For example, ACA Member Cable One identified 338 census blocks that a price cap carrier had listed as unserved when in fact Cable One is providing service. Similar data were submitted by several other ACA Members -- including Armstrong Utilities, Inc., Massillon Cable TV, and Nittany Media, Inc. - showing that in some cases they are providing cable broadband speeds up to 20 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream, contrary to assertions by CenturyLink that these locations were unserved.
ACA's data were filed in January 24 FCC comments and provided the agency with the most accurate and timely information about the areas on the NBM that should be deemed served, not only to ensure that scarce USF resources are used efficiently, but also to improve the chances that competitive providers that do not receive universal support do not face competition from federally supported providers.
ACA's comments also urged the FCC to adopt a dispute resolution process that is equitable and avoids placing unnecessary regulatory burdens on independent cable companies offering broadband when questions arise about whether a census block receives broadband service meeting the FCC's technical definition. ACA said FCC rules should presume the NBM is accurate, with the burden falling on the challenger to the map to identify locations that are incorrectly labeled and provide evidence for that assertion. If the FCC determines the challenger's evidence is sufficiently probative, the public would have an opportunity to rebut the evidence.
"ACA's process is more equitable because a provider whose service area on the NBM is being challenged would not be required to respond unless the FCC first determined that the party challenging the designation submitted sufficient evidence. This is especially important for smaller competitive providers that have limited resources to participate in proceedings," Polka said.
ACA strongly opposes any change to the FCC's current rule on the ability of supported carriers to provide broadband service in census blocks partially served by competitive providers. Competitive providers are constantly expanding their networks, including deploying broadband service to unserved locations. This dynamic has accelerated as wireless companies increase their "cell sites" and require them to be served by fiber, a point emphasized by ACA Member Mediacom Communications Corp., which informed the FCC that these fiber builds enable it to serve, without any government support, locations in low-density areas proximate to wireless towers with much higher speed broadband service.
ACA stressed that the FCC should encourage this activity, including by withholding the provision of support to locations in areas where competitive providers offer service or even adjacent to these service territories. If the FCC provides such support, ACA said that the agency will create strong disincentives to private sector expansion and waste scarce USF resources.
ACA urged the FCC to reject a proposal by CenturyLink and USTelecom designed to increase significantly the number of locations eligible to be served using Phase I incremental support. ACA said these proposals would permit price cap carriers to use USF support to build in areas where a competitive provider may offer service to most locations and could readily expand service. ACA said the proposal would also create greater uncertainty and require the adoption of additional measures to ensure accountability, including verification that funds were spent properly.
Lastly, ACA said it stands ready to work with USTelecom and others to craft appropriate standards to address the lack of clarity about latency and capacity performance metrics, which are part of the public interest obligations adopted in the Connect America Fund Order and therefore a part of the determination of whether an area is served or unserved.
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