at least 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream to 25 percent of capped locations in the state by the end of the ten-year period.

(C) Carriers shall provide to all other capped locations, upon reasonable request, broadband at actual speeds of at least 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream.

(iii) Revised A-CAM I carriers, as defined by §54.311(a)(2), must offer the following broadband speeds to locations that are fully funded, as specified by public notice at the time of the authorizations, as follows:

(A) Revised A-CAM I carriers with a state-level density of more than 10 housing units per square mile, as specified by public notice at the time of election, are required to offer broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream to 85 percent of all fully funded locations in the state by the end of the term.

(B) Revised A-CAM I carriers with a state-level density of 10 or fewer, but more than five, housing units per square mile, as specified by public notice at the time of election, are required to offer broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream to 65 percent of fully funded locations in the state by the end of the term.

(C) Revised A-CAM I carriers with a state-level density of five or fewer housing units per square mile, as specified by public notice at the time of election, are required to offer broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream to 50 percent of fully funded locations in the state by the end of the term.

(iv) A-CAM II carriers, as defined by §54.311(a)(3), must offer broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream to 100 percent of fully funded locations in the state by the end of the term, and therefore have no additional 10/1 Mbps obligation.

(2) Rate-of-return recipients of Connect America Fund Broadband Loop Support (CAF BLS) shall be required to offer broadband service at actual speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream, over a five-year period, to a defined number of unserved locations as specified by public notice, as determined by the following methodology:

(i) Percentage of CAF BLS. Each rate-of-return carrier is required to target a defined percentage of its five-year forecasted CAF BLS support to the deployment of broadband service to locations that are unserved with 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream broadband service as follows:

(A) Rate-of-return carriers with less than 20 percent deployment of 25/3 Mbps broadband service in their study areas, as determined by the Bureau, will be required to use 35 percent of their five-year forecasted CAF BLS support to extend broadband service where it is currently lacking.

(B) Rate-of-return carriers with more than 20 percent but less than 40 percent deployment of 25/3 Mbps broadband service in their study areas, as determined by the Bureau, will be required to use 25 percent of their five-year forecasted CAF BLS support to extend broadband service where it is currently lacking.

(C) Rate-of-return carriers with more than 40 percent deployment of 25/3 Mbps broadband service in their study areas, as determined by the Bureau, will be required to use 20 percent of their five-year forecasted CAF BLS support to extend broadband service where it is currently lacking.

(ii) Cost per location. The deployment obligation shall be determined by dividing the amount of support set forth in paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section by a cost per location figure based on one of two methodologies, at the carrier's election:

(A) The higher of:

(1) The weighted average unseparated cost per loop for carriers of similar density that offer 25/3 Mbps or better broadband service to at least 95 percent of locations, based on the most current FCC Form 477 data as determined by the Bureau, but excluding carriers subject to the current per-line per-month cap set forth in §54.302 and carriers subject to limitations on operating expenses set forth in §54.303; or

(2) 150% of the weighted average of the cost per loop for carriers of similar density, but excluding carriers subject to the per line per month cap set forth in §54.302 and carriers subject to limitations on operating expenses set forth in §54.303, with a similar level of deployment of 25/3 Mbps or better broadband based on the most current FCC Form 477 data, as determined by Bureau; or

(B) The average cost per location for census blocks lacking 25/3 Mbps broadband service in the carrier's study area as determined by the A-CAM.

(iii) Restrictions on deployment obligations. No rate-of-return carrier shall deploy terrestrial wireline technology in any census block if doing so would result in total support per line in the study area to exceed the per-line per-month cap in §54.302.

(iv) Future deployment obligations. Prior to publishing the deployment obligations for subsequent five-year periods, the Administrator shall update the unseparated average cost per loop amounts for carriers with 95 percent or greater deployment of the then-current standard, based on the then-current NECA cost data, and the Wireline Competition Bureau shall examine the density groupings and make any necessary adjustments based on then-current U.S. Census data.

(b) Rate-of-return carrier recipients of high-cost support are required upon reasonable request to bid on category one telecommunications and Internet access services in response to a posted FCC Form 470 seeking broadband service that meets the connectivity targets for the schools and libraries universal service support program for eligible schools and libraries (as described in §54.501) within that carrier's service area. Such bids must be at rates reasonably comparable to rates charged to eligible schools and libraries in urban areas for comparable offerings.

(c) Alaskan rate-of-return carriers receiving support from the Alaska Plan pursuant to §54.306 are exempt from paragraph (a) of this section and are instead required to offer voice and broadband service with latency suitable for real-time applications, including Voice over Internet Protocol, and usage capacity that is reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas, at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates for comparable offerings in urban areas, subject to any limitations in access to backhaul as described in §54.313(g). Alaska Plan recipients' specific broadband deployment and speed obligations shall be governed by the terms of their approved performance plans as described in §54.306(b). Alaska Plan recipients must also comply with paragraph (b) of this section.

(d) Mobile carriers that are receiving support from the Alaska Plan pursuant to §54.317(e) shall certify in their annual compliance filings that their rates are reasonably comparable to rates for comparable offerings in urban areas. The mobile carrier must also demonstrate compliance at the end of the five-year milestone and 10-year milestone and may do this by showing that its required stand-alone voice plan, and one service plan that offers broadband data services, if it offers such plans, are:

(1) Substantially similar to a service plan offered by at least one mobile wireless service provider in the cellular market area (CMA) for Anchorage, Alaska, and

(2) Offered for the same or a lower rate than the matching plan in the CMA for Anchorage.

[80 FR 4477, Jan. 27, 2015, as amended at 80 FR 5987, Feb. 4, 2015; 81 FR 24339, Apr. 25, 2016; 81 FR 69712, Oct. 7, 2016; 82 FR 14339, Mar. 20, 2017; 84 FR 4730, Feb. 19, 2019]

§54.309   Connect America Fund Phase II Public Interest Obligations.

(a) Recipients of Connect America Phase II support are required to offer broadband service with latency suitable for real-time applications, including Voice over Internet Protocol, and usage capacity that is reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas, at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates for comparable offerings in urban areas. For purposes of determining reasonable comparable usage capacity, recipients are presumed to meet this requirement if they meet or exceed the usage level announced by public notice issued by the Wireline Competition Bureau. For purposes of determining reasonable comparability of rates, recipients are presumed to meet this requirement if they offer rates at or below the applicable benchmark to be announced annually by public notice issued by the Wireline Competition Bureau, or no more than the non-promotional prices charged for a comparable fixed wireline service in urban areas in the state or U.S. Territory where the eligible telecommunications carrier receives support.

(1) Recipients of Connect America Phase II model-based support are required to offer broadband service at actual speeds of at least 10 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream.

(2) Recipients of Connect America Phase II support awarded through a competitive bidding process are required to offer broadband service meeting the performance standards required in bid tiers based on performance standards.

(i) Winning bidders meeting the minimum performance tier standards are required to offer broadband service at actual speeds of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream and to offer at least 150 gigabytes of monthly usage.

(ii) Winning bidders meeting the baseline performance tier standards are required to offer broadband service at actual speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream and offer a minimum usage allowance of 150 GB per month, or that reflects the average usage of a majority of fixed broadband customers, using Measuring Broadband America data or a similar data source, whichever is higher, and announced annually by public notice issued by the Wireline Competition Bureau over the 10-year term.

(iii) Winning bidders meeting the above-baseline performance tier standards are required to offer broadband service at actual speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream and offer at least 2 terabytes of monthly usage.

(iv) Winning bidders meeting the Gigabit performance tier standards are required to offer broadband service at actual speeds of at least 1 Gigabit per second downstream and 500 Mbps upstream and offer at least 2 terabytes of monthly usage.

(v) For each of the tiers in paragraphs (a)(2)(i) through (iv) of this section, bidders are required to meet one of two latency performance levels:

(A) Low latency bidders will be required to meet 95 percent or more of all peak period measurements of network round trip latency at or below 100 milliseconds; and

(B) High latency bidders will be required to meet 95 percent or more of all peak period measurements of network round trip latency at or below 750 ms and, with respect to voice performance, demonstrate a score of four or higher using the Mean Opinion Score (MOS).

(b) Recipients of Connect America Phase II model-based support, recipients of Phase II Connect America support awarded through a competitive bidding process, and non-contiguous price cap carriers receiving Phase II frozen support in lieu of model-based support are required to bid on category one telecommunications and Internet access services in response to a posted FCC Form 470 seeking broadband service that meets the connectivity targets for the schools and libraries universal service support program for eligible schools and libraries (as described in §54.501) located within any area in a census block where the carrier is receiving Phase II model-based support. Such bids must be at rates reasonably comparable to rates charged to eligible schools and libraries in urban areas for comparable offerings.

[80 FR 4477, Jan. 27, 2015, as amended at 80 FR 5987, Feb. 4, 2015; 81 FR 44448, July 7, 2016; 83 FR 23380, May 21, 2018]

§54.310   Connect America Fund for Price Cap Territories—Phase II

(a) Geographic areas eligible for support. Connect America Phase II support may be made available for census blocks or other areas identified as eligible by public notice, including locations identified by the forward-looking cost model as extremely high-cost. The number of supported locations will be identified for each area eligible for support will be identified by public notice.

(b) Term of support. Connect America Phase II model-based support shall be provided to price cap carriers that elect to make a state-level commitment for six years. Connect America Phase II support awarded through a competitive bidding process shall be provided for ten years.

(c) Deployment obligation. Recipients of Connect America Phase II model-based support must complete deployment to 40 percent of supported locations by December 31, 2017, to 60 percent of supported locations by December 31, 2018, to 80 percent of supported locations by December 31, 2019, and to 100 percent of supported locations by December 31, 2020. Recipients of Connect America Phase II awarded through a competitive bidding process must complete deployment to 40 percent of supported locations by the end of the third year, to 60 percent of supported locations by the end of the fourth year, to 80 percent of supported locations by the end of the fifth year, and to 100 percent of supported locations by the end of the sixth year. Compliance shall be determined based on the total number of supported locations in a state.

(1) For purposes of meeting the obligation to deploy to the requisite number of supported locations in a state, recipients of Connect America Phase II model-based support may serve unserved locations in census blocks with costs above the extremely high-cost threshold instead of locations in eligible census blocks, provided that they meet the public interest obligations set forth in §54.309(a) introductory text and (a)(1) for those locations and provided that the total number of locations covered is greater than or equal to the number of supported locations in the state.

(2) Recipients of Connect America Phase II support may elect to deploy to 95 percent of the number of supported locations in a given state with a corresponding reduction in support computed based on the average support per location in the state times 1.89.

(d) Disbursement of Phase II funding. An eligible telecommunications carrier will be advised by public notice when it is authorized to receive support. The public notice will detail how disbursements will be made.

(e) Provider eligibility. Any eligible telecommunications carrier is eligible to receive Connect America Phase II support in eligible areas.

(1) An entity may obtain eligible telecommunications carrier designation after public notice of winning bidders in a competitive bidding process for the offer of Phase II Connect America support. An applicant in the competitive bidding process shall certify that it is financially and technically qualified to provide the services supported by Connect America Phase II in order to receive such support.

(2) To the extent an applicant in the competitive bidding process seeks eligible telecommunications carrier designation prior to public notice of winning bidders for Phase II Connect America support, its designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier may be conditional subject to the receipt of Phase II Connect America support.

(f) Transition to model-based support. Eligible telecommunications carriers electing model-based support in states where that support is less than their Phase I frozen support will transition to model-based support as follows: In addition to model-based support, in the first year of Phase II, they will receive 75% of the difference between Phase I frozen support and model-based support; in the second year of Phase II, they will receive 50% of the difference between Phase I frozen support and model-based support; and in the third year of Phase II, they will receive 25% of the difference between Phase I frozen support and model-based support.

[79 FR 11335, Feb. 28, 2014, as amended at 79 FR 39188, July 9, 2014; 80 FR 4477, Jan. 27, 2015; 81 FR 44449, July 7, 2016]

§54.311   Connect America Fund Alternative-Connect America Cost Model Support.

(a) Voluntary election of model-based support. A rate-of-return carrier (as that term is defined in §54.5) receiving support pursuant to subparts K or M of this part shall have the opportunity to voluntarily elect, on a state-level basis, to receive Connect America Fund-Alternative Connect America Cost Model (CAF-ACAM) support as calculated by the Alternative-Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) adopted by the Commission in lieu of support calculated pursuant to subparts K or M of this part. Any rate-of-return carrier not electing support pursuant to this section shall continue to receive support calculated pursuant to those mechanisms as specified in Commission rules for high-cost support.

(1) For the purposes of this section, “A-CAM I” refers to carriers initially authorized to receive CAF-ACAM support as of January 24, 2017, including any carriers that later elected revised offers, except for carriers described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section. For such carriers, the first program year of CAF-ACAM is 2017.

(2) For the purposes of this section, “Revised A-CAM I” refers to carriers initially authorized to receive CAF-ACAM support as of January 24, 2017, and were subsequently authorized to receive CAF-ACAM pursuant to a revised offer after January 1, 2019. For such carriers, the first program year of CAF-ACAM is 2017.

(3) For the purposes of this section, “A-CAM II” refers to carriers first authorized to receive A-CAM support after January 1, 2019. For such carriers, the first program year of CAF-ACAM is 2019.

(b) Geographic areas eligible for support. CAF-ACAM model-based support will be made available for a specific number of locations in census blocks identified as eligible for each carrier by public notice. The eligible areas and number of locations for each state identified by the public notice shall not change during the term of support identified in paragraph (c) of this section.

(c) Term of support. CAF-ACAM model-based support shall be provided to A-CAM I carriers for a term that extends until December 31, 2026, and to Revised A-CAM I and A-CAM II carriers for a term that extends until December 31, 2028.

(d) Interim deployment milestones. Recipients of CAF-ACAM model-based support must meet the following interim milestones with respect to their deployment obligations set forth in §54.308(a)(1)(i) of this subpart. Compliance shall be determined based on the total number of fully funded locations in a state. Carriers that complete deployment to at least 95 percent of the requisite number of locations will be deemed to be in compliance with their deployment obligations. The remaining locations that receive capped support are subject to the standard specified in §54.308(a)(1)(ii).

(1) A-CAM I and Revised A-CAM I carriers must complete deployment of 10/1 Mbps service to a number of eligible locations equal to 40 percent of fully funded locations by the end of 2020, to 50 percent of fully funded locations by the end of 2021, to 60 percent of fully funded locations by the end of 2022, to 70 percent of fully funded locations by the end of 2023, to 80 percent of fully funded locations by the end of 2024, to 90 percent of fully funded locations by the end of 2025, and to 100 percent of fully funded locations by the end of 2026. By the end of 2026, A-CAM I carriers must complete deployment of broadband meeting a standard of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream to the requisite number of locations specified in §54.308(a)(1)(i). For Revised A-CAM I carriers, the deployment milestones for 10/1 Mbps service described in this paragraph shall be based on the number of locations that were fully funded pursuant to authorizations made prior to January 1, 2019.

(2) Revised A-CAM I and A-CAM II carriers must complete deployment of 25/3 Mbps service to a number of eligible locations equal to 40 percent of locations required by §54.308(a)(1) of this subpart by the end of 2022, 50 percent of requisite locations by the end of 2023, 60 percent of requisite locations by the end of 2024, 70 percent of requisite location by the end of 2025, 80 percent of requisite locations by the end of 2026, 90 percent of requisite locations by the end of 2027, and 100 percent of requisite locations by the end of 2028.

(e) Transition to CAF-ACAM Support. An A-CAM I, Revised A-CAM I, or A-CAM II carrier whose final model-based support is less than the carrier's legacy rate-of-return support in its base year as defined in paragraph (e)(4) of this section, will transition as follows:

(1) If the difference between a carrier's model-based support and its base year support, as determined by paragraph (e)(4) of this section, is ten percent or less, it will receive, in addition to model-based support, 50 percent of that difference in program year one, and then will receive model support in program years two through ten.

(2) If the difference between a carrier's model-based support and its base year support, as determined in paragraph (e)(4) of this section, is 25 percent or less, but more than 10 percent, it will receive, in addition to model-based support, an additional transition payment for up to four years, and then will receive model support in program years five through ten. The transition payments will be phased-down 20 percent per year, provided that each phase-down amount is at least five percent of the total base year support amount. If 20 percent of the difference between a carrier's model-based support and base year support is less than five percent of the total base year support amount, the transition payments will be phased-down five percent of the total base year support amount each year.

(3) If the difference between a carrier's model-based support and its base year support, as determined in paragraph (e)(4) of this section, is more than 25 percent, it will receive, in addition to model-based support, an additional transition payment for up to nine years, and then will receive model support in year ten. The transition payments will be phased-down ten percent per year, provided that each phase-down amount is at least five percent of the total base year support amount. If ten percent of the difference between a carrier's model-based support and its base year support is less than five percent of the total base year support amount, the transition payments will be phased-down five percent of the total base year support amount each year.

(4) The carrier's base year support for purposes of the calculation of transition payments is:

(i) For A-CAM I and Revised A-CAM I carriers, the amount of high-cost loop support and interstate common line support disbursed to the carrier for 2015 without regard to prior period adjustments related to years other than 2015, as determined by the Administrator as of January 31, 2016 and publicly announced prior to the election period for the voluntary path to the model; and

(ii) For A-CAM II carriers, the amount of high-cost loop support and Connect America Fund—Broadband Loop Support disbursed to the carrier for 2018 without regard to prior period adjustments related to years other than 2018, as determined by the Administrator as of January 31, 2019 and publicly announced prior to the election period for the voluntary path to the model.

81 FR 24340, Apr. 25, 2016, as amended at 82 FR 14339, Mar. 20, 2017; 84 FR 4731, Feb. 19, 2019]

Effective Date Note: At 81 FR 24340. Apr. 25, 2016, §54.311 was added. Paragraph (a) contains information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.312   Connect America Fund for Price Cap Territories—Phase I.

(a) Frozen High-Cost Support. Beginning January 1, 2012, each price cap local exchange carrier and rate-of-return carrier affiliated with a price cap local exchange carrier will have a “baseline support amount” equal to its total 2011 support in a given study area, or an amount equal to $3,000 times the number of reported lines for 2011, whichever is lower. For purposes of this section, price cap carriers are defined pursuant to §61.3(aa) of this chapter and affiliated companies are determined by §32.9000 of this chapter. Each price cap local exchange carrier and rate-of-return carrier affiliated with a price cap local exchange carrier will have a “monthly baseline support amount” equal to its baseline support amount divided by twelve. Beginning January 1, 2012, on a monthly basis, eligible carriers will receive their monthly baseline support amount.

(1) “Total 2011 support” is the amount of support disbursed to a price cap local exchange carrier or rate-of-return carrier affiliated with a price cap local exchange carrier for 2011, without regard to prior period adjustments related to years other than 2011 and as determined by USAC on January 31, 2012.

(2) For the purpose of calculating the $3,000 per line limit, the average of lines reported by a price cap local exchange carrier or rate-of-return carrier affiliated with a price cap local exchange carrier pursuant to line count filings required for December 31, 2010, and December 31, 2011 shall be used.

(3) A carrier receiving frozen high cost support under this rule shall be deemed to be receiving Interstate Access Support and Interstate Common Line Support equal to the amount of support the carrier to which the carrier was eligible under those mechanisms in 2011.

(b) Incremental Support in 2012. From January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2012, support in addition to baseline support defined in paragraph (a) of this section will be available for certain price cap local exchange carriers and rate-of-return carriers affiliated with price cap local exchange carriers as follows.

(1) For each carrier for which the Wireline Competition Bureau determines that it has appropriate data or for which it determines that it can make reasonable estimates, the Bureau will determine an average per-location cost for each wire center using a simplified cost-estimation function derived from the Commission's cost model. Incremental support will be based on the wire centers for which the estimated per-location cost exceeds the funding threshold. The funding threshold will be determined by calculating which funding threshold would allocate all available incremental support, if each carrier that would be offered incremental support were to accept it.

(2) An eligible telecommunications carrier accepting incremental support must deploy broadband to a number of unserved locations, as shown as unserved by fixed broadband on the then-current version of the National Broadband Map, equal to the amount of incremental support it accepts divided by $775.

(3) A carrier may elect to accept or decline incremental support. A holding company may do so on a holding-company basis on behalf of its operating companies that are eligible telecommunications carriers, whose eligibility for incremental support, for these purposes, shall be considered on an aggregated basis. A carrier must provide notice to the Commission, relevant state commissions, and any affected Tribal government, stating the amount of incremental support it wishes to accept and identifying the areas by wire center and census block in which the designated eligible telecommunications carrier will deploy broadband to meet its deployment obligation, or stating that it declines incremental support. Such notification must be made within 90 days of being notified of any incremental support for which it would be eligible. Along with its notification, a carrier accepting incremental support must also submit a certification that the locations to be served to satisfy the deployment obligation are not shown as served by fixed broadband provided by any entity other than the certifying entity or its affiliate on the then-current version of the National Broadband Map; that, to the best of the carrier's knowledge, the locations are, in fact, unserved by fixed broadband; that the carrier's current capital improvement plan did not already include plans to complete broadband deployment within the next three years to the locations to be counted to satisfy the deployment obligation; and that incremental support will not be used to satisfy any merger commitment or similar regulatory obligation. If a carrier intends to deploy to census blocks not initially identified at the time of election, it must inform the Commission, the Administrator, relevant state commissions, and any affected Tribal government of the change at least 90 days prior to commencing deployment in the new census blocks. No sooner than 46 days after the Wireline Competition Bureau issues a public notice announcing the updated deployment plans but prior to commencing deployment, the carrier must make the certifications described in this paragraph with respect to the new census blocks. If a carrier no longer intends to deploy to a previously identified census block, it must inform the Commission, the Administrator, relevant state commission, and any affected Tribal government prior to filing its certification pursuant to §54.313(b)(2).

(c) Incremental Support in 2013. From January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2013, support in addition to baseline support defined in paragraph (a) of this section will be available for certain price cap local exchange carriers and rate-of-return carriers affiliated with price cap local exchange carriers as follows:

(1) For each carrier for which the Wireline Competition Bureau determines that it has appropriate data or for which it determines that it can make reasonable estimates, the Bureau will determine an average per-location cost for each wire center using a simplified cost-estimation function derived from the Commission's high-cost proxy model. Incremental support will be based on the wire centers for which the estimated per-location cost exceeds the funding threshold. The funding threshold will be determined by calculating which funding threshold would allocate all available incremental support, if each carrier that would be offered incremental support were to accept it.

(2) An eligible telecommunications carrier accepting incremental support must deploy broadband to a number of unserved locations, shown as unserved by fixed Internet access with speeds of at least 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream on the then-current version of the National Broadband Map, equal to the amount of incremental support it accepts divided by $775.

(3) An eligible telecommunications carrier must accept funding pursuant to paragraph (c)(2) of this section before it may accept funding pursuant to paragraph (c)(3) of this section. If an eligible telecommunications carrier has committed to deploy to all locations eligible for support under paragraph (c)(2) of this section on routes or projects that can economically be built with $775 in Connect America funding for each location unserved by 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream plus an equal amount of non-Connect America carrier capital expenditure funding, but the carrier has not fully utilized its allotted funding, it may also count towards its deployment obligation locations shown as unserved by fixed Internet access with speeds of at least 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream equal to the amount of remaining incremental support divided by $550.

(4) A carrier may elect to accept or decline incremental support. A holding company may do so on a holding-company basis on behalf of its operating companies that are eligible telecommunications carriers, whose eligibility for incremental support, for these purposes, shall be considered on an aggregated basis. A carrier must provide notice to the Commission, the Administrator, relevant state commissions, and any affected Tribal government, stating the amount of incremental support it wishes to accept, the number of locations at the $775 amount, and the number of locations at the $550 amount, and identifying the areas by wire center and census block in which the designated eligible telecommunications carrier will deploy broadband to meet its deployment obligation; or stating that it declines incremental support. Such notification must be made within 75 days of being notified of any incremental support for which it would be eligible. If a carrier intends to deploy to census blocks not initially identified at the time of election, it must inform the Commission, the Administrator, relevant state commissions, and any affected Tribal government of the change at least 90 days prior to commencing deployment in the new census blocks. No sooner than 46 days after the Wireline Competition Bureau issues a public notice announcing the updated deployment plans but prior to commencing deployment, the carrier must make the certifications described in paragraph (c)(5) of this section with respect to the new census blocks. If a carrier no longer intends to deploy to a previously identified census block, it must inform the Commission, the Administrator, relevant state commission, and any affected Tribal government prior to filing its certification pursuant to §54.313(b)(2).

(5) Along with its notification, an eligible telecommunications carrier accepting incremental support must submit the following certifications:

(i) The locations to be served to satisfy the deployment obligation are not shown as served by fixed broadband at the speeds specified in paragraph (c)(2) or (c)(3) of this section provided by any entity other than the certifying entity or its affiliate on the then-current version of the National Broadband Map or that it is challenging the National Broadband Map's designation of that census block under the challenge process in paragraph (c)(7) of this section;

(ii) To the best of the carrier's knowledge, the locations are, in fact, unserved by fixed Internet access with speeds of at least 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream, or 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream, as appropriate;

(iii) The carrier's current capital improvement plan did not already include plans to complete broadband deployment within the next three years to the locations to be counted to satisfy the deployment obligation;

(iv) Incremental support will not be used to satisfy any merger commitment or similar regulatory obligation; and

(v) The carrier has undertaken due diligence to determine the locations in question are not within the service area of either Broadband Initiatives Program or the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program projects that will provide Internet access with speeds of at least 3 Mbps downstream and 768 upstream.

(6) An eligible telecommunications carrier deploying to locations unserved by 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream under paragraph (c)(3) of this section must also certify that it has prioritized its planned projects or routes so as to maximize the deployment of broadband-capable infrastructure to locations lacking Internet access with speeds of 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream.

(7) A person may challenge the designation of a census block as served or unserved by a certain speed as shown on the National Broadband Map. When the Wireline Competition Bureau determines that the evidence presented makes it more likely than not that the census block should be designated as served by broadband with speeds of at least 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream, that locations in that census block will be treated as served by broadband and therefore ineligible to be counted for the purposes of paragraph (c)(3) of this section. When the Wireline Competition Bureau determines that the evidence presented makes it more likely than not that the census block should be designated as served by Internet service with speeds of 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream, but unserved by broadband with speeds of at least 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream, locations in that census block will be treated as served by Internet access with speeds of 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream and therefore eligible to be counted for the purposes of paragraph (c)(3) of this section. When the Wireline Competition Bureau determines that the evidence presented makes it more likely than not that the census block should be designated as unserved by Internet service with speeds of 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream, locations in that census block will be treated as unserved by Internet access with speeds of 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream and therefore eligible to be counted for the purposes of paragraph (c)(2) of this section.

(8) If no entity other than the carrier or its affiliate provides Internet service with speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream or greater as shown on the National Broadband Map or as determined by the process described in paragraph (c)(7), the carrier may satisfy its deployment obligations at a location shown by the National Broadband Map as being served by that carrier or its affiliate with such service by certifying that it is the only entity providing such service, that the location does not actually receive speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream, and the location is served through a copper-fed digital subscriber line access multiplexer. The carrier must specifically identify such locations in its election. Such locations will be treated the same as locations under paragraph (c)(3) of this section.

(9) An eligible telecommunications carrier must complete deployment of broadband-capable infrastructure to two-thirds of the required number of locations within two years of providing notification of acceptance of funding, and must complete deployment to all required locations within three years. To satisfy its deployment obligation, the eligible telecommunications carrier must offer broadband service to such locations of at least 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, with latency sufficiently low to enable the use of real-time communications, including Voice over Internet Protocol, and with usage allowances, if any, associated with a specified price for a service offering that are reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas.

(d) Eligibility for support after Connect America Phase II auction. (1) A price cap carrier that receives monthly baseline support pursuant to this section and is a winning bidder in the Connect America Phase II auction shall receive support at the same level as described in paragraph (a) of this section for such area until the Wireline Competition Bureau determines whether to authorize the carrier to receive Connect America Phase II auction support for the same area. Upon the Wireline Competition Bureau's release of a public notice approving a price cap carrier's application submitted pursuant to §54.315(b) and authorizing the carrier to receive Connect America Fund Phase II auction support, the carrier shall no longer receive support at the level of monthly baseline support pursuant to this section for such area. Thereafter, the carrier shall receive monthly support in the amount of its Connect America Phase II winning bid.

(2) Starting the first day of the month following the first authorization of Connect America Phase II auction support nationwide, no price cap carrier that receives monthly baseline support pursuant to this section shall receive such monthly baseline support for areas that are ineligible for Connect America Phase II auction support.

(3) To the extent Connect America Phase II auction support is not awarded at auction for an eligible area, as determined by the Wireline Competition Bureau, the price cap carrier shall have the option of continuing to receive support at the level described in paragraph (a) of this section until further Commission action.

(4) Starting the first day of the month following the authorization of Connect America Phase II auction support to a winning bidder other than the price cap carrier that receives monthly baseline support pursuant to this section for such area, the price cap carrier shall no longer receive monthly baseline support pursuant to this section.

(5) Notwithstanding the foregoing schedule, the phase-down of support below the level described in paragraph (a) of this section shall be subject to the restrictions in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, Public Law 114-113, Div. E, Title VI, section 631, 129 Stat. 2242, 2470 (2015), unless and until such restrictions are no longer in effect.

[76 FR 73872, Nov. 29, 2011, as amended at 77 FR 31536, May 29, 2012; 78 FR 38233, June 26, 2013; 78 FR 48624, Aug. 9, 2013; 84 FR 8624, Mar. 11, 2019]

§54.313   Annual reporting requirements for high-cost recipients.

Link to an amendment published at 84 FR 59963, Nov. 7, 2019.

(a) Any recipient of high-cost support shall provide the following:

(1) Certification that the carrier is able to function in emergency situations as set forth in §54.202(a)(2);

(2) A certification that the pricing of the company's voice services is no more than two standard deviations above the applicable national average urban rate for voice service, as specified in the most recent public notice issued by the Wireline Competition Bureau and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau;

(3) A certification that the pricing of a service that meets the Commission's broadband public interest obligations is no more than the applicable benchmark to be announced annually in a public notice issued by the Wireline Competition Bureau, or is no more than the non-promotional price charged for a comparable fixed wireline service in urban areas in the states or U.S. Territories where the eligible telecommunications carrier receives support;

(4) The recipient's holding company, operating companies, affiliates, and any branding (a “dba,” or “doing-business-as company” or brand designation), as well as universal service identifiers for each such entity by Study Area Codes, as that term is used by the Administrator. For purposes of this paragraph, “affiliates” has the meaning set forth in section 3(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended;

(5) To the extent the recipient serves Tribal lands, documents or information demonstrating that the ETC had discussions with Tribal governments that, at a minimum, included:

(i) A needs assessment and deployment planning with a focus on Tribal community anchor institutions;

(ii) Feasibility and sustainability planning;

(iii) Marketing services in a culturally sensitive manner;

(iv) Rights of way processes, land use permitting, facilities siting, environmental and cultural preservation review processes; and

(v) Compliance with Tribal business and licensing requirements. Tribal business and licensing requirements include business practice licenses that Tribal and non-Tribal business entities, whether located on or off Tribal lands, must obtain upon application to the relevant Tribal government office or division to conduct any business or trade, or deliver any goods or services to the Tribes, Tribal members, or Tribal lands. These include certificates of public convenience and necessity, Tribal business licenses, master licenses, and other related forms of Tribal government licensure.

(6) The results of network performance tests pursuant to the methodology and in the format determined by the Wireline Competition Bureau, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and Office of Engineering and Technology.

(b) In addition to the information and certifications in paragraph (a) of this section:

(1) Any recipient of incremental Connect America Phase I support pursuant to §54.312(b) and (c) shall provide:

(i) In its next annual report due after two years after filing a notice of acceptance of funding pursuant to §54.312(b) and (c), a certification that the company has deployed to no fewer than two-thirds of the required number of locations; and

(ii) In its next annual report due after three years after filing a notice of acceptance of funding pursuant to §54.312(b) and (c), a certification that the company has deployed to all required locations and that it is offering broadband service of at least 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, with latency sufficiently low to enable the use of real-time communications, including Voice over Internet Protocol, and with usage allowances, if any, associated with a specified price for a service offering that are reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas.

(2) In addition to the information and certifications required in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, any recipient of incremental Connect America Phase I support pursuant to §54.312(c) shall provide:

(i) In its annual reports due after one, two, and three years after filing a notice of acceptance of funding pursuant to §54.312(c), a certification that, to the best of the recipient's knowledge, the locations in question are not receiving support under the Broadband Initiatives Program or the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program for projects that will provide broadband with speeds of at least 4 Mbps/1 Mbps; and

(ii) In its annual reports due after one, two, and three years after filing a notice of acceptance of funding pursuant to §54.312(c), a statement of the total amount of capital funding expended in the previous year in meeting Connect America Phase I deployment obligations, accompanied by a list of census blocks indicating where funding was spent.

(c) In addition to the information and certifications in paragraph (a) of this section, price cap carriers that receive frozen high-cost support pursuant to §54.312(a) shall provide:

(1) By July 1, 2013. A certification that frozen high-cost support the company received in 2012 was used consistent with the goal of achieving universal availability of voice and broadband;

(2) By July 1, 2014. A certification that at least one-third of the frozen-high cost support the company received in 2013 was used to build and operate broadband-capable networks used to offer the provider's own retail broadband service in areas substantially unserved by an unsubsidized competitor;

(3) By July 1, 2015. A certification that at least two-thirds of the frozen-high cost support the company received in 2014 was used to build and operate broadband-capable networks used to offer the provider's own retail broadband service in areas substantially unserved by an unsubsidized competitor; and

(4) By July 1, 2016 and in subsequent years. A certification that all frozen-high cost support the company received in the previous year was used to build and operate broadband-capable networks used to offer the provider's own retail broadband service in areas substantially unserved by an unsubsidized competitor.

(d) In addition to the information and certifications in paragraph (a) of this section, beginning July 1, 2013, price cap carriers receiving high-cost support to offset reductions in access charges shall provide a certification that the support received pursuant to §54.304 in the prior calendar year was used to build and operate broadband-capable networks used to offer provider's own retail service in areas substantially unserved by an unsubsidized competitor.

(e) In addition to the information and certifications in paragraph (a) of this section, the following requirements apply to Phase II and Remote Areas Fund recipients:

(1) Any price cap carrier that elects to receive Connect America Phase II model-based support shall provide:

(i) On July 1, 2016 a list of the geocoded locations already meeting the §54.309 public interest obligations at the end of calendar year 2015, and the total amount of Phase II support, if any, the price cap carrier used for capital expenditures in 2015.

(ii) On July 1, 2017 and every year thereafter ending July 1, 2021, the following information:

(A) The number, names, and addresses of community anchor institutions to which the eligible telecommunications carrier newly began providing access to broadband service in the preceding calendar year;

(B) The total amount of Phase II support, if any, the price cap carrier used for capital expenditures in the previous calendar year; and

(C) A certification that it bid on category one telecommunications and Internet access services in response to all FCC Form 470 postings seeking broadband service that meets the connectivity targets for the schools and libraries universal service support program for eligible schools and libraries (as described in §54.501) located within any area in a census block where the carrier is receiving Phase II model-based support, and that such bids were at rates reasonably comparable to rates charged to eligible schools and libraries in urban areas for comparable offerings.

(2) Any recipient of Phase II or Remote Areas Fund support awarded through a competitive bidding process shall provide:

(i) Starting the first July 1st after receiving support until the July 1st after the recipient's support term has ended:

(A) The number, names, and addresses of community anchor institutions to which the eligible telecommunications carrier newly began providing access to broadband service in the preceding calendar year;

(B) The total amount of support, if any, the recipient used for capital expenditures in the previous calendar year; and

(C) A certification that it bid on category one telecommunications and Internet access services in response to all FCC Form 470 postings seeking broadband service that meets the connectivity targets for the schools and libraries universal service support program for eligible schools and libraries (as described in §54.501) located within any area in a census block where the carrier is receiving support awarded through auction, and that such bids were at rates reasonably comparable to rates charged to eligible schools and libraries in urban areas for comparable offerings.

(ii) Starting the first July 1st after receiving support until the July 1st after the recipient's penultimate year of support, a certification that the recipient has available funds for all project costs that will exceed the amount of support that will be received for the next calendar year.

(iii) Starting the first July 1st after meeting the final service milestone in §54.310(c) of this chapter until the July 1st after the Phase II recipient's support term has ended, a certification that the Phase II-funded network that the Phase II auction recipient operated in the prior year meets the relevant performance requirements in §54.309 of this chapter, or that the network that the Remote Areas Fund recipient operated in the prior year meets the relevant performance requirements for the Remote Areas Fund.

(f) In addition to the information and certifications in paragraph (a) of this section, any rate-of-return carrier shall provide:

(1) On July 1, 2016, a list of the geocoded locations already meeting the §54.309 public interest obligations at the end of calendar year 2015, and the total amount of Phase II support, if any, the price cap carrier used for capital expenditures in 2015.

(i) If the rate-of-return carrier is receiving support pursuant to subparts K and M of this part, a certification that it is taking reasonable steps to provide upon reasonable request broadband service at actual speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream, with latency suitable for real-time applications, including Voice over internet Protocol, and usage capacity that is reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas as determined in an annual survey, and that requests for such service are met within a reasonable amount of time; if the rate-of-return carrier receives CAF-ACAM support, a certification that it is meeting the relevant reasonable request standard; or if the rate-of-return carrier is receiving Alaska Plan support pursuant to §54.306, a certification that it is offering broadband service with latency suitable for real-time applications, including Voice over internet Protocol, and usage capacity that is reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas, and at speeds committed to in its approved performance plan to the locations it has reported pursuant to §54.316(a), subject to any limitations due to the availability of backhaul as specified in paragraph (g) of this section.

(ii) The number, names, and addresses of community anchor institutions to which the ETC newly began providing access to broadband service in the preceding calendar year; and

(iii) A certification that it bid on category one telecommunications and Internet access services in response to all reasonable requests in posted FCC Form 470s seeking broadband service that meets the connectivity targets for the schools and libraries universal service support program for eligible schools and libraries (as described in §54.501) within its service area, and that such bids were at rates reasonably comparable to rates charged to eligible schools and libraries in urban areas for comparable offerings.

(2) Privately held rate-of-return carriers only. A full and complete annual report of the company's financial condition and operations as of the end of the preceding fiscal year.

(i) Recipients of loans from the Rural Utility Service (RUS) shall provide copies of their RUS Operating Report for Telecommunications Borrowers as filed with the RUS. Such carriers must make their underlying audit and related workpapers and financial information available upon request by the Commission, USAC, or the relevant state commission, relevant authority in a U.S. Territory, or Tribal government, as appropriate.

(ii) All privately held rate-of-return carriers that are not recipients of loans from the RUS and whose financial statements are audited in the ordinary course of business must provide either: A copy of their audited financial statement; or a financial report in a format comparable to RUS Operating Report for Telecommunications Borrowers, accompanied by a copy of a management letter issued by the independent certified public accountant that performed the company's financial audit. A carrier choosing the latter option must make its audit and related workpapers and financial information available upon request by the Commission, USAC, or the relevant state commission, relevant authority in a U.S. Territory, or Tribal government, as appropriate.

(iii) All other privately held rate-of-return carriers must provide either: A copy of their financial statement which has been subject to review by an independent certified public accountant; or a financial report in a format comparable to RUS Operating Report for Telecommunications Borrowers, with the underlying information subjected to a review by an independent certified public accountant and accompanied by an officer certification that: The carrier was not audited in the ordinary course of business for the preceding fiscal year; and that the reported data are accurate. If the carrier elects the second option, it must make the review and related workpapers and financial information available upon request by the Commission, USAC, or the relevant state commission, relevant authority in a U.S. Territory, or Tribal government, as appropriate.

(3) For rate-of-return carriers participating in the Alaska Plan, funding recipients must certify as to whether any terrestrial backhaul or other satellite backhaul became commercially available in the previous calendar year in areas that were previously served exclusively by performance-limiting satellite backhaul. To the extent that such new terrestrial backhaul facilities are constructed, or other satellite backhaul become commercially available, or existing facilities improve sufficiently to meet the relevant speed, latency and capacity requirements then in effect for broadband service supported by the Alaska Plan, the funding recipient must provide a description of the backhaul technology, the date at which that backhaul was made commercially available to the carrier, and the number of locations that are newly served by the new terrestrial backhaul or other satellite backhaul. Within twelve months of the new backhaul facilities becoming commercially available, funding recipients must certify that they are offering broadband service with latency suitable for real-time applications, including Voice over Internet Protocol, and usage capacity that is reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas. Funding recipients' minimum speed deployment obligations will be reassessed as specified by the Commission.

(4) If applicable, the name of any cost consultant and cost consulting firm, or other third-party, retained to prepare financial and operations data disclosures submitted to the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), the Administrator or the Commission pursuant to subpart D, K, or M of this part.

(5) Rate-of-return carriers receiving support pursuant to the Alternative Connect America Model or the Alaska Plan, that are not otherwise required to file count data pursuant to §54.903(a)(1) of this subpart, must file the line count data required by §54.903(a)(1).

(g) Areas with no terrestrial backhaul. Carriers without access to terrestrial backhaul that are compelled to rely exclusively on satellite backhaul in their study area must certify annually that no terrestrial backhaul options exist. Any such funding recipients must certify they offer broadband service at actual speeds of at least 1 Mbps downstream and 256 kbps upstream within the supported area served by satellite middle-mile facilities. To the extent that new terrestrial backhaul facilities are constructed, or existing facilities improve sufficiently to meet the relevant speed, latency and capacity requirements then in effect for broadband service supported by the Connect America Fund, within twelve months of the new backhaul facilities becoming commercially available, funding recipients must provide the certifications required in paragraphs (e) or (f) of this section in full. Carriers subject to this paragraph must comply with all other requirements set forth in the remaining paragraphs of this section. These obligations may be modified for carriers participating in the Alaska Plan.

(h) In their annual reporting due by July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020, all incumbent local exchange carrier recipients of high-cost support must report all of their rates for residential local service for all portions of their service area, as well as state regulated fees, to the extent the sum of those rates and fees are below $18, and the number of lines for each rate specified. Carriers shall report lines and rates in effect as of June 1. For purposes of this subsection, state regulated fees shall be limited to state subscriber line charges, state universal service fees and mandatory extended area service charges.

(i) All reports pursuant to this section shall be filed with the Office of the Secretary of the Commission clearly referencing WC Docket No. 14-58, with the Administrator, and with the relevant state commissions or relevant authority in a U.S. Territory, or Tribal governments, as appropriate.

(j) Filing deadlines. (1) In order for a recipient of high-cost support to continue to receive support for the following calendar year, or retain its eligible telecommunications carrier designation, it must submit the annual reporting information required by this section annually by July 1 of each year. Eligible telecommunications carriers that file their reports after the July 1 deadline shall receive a reduction in support pursuant to the following schedule:

(i) An eligible telecommunications carrier that files after the July 1 deadline, but by July 8, will have its support reduced in an amount equivalent to seven days in support;

(ii) An eligible telecommunications carrier that files on or after July 9 will have its support reduced on a pro-rata daily basis equivalent to the period of non-compliance, plus the minimum seven-day reduction.

(2) Grace period. An eligible telecommunications carrier that submits the annual reporting information required by this section after July 1 but before July 5 will not receive a reduction in support if the eligible telecommunications carrier and its holding company, operating companies, and affiliates as reported pursuant to paragraph (a)(8) of this section have not missed the July 1 deadline in any prior year.

(k) This section does not apply to recipients that solely receive support from Phase I and Phase II of the Mobility Fund.

(l) In addition to the information and certifications in paragraph (a) of this section, any competitive eligible telecommunications carrier participating in the Alaska Plan must provide the following:

(1) Funding recipients that have identified in their approved performance plans that they rely exclusively on satellite backhaul for a certain portion of the population in their service area must certify as to whether any terrestrial backhaul or other satellite backhaul became commercially available in the previous calendar year in areas that were previously served exclusively by satellite backhaul. To the extent that new terrestrial backhaul facilities are constructed or other satellite backhaul become commercially available, the funding recipient must:

(i) Provide a description of the backhaul technology;

(ii) Provide the date on which that backhaul was made commercially available to the carrier;

(iii) Provide the number of the population within their service area that are served by the newly available backhaul option; and

(iv) To the extent the funding recipient has not already committed to providing 4G LTE at 10/1 Mbps to the population served by the newly available backhaul by the end of the plan term, submit a revised performance commitment factoring in the availability of the new backhaul option no later than the due date of the Form 481 in which they have certified that such backhaul became commercially available.

(2) [Reserved]

(m) Any price cap carrier or fixed competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that elects to continue receiving support pursuant to §54.312(d) or §54.307(e)(2)(iii) shall provide certifications, starting July 1, 2020 and for each subsequent year they receive such support, that all such support the company received in the previous year was used to provide voice service throughout the high-cost and extremely high-cost census blocks where they continue to have the federal high-cost eligible telecommunications carrier obligation to provide voice service pursuant to §54.201(d) at rates that are reasonably comparable to comparable offerings in urban areas. Any price cap carrier or fixed competitive eligible telecommunications carrier that solely receives support pursuant to §54.312(d) or§54.307(e)(2)(iii) in its designated service area shall not be subject to reporting requirements in any other paragraphs in this section for such support.

[76 FR 73873, Nov. 29, 2011, as amended at 77 FR 14302, Mar. 9, 2012; 77 FR 30914, May 24, 2012; 78 FR 22201, Apr. 15, 2013; 78 FR 29656, May 21, 2013; 78 FR 3843, Jan. 17, 2013; 78 FR 38233, June 26, 2013; 79 FR 11336, Feb. 28, 2014; 79 FR 39189, July 9, 2014; 80 FR 4477, Jan. 27, 2015; 81 FR 24341, Apr. 25, 2016; 81 FR 44449, July 7, 2016; 81 FR 69713, Oct. 7, 2016; 82 FR 15450, Mar. 28, 2017; 82 FR 39969, Aug. 23, 2017; 83 FR 18964, May 1, 2018; 84 FR 4732, Feb. 19, 2019; 84 FR 8624, Mar. 11, 2019; 84 FR 19876, May 7, 2019]

Effective Date Notes: 1. At 77 FR 14302, Mar. 9, 2012, §54.313(a)(9) introductory text and (f)(2) were revised. These paragraphs contain information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

2. At 79 FR 11336, Feb. 28, 2014, §54.313(e)(1), (e)(2), and (e)(3) introductory text were revised. These paragraphs contain information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

3. At 80 FR 4476, Jan. 27, 2015, §54.313(a)(12) was added and (e) was revised. These paragraphs contain information collection and record keeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

4. At 84 FR 4732, Feb. 19, 2019, §54.313(f)(1)(i) was revised and (f)(5) was added. These paragraphs contain information collection and record keeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

5. At 84 FR 8624, Mar. 11, 2019, §54.313 (m) was added. This paragraph contains information collection and record keeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.314   Certification of support for eligible telecommunications carriers.

(a) Certification. States that desire eligible telecommunications carriers to receive support pursuant to the high-cost program must file an annual certification with the Administrator and the Commission stating that all federal high-cost support provided to such carriers within that State was used in the preceding calendar year and will be used in the coming calendar year only for the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services for which the support is intended. High-cost support shall only be provided to the extent that the State has filed the requisite certification pursuant to this section.

(b) Carriers not subject to State jurisdiction. An eligible telecommunications carrier not subject to the jurisdiction of a State that desires to receive support pursuant to the high-cost program must file an annual certification with the Administrator and the Commission stating that all federal high-cost support provided to such carrier was used in the preceding calendar year and will be used in the coming calendar year only for the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services for which the support is intended. Support provided pursuant to the high-cost program shall only be provided to the extent that the carrier has filed the requisite certification pursuant to this section.

(c) Certification format. (1) A certification pursuant to this section may be filed in the form of a letter from the appropriate regulatory authority for the State, and must be filed with both the Office of the Secretary of the Commission clearly referencing WC Docket No. 14-58, and with the Administrator of the high-cost support mechanism, on or before the deadlines set forth in paragraph (d) of this section. If provided by the appropriate regulatory authority for the State, the annual certification must identify which carriers in the State are eligible to receive federal support during the applicable 12-month period, and must certify that those carriers only used support during the preceding calendar year and will only use support in the coming calendar year for the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services for which support is intended. A State may file a supplemental certification for carriers not subject to the State's annual certification. All certificates filed by a State pursuant to this section shall become part of the public record maintained by the Commission.

(2) An eligible telecommunications carrier not subject to the jurisdiction of a State shall file a sworn affidavit executed by a corporate officer attesting that the carrier only used support during the preceding calendar year and will only use support in the coming calendar year for the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services for which support is intended. The affidavit must be filed with both the Office of the Secretary of the Commission clearly referencing WC Docket No. 14-58, and with the Administrator of the high-cost universal service support mechanism, on or before the deadlines set forth in paragraph (d) of this section. All affidavits filed pursuant to this section shall become part of the public record maintained by the Commission.

(d) Filing deadlines. (1) In order for an eligible telecommunications carrier to receive federal high-cost support, the state or the eligible telecommunications carrier, if not subject to the jurisdiction of a state, must file an annual certification, as described in paragraph (c) of this section, with both the Administrator and the Commission by October 1 of each year. If a state or eligible telecommunications carrier files the annual certification after the October 1 deadline, the carrier subject to the certification shall receive a reduction in its support pursuant to the following schedule:

(i) An eligible telecommunications carrier subject to certifications filed after the October 1 deadline, but by October 8, will have its support reduced in an amount equivalent to seven days in support;

(ii) An eligible telecommunications carrier subject to certifications filed on or after October 9 will have its support reduced on a pro-rata daily basis equivalent to the period of non-compliance, plus the minimum seven-day reduction.

(2) Grace period. If an eligible telecommunications carrier or state submits the annual certification required by this section after October 1 but before October 5, the eligible telecommunications carrier subject to the certification will not receive a reduction in support if the eligible telecommunications carrier and its holding company, operating companies, and affiliates as reported pursuant to §54.313(a)(8) have not missed the October 1 deadline in any prior year.

[76 FR 73875, Nov. 29, 2011; 79 FR 39189, July 9, 2014; 80 FR 4477, Jan. 27, 2015]

§54.315   Application process for Connect America Fund phase II support distributed through competitive bidding.

(a) Application to participate in competitive bidding for Phase II support. In addition to providing information specified in §1.21001(b) of this chapter and any other information required by the Commission, an applicant to participate in competitive bidding for Phase II auction support shall:

(1) Provide ownership information as set forth in §1.2112(a) of this chapter;

(2) Certify that the applicant is financially and technically qualified to meet the public interest obligations of §54.309 for each relevant tier and in each area for which it seeks support;

(3) Disclose its status as an eligible telecommunications carrier to the extent applicable and certify that it acknowledges that it must be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier for the area in which it will receive support prior to being authorized to receive support;

(4) Indicate the tier of bids that the applicant plans to make and describe the technology or technologies that will be used to provide service for each tier of bid;

(5) Submit any information required to establish eligibility for any bidding weights adopted by the Commission in an order or public notice;

(6) To the extent that an applicant plans to use spectrum to offer its voice and broadband services, demonstrate it has the proper authorizations, if applicable, and access to operate on the spectrum it intends to use, and that the spectrum resources will be sufficient to cover peak network usage and deliver the minimum performance requirements to serve all of the fixed locations in eligible areas, and certify that it will retain its access to the spectrum for at least 10 years from the date of the funding authorization; and

(7) Submit specified operational and financial information.

(i) Submit a certification that the applicant has provided a voice, broadband, and/or electric transmission or distribution service for at least two years or that it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of such an entity, and specifying the number of years the applicant or its parent company has been operating, and submit the financial statements from the prior fiscal year that are audited by a certified public accountant. If the applicant is not audited in the ordinary course of business, in lieu of submitting audited financial statements it must certify that it will provide financial statements from the prior fiscal year that are audited by a certified independent public accountant by a specified deadline during the long-form application review process.

(A) If the applicant has provided a voice and/or broadband service it must certify that it has filed FCC Form 477s as required during this time period.

(B) If the applicant has operated only an electric transmission or distribution service, it must submit qualified operating or financial reports that it has filed with the relevant financial institution for the relevant time period along with a certification that the submission is a true and accurate copy of the reports that were provided to the relevant financial institution.

(ii) If an applicant cannot meet the requirements in paragraph (a)(7)(i) of this section, in the alternative it must submit the audited financial statements from the three most recent fiscal years and a letter of interest from a bank meeting the qualifications set forth in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, that the bank would provide a letter of credit as described in paragraph (c) of this section to the bidder if the bidder were selected for bids of a certain dollar magnitude.

(b) Application by winning bidders for Phase II auction support—(1) Deadline. As provided by public notice, winning bidders for Phase II auction support shall file an application for Phase II auction support no later than the number of business days specified after the public notice identifying them as winning bidders.

(2) Application contents. An application for Phase II auction support must contain:

(i) Identification of the party seeking the support, including ownership information as set forth in §1.2112(a) of this chapter;

(ii) Certification that the applicant is financially and technically qualified to meet the public interest obligations of §54.309 for each tier in which it is a winning bidder and in each area for which it seeks support;

(iii) Certification that the applicant will meet the relevant public interest obligations for each relevant tier, including the requirement that it will offer service at rates that are equal or lower to the Commission's reasonable comparability benchmarks for fixed wireline services offered in urban areas;

(iv) A description of the technology and system design the applicant intends to use to deliver voice and broadband service, including a network diagram which must be certified by a professional engineer. The professional engineer must certify that the network is capable of delivering, to at least 95 percent of the required number of locations in each relevant state, voice and broadband service that meets the requisite performance requirements in §54.309;

(v) Certification that the applicant will have available funds for all project costs that exceed the amount of support to be received from the Phase II auction for the first two years of its support term and that the applicant will comply with all program requirements, including service milestones;

(vi) A description of how the required construction will be funded, including financial projections that demonstrate the applicant can cover the necessary debt service payments over the life of the loan, if any;

(vii) Certification that the party submitting the application is authorized to do so on behalf of the applicant; and

(viii) Such additional information as the Commission may require.

(3) No later than the number of days provided by public notice, the applicant shall submit a letter from a bank meeting the eligibility requirements outlined in paragraph (c) of this section committing to issue an irrevocable stand-by letter of credit, in the required form, to the winning bidder. The letter shall at a minimum provide the dollar amount of the letter of credit and the issuing bank's agreement to follow the terms and conditions of the Commission's model letter of credit.

(4) No later than 180 days after the public notice identifying them as a winning bidder, bidders that did not submit audited financial statements in their short-form application pursuant to paragraph (a)(7)(i) of this section must submit the financial statements from the prior fiscal year that are audited by a certified independent public accountant.

(5) No later than 180 days after the public notice identifying it as a winning bidder, the applicant shall certify that it is an eligible telecommunications carrier in any area for which it seeks support and submit the relevant documentation supporting that certification.

(6) Application processing. (i) No application will be considered unless it has been submitted in an acceptable form during the period specified by public notice. No applications submitted or demonstrations made at any other time shall be accepted or considered.

(ii) Any application that, as of the submission deadline, either does not identify the applicant seeking support as specified in the public notice announcing application procedures or does not include required certifications shall be denied.

(iii) An applicant may be afforded an opportunity to make minor modifications to amend its application or correct defects noted by the applicant, the Commission, the Administrator, or other parties. Minor modifications include correcting typographical errors in the application and supplying non-material information that was inadvertently omitted or was not available at the time the application was submitted.

(iv) Applications to which major modifications are made after the deadline for submitting applications shall be denied. Major modifications include, but are not limited to, any changes in the ownership of the applicant that constitute an assignment or change of control, or the identity of the applicant, or the certifications required in the application.

(v) After receipt and review of the applications, a public notice shall identify each winning bidder that may be authorized to receive Phase II auction support after the winning bidder submits a letter of credit and an accompanying opinion letter as described in paragraph (c) of this section, in a form acceptable to the Commission. Each such winning bidder shall submit a letter of credit and accompanying opinion letter as required by paragraph (c) of this section, in a form acceptable to the Commission no later than the number of business days provided by public notice.

(vi) After receipt of all necessary information, a public notice will identify each winning bidder that is authorized to receive Phase II auction support.

(c) Letter of credit. Before being authorized to receive Phase II auction support, a winning bidder shall obtain an irrevocable standby letter of credit which shall be acceptable in all respects to the Commission.

(1) Value. Each recipient authorized to receive Phase II support shall maintain the standby letter of credit or multiple standby letters of credit in an amount equal to at a minimum the amount of Phase II auction support that has been disbursed and that will be disbursed in the coming year, until the Universal Service Administrative Company has verified that the recipient met the final service milestone as described in §54.310(c).

(i) Once the recipient has met its 60 percent service milestone, it may obtain a new letter of credit or renew its existing letter of credit so that it is valued at a minimum at 90 percent of the total support amount already disbursed plus the amount that will be disbursed in the coming year.

(ii) Once the recipient has met its 80 percent service milestone, it may obtain a new letter of credit or renew its existing letter of credit so that it is valued at a minimum at 60 percent of the total support that has been disbursed plus the amount that will be disbursed in the coming year.

(2) The bank issuing the letter of credit shall be acceptable to the Commission. A bank that is acceptable to the Commission is:

(i) Any United States bank

(A) That is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and

(B) That has a bank safety rating issued by Weiss of B- or better; or

(ii) CoBank, so long as it maintains assets that place it among the 100 largest United States Banks, determined on basis of total assets as of the calendar year immediately preceding the issuance of the letter of credit and it has a long-term unsecured credit rating issued by Standard & Poor's of BBB- or better (or an equivalent rating from another nationally recognized credit rating agency); or

(iii) The National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, so long as it maintains assets that place it among the 100 largest United States Banks, determined on basis of total assets as of the calendar year immediately preceding the issuance of the letter of credit and it has a long-term unsecured credit rating issued by Standard & Poor's of BBB- or better (or an equivalent rating from another nationally recognized credit rating agency); or

(iv) Any non-United States bank

(A) That is among the 100 largest non-U.S. banks in the world, determined on the basis of total assets as of the end of the calendar year immediately preceding the issuance of the letter of credit (determined on a U.S. dollar equivalent basis as of such date);

(B) Has a branch office in the District of Columbia or such other branch office agreed to by the Commission;

(C) Has a long-term unsecured credit rating issued by a widely-recognized credit rating agency that is equivalent to a BBB- or better rating by Standard & Poor's; and

(D) Issues the letter of credit payable in United States dollars

(3) A winning bidder for Phase II auction support shall provide with its letter of credit an opinion letter from its legal counsel clearly stating, subject only to customary assumptions, limitations, and qualifications, that in a proceeding under Title 11 of the United States Code, 11 U.S.C. 101 et seq. (the “Bankruptcy Code”), the bankruptcy court would not treat the letter of credit or proceeds of the letter of credit as property of the winning bidder's bankruptcy estate under section 541 of the Bankruptcy Code.

(4) Authorization to receive Phase II auction support is conditioned upon full and timely performance of all of the requirements set forth in this section, and any additional terms and conditions upon which the support was granted.

(i) Failure by a Phase II auction support recipient to meet its service milestones as required by §54.310 will trigger reporting obligations and the withholding of support as described in §54.320(c). Failure to come into full compliance within 12 months will trigger a recovery action by the Universal Service Administrative Company. If the Phase II recipient does not repay the requisite amount of support within six months, the Universal Service Administrative Company will be entitled to draw the entire amount of the letter of credit and may disqualify the Phase II auction support recipient from the receipt of Phase II auction support or additional universal service support.

(ii) The default will be evidenced by a letter issued by the Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau or the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, or their respective designees, which letter, attached to a standby letter of credit draw certificate, shall be sufficient for a draw on the standby letter of credit for the entire amount of the standby letter of credit.

[81 FR 44449, July 7, 2016, as amended at 83 FR 15994, Apr. 13, 2018; 83 FR 18454, Apr. 27, 2018]

§54.316   Broadband deployment reporting and certification requirements for high-cost recipients.

Link to an amendment published at 84 FR 59963, Nov. 7, 2019.

(a) Broadband deployment reporting. Rate-of Return ETCs, ETCs that elect to receive Connect America Phase II model-based support, and ETCs awarded support to serve fixed locations through a competitive bidding process shall have the following broadband reporting obligations:

(1) Recipients of high-cost support with defined broadband deployment obligations pursuant to §54.308(a), 54.308(c), or §54.310(c) shall provide to the Administrator on a recurring basis information regarding the locations to which the eligible telecommunications carrier is offering broadband service in satisfaction of its public interest obligations, as defined in either §54.308 or §54.309.

(2) Recipients subject to the requirements of §54.308(a)(1) shall report the number of locations for each state and locational information, including geocodes, separately indicating whether they are offering service providing speeds of at least 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream, 10 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream, and 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream.

(3) Recipients subject to the requirements of §54.308(a)(2) shall report the number of newly served locations for each study area and locational information, including geocodes, separately indicating whether they are offering service providing speeds of at least 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream, 10 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream, and 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream.

(4) Recipients subject to the requirements of §54.310(c) shall report the number of locations for each state and locational information, including geocodes, where they are offering service at the requisite speeds. Recipients of Phase II Auction support and Remote Areas Fund support shall also report the technology they use to serve those locations.

(5) Recipients subject to the requirements of §54.308(c) shall report the number of newly deployed and upgraded locations and locational information, including geocodes, where they are offering service providing speeds they committed to in their adopted performance plans pursuant to §54.306(b).

(6) Recipients subject to the requirements of §54.308(c) or §54.317(e) shall submit fiber network maps or microwave network maps covering eligible areas. At the end of any calendar year for which middle-mile facilities were deployed, these recipients shall also submit updated maps showing middle-mile facilities that are or will be used to support their services in eligible areas.

(b) Broadband deployment certifications. Rate-of Return ETCs, ETCs that elect to receive Connect America Phase II model-based support, and ETCs awarded support through a competitive bidding process shall have the following broadband deployment certification obligations:

(1) Price cap carriers that elect to receive Connect America Phase II model-based support shall provide: No later than March 1, 2017, and every year thereafter ending on no later than March 1, 2021, a certification that by the end of the prior calendar year, it was offering broadband meeting the requisite public interest obligations specified in §54.309 to the required percentage of its supported locations in each state as set forth in §54.310(c).

(2) Rate-of-return carriers electing CAF-ACAM support pursuant to §54.311 shall provide:

(i) No later than March 1, 2021, and every year thereafter ending on no later than March 1, 2029, a certification that by the end of the prior calendar year, it was offering broadband meeting the requisite public interest obligations specified in §54.308 to the required percentage of its fully funded locations in the state, pursuant to the interim deployment milestones set forth in §54.311(d).

(ii) No later than March 1, 2027, a certification that as of December 31, 2026, it was offering broadband meeting the requisite public interest obligations specified in §54.308(a)(1) to all of its fully funded locations in the state and to the required percentage of its capped locations in the state.

(3) Rate-of-return carriers receiving support pursuant to subparts K and M of this part shall provide:

(i) No later than March 1, 2024, a certification that it fulfilled the deployment obligation meeting the requisite public interest obligations as specified in §54.308(a)(2) to the required number of locations as of December 31, 2023.

(ii) Every subsequent five-year period thereafter, a certification that it fulfilled the deployment obligation meeting the requisite public interest obligations as specified in §54.308(a)(2)(iv).

(4) Recipients of Connect America Phase II auction support shall provide: By the last business day of the second calendar month following each service milestone in §54.310(c), a certification that by the end of the prior support year, it was offering broadband meeting the requisite public interest obligations specific in §54.309 to the required percentage of its supported locations in each state as set forth in §54.310(c).

(5) Recipients of Remote Areas Fund support shall provide: By the last business day of the second calendar month following each service milestone specified by the Commission, a certification that by the end of the prior support year, it was offering broadband meeting the requisite public interest obligations to the required percentage of its supported locations in each state.

(6) A rate-of-return carrier authorized to receive Alaska Plan support pursuant to §54.306 shall provide:

(i) No later than March 1, 2022 a certification that it fulfilled the deployment obligations and is offering service meeting the requisite public interest obligations as specified in §54.308(c) to the required number of locations as of December 31, 2021.

(ii) No later than March 1, 2027 a certification that it fulfilled the deployment obligations and is offering service meeting the requisite public interest obligations as specified in §54.308(c) to the required number of locations as of December 31, 2026.

(c) Filing deadlines. In order for a recipient of high-cost support to continue to receive support for the following calendar year, or retain its eligible telecommunications carrier designations, it must submit the annual reporting information as set forth below.

(1) Price cap carriers that accepted Phase II model-based support and rate-of-return carriers must submit the annual reporting information required by March 1 as described in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section. Eligible telecommunications carriers that file their reports after the March 1 deadline shall receive a reduction in support pursuant to the following schedule:

(i) An eligible telecommunications carrier that files after the March 1 deadline, but by March 8, will have its support reduced in an amount equivalent to seven days in support;

(ii) An eligible telecommunications carrier that files on or after March 9 will have its support reduced on a pro-rata daily basis equivalent to the period of non-compliance, plus the minimum seven-day reduction;

(iii) Grace period. An eligible telecommunications carrier that submits the annual reporting information required by this section after March 1 but before March 5 will not receive a reduction in support if the eligible telecommunications carrier and its holding company, operating companies, and affiliates as reported pursuant to §54.313(a)(8) in their report due July 1 of the prior year have not missed the March 1 deadline in any prior year.

(2) Recipients of support to serve fixed locations awarded through a competitive bidding process must submit the annual reporting information required by the last business day of the second calendar month following the relevant support years as described in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section. Eligible telecommunications carriers that file their reports after the deadline shall receive a reduction in support pursuant to the following schedule:

(i) An eligible telecommunications carrier that files after the deadline, but within seven days of the deadline, will have its support reduced in an amount equivalent to seven days in support;

(ii) An eligible telecommunications carrier that filed on or after the eighth day following the deadline will have its support reduced on a pro-rata daily basis equivalent to the period of non-compliance, plus the minimum seven-day reduction;

(iii) Grace period. An eligible telecommunications carrier that submits the annual reporting information required by this section within three days of the deadline will not receive a reduction in support if the eligible telecommunications carrier and its holding company, operating companies, and affiliates as reported pursuant to §54.313(a)(8) in their report due July 1 of the prior year have not missed the deadline in any prior year.

[81 FR 24341, Apr. 25, 2016, as amended at 81 FR 44451, July 7, 2016; 81 FR 69713, Oct. 7, 2016; 82 FR 14340, Mar. 20, 2017; 84 FR 4732, Feb. 19, 2019]

Effective Date Note: At 84 FR 4732, Feb. 19, 2019, §54.316 was amended by revising paragraphs (b)(2)(i), (ii) and (b)(3)(i), (ii). These paragraphs contain information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§54.317   Alaska Plan for competitive eligible telecommunications carriers serving remote Alaska.

(a) Election of support. Subject to the requirements of this section, certain competitive eligible telecommunications carriers serving remote areas in Alaska, as defined in §54.307(e)(3)(i), shall have a one-time option to elect to participate in the Alaska Plan. Carriers exercising this option with approved performance plans shall have their support frozen for a period of ten years beginning on or after January 1, 2017, at a date set by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, notwithstanding §54.307.

(b) Carriers eligible for support. A competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall be eligible for frozen support pursuant to the Alaska Plan if that carrier serves remote areas in Alaska as defined by §54.307(e)(3)(i) and if that carrier certified that it served covered locations in Alaska in its September 30, 2011, filing of line counts with the Administrator and submitted a performance plan by August 23, 2016.

(c) Interim support for remote areas in Alaska. From January 1, 2012, until December 31, 2016, competitive eligible telecommunications carriers subject to the delayed phase down for remote areas in Alaska pursuant to §54.307(e)(3) shall receive support as calculated in §54.307(e)(3)(v).

(d) Support amounts and support term. For a period of 10 years beginning on or after January 1, 2017, at a date set by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, notwithstanding §54.307, each Alaska Plan participant shall receive monthly Alaska Plan support in an amount equal to the annualized monthly support amount it received for December 2014. Alaska Plan participants shall no longer be required to file line counts.

(e) Use of frozen support. Frozen support allocated through the Alaska Plan may only be used to provide mobile voice and mobile broadband service in those census blocks in remote areas of Alaska, as defined in §54.307(e)(3)(i), that did not, as of December 31, 2014, receive 4G LTE service directly from providers that were either unsubsidized or ineligible to claim the delayed phase down under §54.307(e)(3) and covering, in the aggregate, at least 85 percent of the population of the block. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to limit the use of frozen support to build or upgrade middle-mile infrastructure outside such remote areas of Alaska if such middle mile infrastructure is necessary to the provision of mobile voice and mobile broadband service in such remote areas. Alaska Plan participants may use frozen support to provide mobile voice and mobile broadband service in remote areas of Alaska served by competitive eligible telecommunications carrier partners of ineligible carriers if those areas are served using the competitive eligible telecommunications carrier's infrastructure.

(f) Performance plans. In order to receive support pursuant to this section, a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier must be subject to a performance plan approved by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. The performance plan must indicate specific deployment obligations and performance requirements sufficient to demonstrate that support is being used in the public interest and in accordance with paragraph (e) of this section and the requirements adopted by the Commission for the Alaska Plan. For each level of wireless service offered (2G/Voice, 3G, and 4G LTE) and each type of middle mile used in connection with that level of service, the performance plan must specify minimum speeds that will be offered to a specified population by the end of the fifth year of support and by the end of the tenth year of support. Alaska Plan participants shall, no later than the end of the fourth year of the ten-year term, review and modify their end-of-term commitments in light of any new developments, including newly available infrastructure. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau may require the filing of revised commitments at other times if justified by developments that occur after the approval of the initial performance commitments. If the specific performance obligations are not achieved in the time period identified in the approved performance plans the carrier shall be subject to §54.320(c) and (d).

(g) Phase down of non-participating competitive eligible telecommunications carrier high-cost support. Notwithstanding §54.307, and except as provided in paragraph (h) of this section, support distributed in Alaska on or after January 1, 2017 to competitive eligible telecommunications carriers that serve areas in Alaska other than remote areas of Alaska, that are ineligible for frozen support under paragraphs (b) or (e) of this section, or that do not elect to receive support under this section, shall be governed by this paragraph. Such support shall be subject to phase down in three years as provided in paragraph (g) of this section, except that carriers that are not signatories to the Alaska Plan will instead be subject to a three-year phase down commencing on September 1, 2017, and competitive eligible telecommunications carriers that are signatories to the Alaska Plan but did not submit a performance plan by August 23, 2016 shall not receive support in remote areas beginning January 1, 2017.

(1) From January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017, each such competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive two-thirds of the monthly support amount the carrier received for December 2014 for the relevant study area.

(2) From January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018, each such competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive one-third of the monthly support amount the carrier received for December 2014 for the relevant study area.

(3) Beginning January 1, 2019, no such competitive eligible telecommunications carrier shall receive universal service support for the relevant study area pursuant to this section or §54.307.

(h) Support for unserved remote areas of Alaska. Beginning January 1, 2017, support that, but for paragraph (g) of this section, would be allocated to carriers subject to paragraph (g) of this section shall be allocated for a reverse auction, with performance obligations established at the time of such auction, for deployment of mobile service to remote areas of Alaska, as defined in §54.307(e)(3)(i), that are without commercial mobile radio service as of December 31, 2014.

[81 FR 69714, Oct. 7, 2016]

§54.318   [Reserved]

§54.319   Elimination of high-cost support in areas with 100 percent coverage by an unsubsidized competitor.

(a)-(c) [Reserved]

(d) High-cost universal service support pursuant to subpart K of this part shall be eliminated for those census blocks of an incumbent rate-of-return local exchange carrier study area where an unsubsidized competitor, or combination of unsubsidized competitors, as defined in §54.5, offer(s) voice and broadband service meeting the public interest obligations in §54.308(a)(2) to at least 85 percent of residential locations in the census block. Qualifying competitors must be able to port telephone numbers from consumers.

(e) After a determination that a particular census block is served by a competitor as defined in paragraph (d) of this section, support provided pursuant to subpart K of this part shall be disaggregated pursuant to a method elected by the incumbent local exchange carrier. The sum of support that is disaggregated for competitive and non-competitive areas shall equal the total support available to the study area without disaggregation.

(f) For any incumbent local exchange carrier for which the disaggregated support for competitive census blocks represents less than 25 percent of the support the carrier would have received in the study area in the absence of this rule, support provided pursuant to subpart K of this part shall be reduced according to the following schedule:

(1) In the first year, 66 percent of the incumbent's disaggregated support for the competitive census block will be provided;

(2) In the second year, 33 percent of the incumbent's disaggregated support for the competitive census blocks will be provided;

(3) In the third year and thereafter, no support shall be provided pursuant to subpart K of this part for any competitive census block.

(g) For any incumbent local exchange carrier for which the disaggregated support for competitive census blocks represents 25 percent or more of the support the carrier would have received in the study area in the absence of this rule, support shall be reduced for each competitive census block according to the following schedule:

(1) In the first year, 83 percent of the incumbent's disaggregated support for the competitive census blocks will be provided;

(2) In the second year, 66 percent of the incumbent's disaggregated support for the competitive census blocks will be provided;

(3) In the third year, 49 percent of the incumbent's disaggregated support for the competitive census blocks will be provided;

(4) In the fourth year, 32 percent of the incumbent's disaggregated support the competitive census block will be provided;

(5) In the fifth year, 15 percent of the incumbent's disaggregated support the competitive census blocks will be provided;

(6) In the sixth year and thereafter, no support shall be paid provided pursuant to subpart K of this part for any competitive census block.

(h) The Wireline Competition Bureau shall update its analysis of competitive overlap in census blocks every seven years, utilizing the current public interest obligations in §54.308(a)(2) as the standard that must be met by an unsubsidized competitor.

[80 FR 4478, Jan. 27, 2015, as amended at 81 FR 24342, Apr. 25, 2016; 82 FR 14340, Mar. 20, 2017; 83 FR 14189, Apr. 3, 2018; 84 FR 4732, Feb. 19, 2019]

§54.320   Compliance and recordkeeping for the high-cost program.

(a) Eligible telecommunications carriers authorized to receive universal service high-cost support are subject to random compliance audits and other investigations to ensure compliance with program rules and orders.

(b) All eligible telecommunications carriers shall retain all records required to demonstrate to auditors that the support received was consistent with the universal service high-cost program rules. This documentation must be maintained for at least ten years from the receipt of funding. All such documents shall be made available upon request to the Commission and any of its Bureaus or Offices, the Administrator, and their respective auditors.

(c) Eligible telecommunications carriers authorized to receive high-cost support that fail to comply with public interest obligations or any other terms and conditions may be subject to further action, including the Commission's existing enforcement procedures and penalties, reductions in support amounts, potential revocation of ETC designation, and suspension or debarment pursuant to §54.8.

(d) Eligible telecommunications carriers subject to defined build-out milestones must notify the Commission and USAC, and the relevant state, U.S. Territory, or Tribal government, if applicable, within 10 business days after the applicable deadline if they have failed to meet a build-out milestone.

(1) Interim build-out milestones. Upon notification that an eligible telecommunications carrier has defaulted on an interim build-out milestone after it has begun receiving high-cost support, the Wireline Competition Bureau—or Wireless Telecommunications Bureau in the case of mobile carrier participants—will issue a letter evidencing the default. For purposes of determining whether a default has occurred, a carrier must be offering service meeting the requisite performance obligations. The issuance of this letter shall initiate reporting obligations and withholding of a percentage of the eligible telecommunication carrier's total monthly high-cost support, if applicable, starting the month following the issuance of the letter:

(i) Tier 1. If an eligible telecommunications carrier has a compliance gap of at least five percent but less than 15 percent of the number of locations that the eligible telecommunications carrier is required to have built out to or, in the case of Alaska Plan mobile-carrier participants, population covered by the specified technology, middle mile, and speed of service in the carrier's approved performance plan, by the interim milestone, the Wireline Competition Bureau or Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, will issue a letter to that effect. Starting three months after the issuance of this letter, the eligible telecommunications carrier will be required to file a report every three months identifying the geocoded locations to which the eligible telecommunications carrier has newly deployed facilities capable of delivering broadband meeting the requisite requirements with Connect America support in the previous quarter, or, in the case of Alaska Plan mobile-carrier participants, the populations to which the competitive eligible telecommunications carrier has extended or upgraded service meeting their approved performance plan and obligations. Eligible telecommunications carriers that do not file these quarterly reports on time will be subject to support reductions as specified in §54.313(j). The eligible telecommunications carrier must continue to file quarterly reports until the eligible telecommunications carrier reports that it has reduced the compliance gap to less than five percent of the required number of locations (or population, if applicable) for that interim milestone and the Wireline Competition Bureau or Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issues a letter to that effect.

(ii) Tier 2. If an eligible telecommunications carrier has a compliance gap of at least 15 percent but less than 25 percent of the number of locations that the eligible telecommunications carrier is required to have built out to or, in the case of Alaska Plan mobile-carrier participants, population covered by the specified technology, middle mile, and speed of service in the carrier's approved performance plan, by the interim milestone, USAC will withhold 15 percent of the eligible telecommunications carrier's monthly support for that state and the eligible telecommunications carrier will be required to file quarterly reports. Once the eligible telecommunications carrier has reported that it has reduced the compliance gap to less than 15 percent of the required number of locations (or population, if applicable) for that interim milestone for that state, the Wireline Competition Bureau or Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will issue a letter to that effect, USAC will stop withholding support, and the eligible telecommunications carrier will receive all of the support that had been withheld. The eligible telecommunications carrier will then move to Tier 1 status.

(iii) Tier 3. If an eligible telecommunications carrier has a compliance gap of at least 25 percent but less than 50 percent of the number of locations that the eligible telecommunications carrier is required to have built out to by the interim milestone, or, in the case of Alaska Plan mobile-carrier participants, population covered by the specified technology, middle mile, and speed of service in the carrier's approved performance plan, USAC will withhold 25 percent of the eligible telecommunications carrier's monthly support for that state and the eligible telecommunications carrier will be required to file quarterly reports. Once the eligible telecommunications carrier has reported that it has reduced the compliance gap to less than 25 percent of the required number of locations (or population, if applicable) for that interim milestone for that state, the Wireline Competition Bureau or Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will issue a letter to that effect, the eligible telecommunications carrier will move to Tier 2 status.

(iv) Tier 4. If an eligible telecommunications carrier has a compliance gap of 50 percent or more of the number of locations that the eligible telecommunications carrier is required to have built out to or, in the case of Alaska Plan mobile-carrier participants, population covered by the specified technology, middle mile, and speed of service in the carrier's approved performance plan, by the interim milestone:

(A) USAC will withhold 50 percent of the eligible telecommunications carrier's monthly support for that state, and the eligible telecommunications carrier will be required to file quarterly reports. As with the other tiers, as the eligible telecommunications carrier reports that it has lessened the extent of its non-compliance, and the Wireline Competition Bureau or Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issues a letter to that effect, it will move down the tiers until it reaches Tier 1 (or no longer is out of compliance with the relevant interim milestone).

(B) If after having 50 percent of its support withheld for six months the eligible telecommunications carrier has not reported that it is eligible for Tier 3 status (or one of the other lower tiers), USAC will withhold 100 percent of the eligible telecommunications carrier's monthly support and will commence a recovery action for a percentage of support that is equal to the eligible telecommunications carrier's compliance gap plus 10 percent of the ETC's support that has been disbursed to that date.

(v) If at any point during the support term, the eligible telecommunications carrier reports that it is eligible for Tier 1 status, it will have its support fully restored, USAC will repay any funds that were recovered or withheld, and it will move to Tier 1 status.

(2) Final milestone. Upon notification that the eligible telecommunications carrier has not met a final milestone, the eligible telecommunications carrier will have twelve months from the date of the final milestone deadline to come into full compliance with this milestone. If the eligible telecommunications carrier does not report that it has come into full compliance with this milestone within twelve months, the Wireline Competition Bureau—or Wireless Telecommunications Bureau in the case of mobile carrier participants—will issue a letter to this effect. In the case of Alaska Plan mobile carrier participants, USAC will then recover the percentage of support that is equal to 1.89 times the average amount of support per location received by that carrier over the 10-year term for the relevant percentage of population. For other recipients of high-cost support, USAC will then recover the percentage of support that is equal to 1.89 times the average amount of support per location received in the state for that carrier over the term of support for the relevant number of locations plus 10 percent of the eligible telecommunications carrier's total relevant high-cost support over the support term for that state.

(3) Compliance reviews. If subsequent to the eligible telecommunications carrier's support term, USAC determines in the course of a compliance review that the eligible telecommunications carrier does not have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it is offering service to all of the locations required by the final milestone or, in the case of Alaska Plan participants, did not provide service consistent with the carrier's approved performance plan, USAC shall recover a percentage of support from the eligible telecommunications carrier as specified in paragraph (d)(2) of this section.

[76 FR 73876, Nov. 29, 2011, as amended at 80 FR 4478, Jan. 27, 2015; 81 FR 69714, Oct. 7, 2016]

§54.321   Reporting and certification requirements for Alaska Plan participants.

Any competitive eligible telecommunications carrier authorized to receive Alaska Plan support pursuant to §54.317 shall provide:

(a) No later than 60 days after the end of each participating carrier's first five-year term of support, a certification that it has met the obligations contained in the performance plan approved by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, including any obligations pursuant to a revised approved performance plan and that it has met the requisite public interest obligations contained in the Alaska Plan Order. For Alaska Plan participants receiving more than $5 million annually in support, this certification shall be accompanied by data received or used from drive tests analyzing network coverage for mobile service covering the population for which support was received and showing mobile transmissions to and from the carrier's network meeting or exceeding the minimum expected download and upload speeds delineated in the approved performance plan.

(b) No later than 60 days after the end of each participating carrier's second five-year term of support, a certification that it has met the obligations contained in the performance plan approved by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, including any obligations pursuant to a revised approved performance plan, and that it has met the requisite public interest obligations contained in the Alaska Plan Order. For Alaska Plan participants receiving more than $5 million annually in support, this certification shall be accompanied by data received or used from drive tests analyzing network coverage for mobile service covering the population for which support was received and showing mobile transmissions to and from the carrier's network meeting or exceeding the minimum expected download and upload speeds delineated in the approved performance plan.

[81 FR 69716, Oct. 7, 2016]

Need assistance?