FCC Seeks Comment on Stripping USF Support to Carriers Purchasing Some Foreign Equipment

On April 17, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (the “FCC”) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in which it proposed a rule that no universal service support may be used to purchase or obtain any equipment or services produced or provided by any company posing a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain (the “NPRM”).  Pursuant to the NPRM, the FCC is seeking comment on, among other things, (1) the types of equipment and services that should be covered by the proposed rule, (2) how the FCC should identify, and how Universal Service Fund (“USF”) recipients can learn, which suppliers are covered by the proposed rule, and (3) the costs and benefits of the proposed rule.  The FCC is also seeking comment on any alternative to the proposed rule and on when the rule should become effective (although the NPRM is clear that the proposed rule will apply only prospectively).

Of particular interest is the impact of this proposed rule on small businesses, on which the FCC is seeking comment. Pursuant to the NPMR, the FCC estimates that the majority of incumbent local exchange carriers, interexchange carriers, competitive access providers, operator service providers, local resellers, toll resellers, wired communications carriers, wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite), common carrier paging providers, wireless telephony providers, satellite telecommunications providers, and Internet service providers (broadband and non-broadband) qualify as small business and may be affected by the proposed rule.  As a result, the FCC is also seeking comment on any modifications or alternatives that might ease the burden of the proposed rule on small businesses.

The comment deadlines will be announced following publication in the Federal Register.   If you have any questions regarding this NPRM or are interested in filing comments, please contact Dee Herman (dee@hermanwhiteaker.com) or Carrie DeVier (cdevier@hermanwhiteaker.com).