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CNX at BDAC January Meeting: Day One

Today kicks off the first day of the FCC's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee's January meeting. The meeting will take place January 23-24th, 2018 in Washington D.C.

CNX's Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Angela Stacy, is seated at the table with the other 29 members of the BDAC.

To start off the long day ahead, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai began the meeting by reiterating the importance of the work being carried out by the BDAC.

"First, the BDAC's work is critical to my top policy priority as FCC Chairman - closing the digital divide. I've long said that every American who wants to participate in the digital economy should be able to do so. And the plain reality is that if you live in rural America, you are much less likely to have high- speed Internet access than if you live in a city...To change that, we need massive investment to construct, expand, and improve wired and wireless networks. And to spur that investment, in turn, the FCC needs to remove outdated and unnecessary regulatory barriers," Pai stated.

On today's agenda, the working groups for Competitive Access to Broadband Infrastructure, Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers, and Streamlining Federal Siting will present, discuss, and lead a vote on their recommendation to the committee.

There were 9 proposals from this working group presented for formal consideration.

"1) Make-Ready Workflow: One-Touch Make-Ready for Simple Work in the Communications Space Streamlined for Wireless Attachments - Speed up the process for approving contractors' electric utilities to undergo make-ready work in the power space. (Working Group Vote: PASS (16 Yes, 0 No, 1 Abstain)

2) Make-Ready Contractor Management: One-Touch Make-Ready for Simple Attachments/Streamlining for Wireless Attachments - Attacher will notify the pole owner of the contractor that they have chosen to use. If contractor is not on the pre-approve list of contractors, the attacher will vouch for the contractor's ability and credibility to meet necessary standards. (Working Group Vote: PASS (15 Yes, 0 No, 2 Abstain)

3) Defining "Complete" Attachment Applications - A completed application must have all information required by the utility's master agreement with a shot-clock of 7 days. An application can be resubmitted if information is missing with a revised shot-clock of 3 days. (Working Group Vote: PASS (18 Yes, 0 No, 0 Abstain)

4) Joint Field Survey to Examine and Analyze Proposed Pole Attachments - Utility would allow attacher to be involved in any pre-construction feasibility survey with an advance notice shot-clock of 3 days. (Working Group Vote: PASS (20 Yes, 0 No, 0 Abstain)

5) Improving the Requesting Attachers' Self-Help Remedy - When the existing attacher does not comply with the make-ready shot-clock of 60 days for an incoming attacher, the offered solution is to eliminate the utility's role in the FCC approved self-help remedy, allow the incoming attacher to invoke the remedy and continue forward with the work without the utility's approved contractors, and inform the utility and existing attacher that when make-ready work will begin, so they can be present. (Working Group Vote: PASS (18 Yes, 0 No, 0 Abstain)

6) Hurdles: Rate Disclosure - The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association will publicly publish the contact information for each state's electric cooperative manager to streamline the process for pole attachers to obtain pole attachment rates, terms, and conditions. (Working Group Vote: PASS (16 Yes, 0 No, 0 Abstain)

7) Maximizing Use of Broadband Infrastructure Eligible for Subsidy (E-rate) - The FCC will review through program guidelines that focus on broadband deployment to better enhance and utilize these opportunities. (Working Group Vote: PASS (12 Yes, 1 No, 2 Abstain)

8) Common Infrastructure Efficiencies - Encourages the Commission to do a further deep dive in the issues that affect broadband deployment but are beyond the BDAC's scope and make necessary changes. (Working Group Vote: PASS (13 Yes, 0 No, 3 Abstain)

9) Common Database Proposal - Proposes the creation of a FCC run database that shows available common infrastructure elements that federal program participants are required to submit entries to and private entities are encouraged through incentives. It would allow for open access to basic pole information and follow progress on identified attachment projects. (Working Group Vote: PASS (10 Yes, 3 No, 3 Abstain)"

This working group identified six major barriers: ambiguity, discrimination, excessive fees, inflexibility, in ordinance, and noncompliance. There were 5 recommendations from this working group presented for formal consideration.

"1) The Commission should encourage earlier, more comprehensive collaboration between broadband providers and local officials tasked with reviewing applications for deploying broadband.

2) The Commission should provide clarity on what actually constitutes an “excessive” fee for right-of-way access and use.

3) The Commission should study whether a streamlined mediation and arbitration process administered by a neutral third-party (similar to a process detailed in 47 USC §252) would in fact expedite deployment.

4) The Commission should explain its approach to preemption decisions so that all stakeholders are on notice regarding the potential role of this action in removing state and local regulatory barriers to broadband deployment.

5) The Commission should explore how to leverage other expert stakeholders to provide localities and states with opportunities for acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to streamline the deployment of new broadband networks."

There were 10 recommendations from this working group presented for formal consideration.

"1) Challenge: Varying and unpredictable fees and rates.

Solution: Standardize and publish fee schedules, and utilize revenue in a way that promotes expediting federal siting processes.

2) Challenge: Lengthy application review times.

Solution: Require all federal landholding or managing agencies to prioritize broadband permitting. Implement a 60-day shot clock for application review with a deemed approved remedy and a 10-day shot clock for notification of additional materials request.

3) Challenge: Unharmonized application forms and unpredictable processes across agencies.

Solution: Require all federal landholding or managing agencies to use one standardized application form. Harmonize permitting processes across agencies to extent feasible and ensure the process is uniformly applied across regional and state offices. Recognize and accept existing completed studies in previously disturbed areas.

4) Challenge: Cumbersome historic and environmental review processes including environmental studies and Geographic Information System studies.

Solution: Harmonize environmental assessments across federal landholding or managing agencies, further streamline National Environmental Protection Act and National Historic Preservation Act exclusions, and eliminate duplicative environmental studies. Make current environmental and historic review streamlining mechanisms mandatory for all agencies.

5) Challenge: Lease and renewal terms that do not incentivize investment.

Solution: All leases and easements should have typical commercial lease terms with expectancy of renewal to better incentivize investment.

6) Challenge: Unclear points of contact for local, state, and federal leads for agencies.

Solution: Every project should have a single, clear point of contact for application review and follow-up.

7) Challenge: Difficulty getting updates on status of applications and lack of transparency in agency-deployment application process history.

Solution: There should be a single, easily accessible online-tracking mechanism at each federal agency for the permitting process. All agencies should regularly report on permit status and the number of permitting applications they have processed.

8) Challenge: Lack of re-evaluation of processes and fees as technologies evolve. Solution: The common application form should accommodate changes to existing installations and applicable leases and easements. Agencies should accommodate and incorporate new broadband infrastructure technologies into their review processes.

9) Challenge: Department of Defense Siting Process is costly and time-consuming.

Solution: Permitting consistent with all necessary measures to protect national security, Department of Defense (DoD) agencies should incorporate streamlining efforts utilized and recommended for other federal agencies and examine their military base broadband deployment permitting practices on DoD real estate. DoD agencies should streamline their spectrum clearance processes.

10) Challenge: Siting barriers caused by federal funding clauses.

Solution: Deploying broadband is not within the meaning of prohibiting commercial use of land developments funded by federal grants."

Check back tomorrow as we continue to follow the FCC's BDAC January meeting progress.

*This article will be updated the following day with the recommendation results. The FCC has yet to update their website with the approved measures.

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