The Federal Corner

Welcome to The Federal Corner. Federal agencies disburse millions of dollars in broadband funds each year through multiple agencies and programs. Identifying and educating our State’s broadband stakeholders about these federal programs is essential to Colorado’s ability to secure our “unfair share” of federal funds in order to facilitate broadband access for all Coloradans. In support of Colorado stakeholders’ efforts to secure federal funding, The Federal Corner will provide summary information and links to federal initiatives affecting broadband funding policy and programs.


United States Department of Agriculture

ReConnect

ReConnect is the USDA’s newest grant, loan, and combination grant/loan program supporting broadband access to rural homes, farms and businesses.

The first round application windows were open between April and July 2019. We expect the USDA to announce the opening of the application window for round two, ReConnect funding of $550M, following Congressional appropriations before year end.

Round I

Round one applications are under review and the USDA continues to announce awards on a weekly basis. Check the ReConnect Program Awardees page for updates.

Colorado broadband providers filed ReConnect applications totaling more than $27M, offering to bring FTTP to over 4,000 rural Coloradans. The USDA announced the award for Emery Telecom on November 25, 2019. The other two applicants are awaiting notifications.

  • Delta Montrose Electric Association, dba Elevate, filed for a combination loan/grant of $21M to serve 3,445 premises;
  • Emery Telecom filed for a grant of $3.6M to serve 551 premises (494 in Colorado and 57 in Utah); and
  • San Luis Valley Rural Electric Association, dba Ciello, filed for a grant of $2.3M to serve 67 premises.
Round II
We expect the USDA to announce the opening of the application window for round two, ReConnect funding of $550M, following Congressional appropriations before year end.

The CBO has done preliminary mapping to help identify eligible areas for round 2 ReConnect applications. Please contact us if you are interested in discussing the eligible areas analysis and more information about ReConnect.


Federal Communications Commission

This summer the FCC released numerous orders and notices, proposing new programs, as well as changes to existing programs. Below is a brief description of the Report and Orders (R&Os) and Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRMs) with links containing more information.

Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band for 5G, R&O, WT Docket No. 18-120 (Updated 2019-11-11)

Report and Order (PDF)

The R&O establishes a priority filing window for rural Tribal Nations to obtain unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum, formerly designated as the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). On November 1, the FCC issued a Public Notice, announcing the launch of a webpage that provides information about the Rural Tribal Window. The website provides a mapping tool which Tribal communities can use to determine the compatibility of the unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum and eligible Tribal lands. The FCC plans to host a workshop in Washington, DC, in mid-December, to provide additional information. Further information about the Rural Tribal Window, including the dates, application filing process, and the workshop, will be announced on the Rural Tribal Window website.

Digital Opportunity Data Collection, R&O and second FNPRM, WC Docket Nos. 19-195 and 11-10. (Updated 2019-11-11)
Report and Order and second FNPRM

The R&O establishes a new data collection methodology, collecting geospatial broadband coverage data from fixed providers (Form 477). The initial comment period ended on September 23, 2019. The Governor’s office,in conjunction with a number of other State agencies, filed comments suggesting best practices for data collection. Reply comments were filed on October 7, 2019. This matter is under consideration by the FCC.

Rural Health Care Program Changes, R&O, WC Docket No. 17-310. (Updated 2019-11-11)
Report and Order

The R&O adopted changes to the Rural Healthcare (RHC) program for FY2020. A key change, current healthcare providers (HCPs) and new program consortia must be “majority rural” to be eligible for discounts. The R&O eliminated the three-year grace period for consortia to become majority rural and there is no grandfathering of prior Pilot Program consortia or other existing consortia.  “Majority rural” means that more than 50% of participating HCPs in a consortium must be rural. Funding requests filed by consortia that are not in compliance with this rule will be denied. See RHC website for upcoming training sessions. January 1 is the first day for applicants to submit their request for services for FY2020 (FCC Form 461 and FCC Form 465).

Universal Service Contribution Methodology, NPRM, WC Docket No. 06-122. (Updated 2019-11-11)
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

The FCC seeks comment on establishing a cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF), and proposes to combine the RHC & the E-rate program. Comments and Reply Comments were filed July 29 and August 26, 2019, respectively. Almost 3,000 Comments and Reply Comments were filed. This matter is under consideration by the FCC.

Modernizing the E-rate Program for Schools and Libraries, NPRM, WC Docket No. 13-184. (Updated 2019-11-11)
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

The NPRM proposes to make permanent, budgetary framework changes adopted in 2014 which set a max. budget of $150/student for schools and $2.15/sq ft. for libraries, for category two internal connections funding. Comments and Reply Comments were filed August 16 and September 3, 2019, respectively. Almost 5,000 comments were filed in this proceeding. This matter is under consideration by the FCC.

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, NRPM, WC Docket Nos. 19-126. (Updated 2019-11-11)
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

The FCC proposes to adopt the RDOF, using a two-phase reverse auction framework, replacing the Connect America Fund, which expires in 2021. The $20.4 billion would be disbursed over 10 years, to provide broadband to unserved areas. The CBO filed reply comments in this proceeding advocating for the collection of more granular data, excluding the minimum performance tier, an option for states to pursue a federal-state partnering approach, and the inclusion of Non Eligible Telecommunications Carriers. This matter is under consideration by the FCC.

Promoting Access to Connected Care Services, NPRM, WC Docket No. 18-213. (Updated 2019-11-11)
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

The FCC proposes a pilot program to defray the costs of broadband service to enable low-income patients and veterans to access telehealth services. Comments and Reply Comments were filed August 29and September 30, 2019, respectively.Over 260 Comments and reply comments were filed in this proceeding. The Colorado Office of eHealth Innovation filed comments on behalf of the Governor’s office. This matter is under consideration by the FCC.

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