News from the ITA

December 20, 2018

 

Happy Holidays From the ITA!

During the Holiday Season more than ever, our thoughts turn to our members who made 2018 a great year for the Illinois Telecommunications Association.  And in this spirit we sincerely say Thank You and Best Wishes for the holiday season and a Happy New Year!!

 


 Legislative Update

The Legislature returns to Springfield to close out the 100th General Assembly January 7-8. The 101st General Assembly will commence with the inauguration of members on January 9. The inauguration for Governor-elect JB Pritzker, and the other statewide constitutional officers, is January 14. The House Calendar and Senate Calendar are available on the Illinois General Assembly website.


Regulatory Update

The Illinois Commerce Commission held it's final Regular Open Meeting of the year December 19, and the Commission approved Orders in several telecommunications dockets:

Commission Sets 2019 Interest Rate on Customer Deposits at 2.5%

The Commission entered an Order setting the rate of interest to be paid on customer deposits from January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. In the Final Order to Docket 18-1825, the Commission cited administrative rules that require the Commission to calculate the interest rate each December, basing it on the average one-year yield on United States Treasury securities for the last full week in November, rounded to the nearest one-half of one percent. The rate of
interest determined in that manner is to be paid on customer deposits in the following
year.

The Commission taking administrative notice from information provided by the Federal
Reserve Board that the average one-year yield on United States Treasury securities for
the last full week of November 2018 was 2.7 percent. Rounded to the nearest one-half
percent, the rate would be 2.5 percent, which, under the rules, shall be the
applicable rate of interest to be paid on customer deposits during 2019. 

A history of intertest rates on customer deposits including the rates set for 2019 can be found on the consumer web-page of the ICC website.

Commission Approves Low-Income Broadband Internet Access Program 

The Commission entered a Final Order in Docket 18-1584 granting the petition filed by the Universal Telephone Assistance Corporation (UTAC) to add a broadband connection program to the existing Universal Telephone Service Assistance Program (UTSAP) and preserving the existing UTSAP local exchange telephone service program to defray connection fees of eligible low-income subscribers.

Commission Approves Consolidated Communications Application for Reorganization

In Docket 18-1700, the Commission approved the joint application for reorganization from Consolidated Communications, Inc. and El Paso Telephone Company. 

Commission Denies DeKalb County 9-1-1 Modification Plan

The Commission entered a Final Order in Docket 17-0427 denying the 9-1-1 modification plan submitted by the DeKalb County Emergency Telephone System Board. ICC Staff opposed the modification based on concerns that the proposed system provider, NG-911, would obtain service from iFiber, a provider that is not a certified telecommunication carrier.

In its Order, the Commission said "the issue of whether to approve DeKalb ETSB’s Plan Modification is one of public safety. iFiber is providing necessary network elements used in the transmission or routing of the emergency telecommunications services, and should be held to a certain standard to ensure adequate and reliable 9-1-1 service. The Order finds that approval of the Plan Modification would require that iFiber be certificated as a telecommunications carrier, thus subject to all applicable laws and regulations. The Order further finds that 9-1-1 service on the “network” side must be provided by an entity with a certificate of service authority under Section 13 of the Act.


USDA Releases Rules for $600 Million Broadband Grant & Loan Pilot Program

The USDA published rules December 13 detailing how the agency will award $600 million in broadband loans and grants for the Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program, or ReConnect, as it is now named. The USDA has a ReConnect website with more information on the program and the Forms & Resources include a fact sheet and FAQ's.

The program will offer three different types of awards:

  • $200 million in grants, with a requirement for 25% in matching funds, with an application deadline of April 29, 2019
  • $200 million in 50% grant/50% loan combinations, with an application deadline of May 29, 2019
  • $200 million in low-interest loans, with an application deadline of June 28, 2019

According to the USDA, one of the essential goals of the ReConnect Program is to expand broadband service to rural areas without sufficient broadband access, defined as 10 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. The first round of applicants have three separate funding categories to choose from: 100 percent (%) loan, 50% loan / 50% grant, or 100% grant. Given the varying closing dates for each funding type, applicants will be limited to ONE application for this FOA.

To be eligible for a 100% loan or 50% loan / 50% grant, the proposed funded service area in an application must be in a rural area where 90% of the households do not have sufficient broadband access. To be eligible for a 100% grant, the proposed funded service area in an application must be in a rural area where 100% of the households do not have sufficient broadband access. No matter which funding type the applicant requests, the proposed network must be capable of providing service to every premise in the proposed funded service area at a speed of at minimum, 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

The rules also describe the scoring criteria for grant applications. Applicants requesting a 50% loan / 50% grant or 100% grant request under the ReConnect Program will be required to submit a scoring sheet, that will enable USDA to analyze nine separate special evaluation criteria to score the application. A total of 150 points is possible under each funding category. Applications in the same funding category will be scored and ranked against the special evaluation criteria.

The USDA ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program rules apply to a wide range of potential participants, including state and local governments and non-profit organizations, as well as for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, cooperatives and Indian tribes.

The USDA has not yet said when it will begin accepting applications. That information will likely be included in a notice to be published in the Federal Register on February 29, 2019.


FCC Increases Universal Service Support for Faster Rural Broadband

The FCC adopted a report and order December 12 to increase the high-cost USF budget for carriers selecting support based on the alternative Connect America Fund (A-CAM) cost model and for those remaining on the traditional high-cost program.

According to the FCC, the action updates the Connect America Fund programs providing support for small, rural providers to deliver faster broadband speeds and expanded coverage in rural areas. In return for additional funding, the FCC will require providers to expand availability of service offering downloads of at least 25/3 Mbps service, compared to the current 10/1 Mbps standard. Updates include:

  • Offering up to $67 million a year in additional support for carriers receiving funding through A-CAM. Previously only carriers that had not deployed service at speeds of 10/1 Mbps to 90% of their locations were eligible for A-CAM-based support. But the new offer will be extended to virtually all rate-of-return carriers
  • Opening a new window for carriers receiving support through legacy mechanisms to voluntarily move to model-based support through the A-CAM II offer. 
  • Increasing the $1.4 billion annual budget for carriers that continue to get support from legacy mechanisms by initiating an annual inflation adjustment, eliminating 2018 cuts, and setting a guaranteed floor of minimum support for each carrier. 

Also in the order, the maximum per-line subsidy for the legacy program will be $200 rather than $250, as of July 2021 and the capital expenditures allowance rule will be eliminated. Further, the FCC will conduct an auction to determine support levels where a competitor offers broadband service throughout 95% or more of an area served by a rural rate-of-return carrier. The order includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on how to structure such an auction, as well how to address conversions to broadband-only lines and whether to include a Tribal Broadband Factor for legacy carriers. 


US Congress Approves Farm Bill Including New Broadband Provisions

The Farm Bill many approved by Congress last week includes funding opportunities to improve rural broadband service. The bill would raise the annual budget for USDA broadband loans, loan guarantees and grants to $350 million from 2019 to 2023 and enable use for both grants and loans. If signed into law, the bill would increase the minimum acceptable level of broadband service for a rural area from 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. 


Member Company News

Eileen Mitchell Named President of AT&T Illinois

Eileen Mitchell was recently named President of AT&T Illinois. In her new role, Mitchell is responsible for AT&T’s external and government affairs, public policy, philanthropy, and community engagement initiatives in Illinois. AT&T employs more than 10,000 workers throughout the state.

“It is a privilege to lead the AT&T Illinois team as we keep our customers and communities more connected than ever before,” Mitchell said. “As technology races forward, it is our people who make the difference. I’m proud that the people of AT&T believe in the power of grit and determination, in a spirit of service, and in the ability to make a better world through technology. This is an exciting time to lead as we work to improve lives in the communities we serve in Illinois.”

“Eileen is the right person to lead AT&T Illinois. She is a proven leader at the highest levels of public service and business in the state, and that experience will benefit our customers, employees and policymakers,” said Marissa Shorenstein, AT&T Northern Region President. “Eileen is committed to improving life for our customers and our communities, and we are thrilled that she is leading the AT&T team in Illinois.”

Mitchell first joined AT&T in 2003 and managed government relations, external affairs and charitable giving in Illinois. In addition, she served in an expanded role as lead strategist for AT&T legislative initiatives in other states. After leaving the company to return to public service, Mitchell rejoined AT&T in May 2017. 

She succeeds Paul La Schiazza who announced his retirement after nearly 40 years of service to the company.

Mitchell previously held key positions in public service at the state and municipal levels in Illinois and Chicago. In 1992, she began her public service career in the office of Illinois Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan. In 2015, after 12 years at AT&T, she returned to public service to serve as chief of staff to the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel.

As a volunteer, Mitchell worked with Cardinal Blase Cupich to develop the Office of Violence Prevention for the Archdiocese of Chicago. She serves on the Board of Directors for Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, and serves as a volunteer for Misericordia and Marillac St. Vincent Family Services. Born and raised in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, she is a graduate of Loyola University. Eileen and her husband, Jim, are the proud parents of three children, Bridget, Jack and Martin. They reside in Chicago.

The ITA would like to send our congratulations to Eileen, and best wishes to Paul on his retirement!

 

Illinois Telecommunications Association

312 S. 4th Street, Suite 100

           Springfield, IL 62701             

 (217) 572-1262

www.il-ita.com