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Millions could lose low-cost phone service under FCC reforms – Center for Public Integrity

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Millions could lose low-cost phone service under FCC reforms

We also advise you to read our tips for sources before submitting. If you cannot use Tor, or your submission is very large, or you have specific requirements, WikiLeaks provides several alternative methods. Contact us to discuss how to proceed. The Commission also denies a petitioner's request that it reconsider the basis on which it determines whether qualified 4G LTE deployed in an area is subsidized or unsubsidized.

Consistent with the Commission's earlier conclusion, the Commission affirms that it will determine whether a provider that deploys qualified 4G LTE in an area is subsidized or unsubsidized based only on whether it receives high-cost support for that area using USAC high-cost disbursement data, as described in the MF-II Challenge Process Order, and not based on whether that provider collocates equipment on a tower of another provider receiving universal service support.

The Commission also notes that the Commission has not collected and does not intend to collect the tower-by-tower data that would be necessary to conduct the analysis proposed by the petitioner because the possible benefits of collecting that data appear small compared to the significant costs of collection and analysis. As part of their Form data filings, mobile wireless carriers submit maps that depict coverage without distinguishing between carrier-owned and collocated facilities.

Determining whether coverage depicted in the standardized coverage maps is provided through collocation on an area-by-area basis would be inconsistent with the Commission's decision to base MF-II eligibility strictly on the absence of unsubsidized, qualified 4G LTE, and doing so would impose a significant burden on both carriers and the Commission. Consistent with the Commission's overarching objective to transition quickly away from the legacy CETC support system, it adopts a streamlined challenge process that will efficiently resolve disputes about areas deemed presumptively ineligible for MF-II support.

Based on the Commission's review of the record and its comprehensive evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of the various proposals, the Commission concludes that the approach it adopts will both promote fairness and minimize burdens on interested parties. Under the adopted approach, the Commission will begin with a new, one-time collection of 4G LTE coverage data, which will be used to establish the map of areas presumptively eligible for MF-II support.

Specifically, the Commission will require providers to file propagation maps and model details with the Commission indicating their current 4G LTE coverage, as defined by download speeds of 5 Mbps at the cell edge with 80 percent probability and a 30 percent cell loading factor.

An interested party the challenger will have days to initiate a challenge of one or more of the areas initially deemed ineligible in the Commission's map of areas presumptively eligible for MF-II support the challenge window. Prior to the close of the challenge window, a challenger may use USAC's online challenge portal the USAC portal to 1 access confidential provider-specific information for areas it wishes to challenge; 2 identify the area s it wants to challenge; 3 submit evidence supporting the challenge; and 4 certify its challenge for the specified area s.

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After agreeing to treat the data as confidential, challengers will be able to access via the USAC portal a the underlying provider-specific coverage maps submitted as part of the new data collection; b the list of pre-approved provider-specified handsets with which to conduct speed measurements; and c any other propagation model details collected as part of the new data collection.

To certify a challenge, a challenger will be required to identify the area s within each state that it wishes to challenge and submit actual outdoor speed test data collected using standardized parameters. Challengers will submit their challenges via the USAC portal. The Commission directs the Bureaus to work with USAC to establish the USAC portal through which a challenger will be able to access the confidential provider-specific information that is pertinent to the challenge, as well as submit its challenge, including all supporting evidence and required certifications.

Once a challenger submits its evidence in the USAC portal, the system will conduct an automatic validation to determine whether the challenger provided sufficient evidence to justify proceeding with each submitted challenge.

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In the event the data fail automatic validation for an area, the system will flag the problem for the challenger. If the failure occurs while the challenge window is still open, the challenger may submit additional or modified data, or modify its challenged area contours, as required, to resolve the problem.

Once the challenge window closes, however, the challenger will have no further opportunity to correct existing, or provide additional, data in support of its challenge.

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  5. Only those challenges to areas that are certified by a challenger at the close of the window will proceed. Start Printed Page A challenged party will have an opportunity to submit additional data via the USAC portal in response to a certified challenge the response window. If a challenged party does not oppose the challenge, it does not need to submit any information. After the response window closes, Commission staff will adjudicate certified challenges and responses.

    The Commission finds that, in conjunction with the new data collection, this framework for the MF-II challenge process appropriately balances the need for accuracy against the burdens imposed on interested parties. The Commission anticipates that using standardized new coverage data as the basis for its initial eligibility map will improve the accuracy and reliability of the information available to potential challengers, which should result in fewer, more targeted challenges and should reduce the administrative burdens on Commission staff, challengers, providers, and other stakeholders.

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    Requiring challengers to submit proof of lack of unsubsidized, qualified 4G LTE coverage should deter frivolous challenges based on anecdotal evidence and, thereby, expedite the challenge process. Moreover, allowing, but not requiring, challenged parties to submit data in response to a challenge will both promote fairness and minimize burdens on interested parties. The Commission directs the Bureaus to issue a public notice or order following the Bureaus' issuance of a notice and opportunity for comment detailing instructions, deadlines, and requirements for filing a valid challenge, including file formats, parameters, and other specifications for conducting speed tests.

    In the new, one-time MF-II data collection, the Commission will require providers to file propagation maps and model details with the Commission indicating their current 4G LTE coverage, as defined by download speeds of 5 Mbps at the cell edge with 80 percent probability and a 30 percent cell loading factor.

    The Commission finds that a download speed of 5 Mbps with 80 percent cell edge probability, which is equivalent to approximately 92 percent cell area probability, and a 30 percent cell loading factor, strikes a reasonable balance between expanding LTE into unserved areas and enhancing existing suboptimal LTE service areas, which promotes the optimal use of limited public funds. The Commission acknowledges that the 80 percent cell edge probability and 30 percent cell loading factor parameters required for the data collection are lower than those proposed in the industry consensus proposal.

    Adopting the higher cell edge probability and cell loading factor parameters in the industry consensus proposal, however, would increase the likelihood that MF-II funds would be directed to areas that already meet the MF-II performance requirement of a 10 Mbps median download speed. One wireless provider submitted recent LTE speed measurement data analysis based upon nationwide wireless provider performance in specific states.

    The analysis showed that in some cases less than 2 percent of the data points achieved a 5 Mbps download speed 90 percent of the time. Indeed, the Commission estimates that the cell area median download speed in the cell areas associated with the industry consensus proposal's proposed parameters would be significantly in excess of 10 Mbps and therefore higher than the MF-II performance requirement. In fact, the Commission estimates that areas larger than industry consensus proposal's proposed cell areas would have median download speeds in excess of 10 Mbps. The Commission's analysis shows that the 80 percent cell edge probability it adopts corresponds with a 92 percent cell area probability, which means users would have a greater than 90 percent chance of achieving a download speed of at least 5 Mbps across the entire coverage area of a cell.

    In addition, these parameters exceed the parameters that wireless operators typically use when deploying networks into previously-unserved areas greenfield builds of 75 percent cell edge probability and 90 percent cell area probability. In light of the difficulties of precisely determining the coverage areas where service with a minimum download speed of 5 Mbps is available, the Commission finds that a cell edge probability of 80 percent and a cell area probability of 92 percent appropriately balance the concern of misrepresenting coverage with its priority of directing its limited universal service funds on areas most in need of support.

    Further, adoption of the industry consensus proposal's proposed parameters would likely result in MF-II support being used to upgrade or over-build current 4G LTE networks rather than to expand 4G LTE coverage to unserved areas. In addition, the Commission believes that a 30 percent cell loading factor in rural areas is more appropriate for MF-II purposes than the industry consensus proposal's proposed 50 percent cell loading factor, which is more typical in non-rural areas where there is more uniform traffic.

    Typical cell site density in rural areas is much lower than in urban areas, resulting in an overall lower interference environment. Additionally, when compared to urban and suburban areas, rural areas typically have lower amounts of uniform traffic among cells because of the varied population distribution across cells, lower numbers of simultaneous users, and lower overall demands on the network over time.

    As such, cell loading is typically lower in rural areas than in urban and suburban areas.