On June 20, the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau released a Public Notice providing additional guidance on the Connect America Fund Phase II challenge process, which we described in a prior DWT advisory. Noting that a lack of similar guidance during the Phase I challenge process led to a process favoring existing providers, the Bureau now provides a thorough explanation of how it will evaluate claims by unsubsidized providers (such as cable operators and fixed wireless providers) that they offer broadband service in census blocks that were initially determined to be eligible for Phase II support.
The Notice clarifies several important issues, including how the Commission will determine when an existing unsubsidized competitor serves a particular census block. On this point the Commission will require that the challenger: (i) is actually offering voice and broadband service, (ii) with facilities capable of providing such services in the census block, and (iii) has, or previously had, customers in the census block. The Notice also provides details about the types of evidence that challengers and respondents may provide, and how such evidence will be evaluated, as well as what weight will be given to factual statements. Notably, the agency reaffirms that it will again rely upon evidence garnered from an unsubsidized competitor’s online service qualification tool, and number porting evidence, to evaluate claims of service to any particular census block. Finally, the Notice discourages challengers and respondents from filing confidential information, but includes instructions on how to do so when it is unavoidable.