Iowa Communicator - April 1, 2016

Iowa Communicator - April 1, 2016


This Week's Headlines:
FCC Releases USF Order Reform
FCC Adopts Lifeline Reform and Modernization

Education & Events News:
Register Today for the Cyber Summit April 27th
Register Today for the 2016 Leadership Conference
IMPACT 2016 Call for Speakers

Legislative News:
Wheels are Turning, Adjournment Expected this Month
Alliance to Attend Public Hearing on Broadband Tax Exemption

FCC News:
FCC Releases Voice Service Report




Industry News:
INS is Now Aureon

Broadband News:
FCC Issues Proposed Broadband Privacy Rules
FCC Releases Broadband Access Report

IUB Filings:
OCA Conditionally Objects to MAGICJACK App

Video Provider News:
FCC Issues Proposed Video Access Rules


This Week's Headlines

 FCC Releases USF Order Reform


On Wednesday, the FCC issued the USF reform Order.  The Order and its attachments span almost 250 pages, with 890 footnotes. 

Many of the main provisions are not a surprise.  The FCC will give RLECs 90 days from the date of the publication of the Order to determine whether to opt-in to a new Alternative Connect America Model or to go with a revised version of rate-of-return.  The Alliance distributed a preliminary summary in yesterday’s Special Report, which is available here

In its introduction, the FCC says that according to December 2014 Form 477 data, an estimated 20 percent of the housing units in areas served by rate-of-return carriers lack access to 10/1 service.  “It is time to close the gap, and take action to bring service to the consumers served by rate-of-return carriers that lack access to broadband. We need to modernize comprehensively the rate-of-return universal service program in order to benefit rural consumers throughout the country,” the FCC says.  

(contact Dave Duncan for more information)

   FCC Adopts Lifeline Reform and Modernization    

In a sharply divided 3-2 vote, the FCC has voted to comprehensively restructure and modernize the Lifeline program to efficiently and effectively connect low-income Americans to broadband, strengthen program oversight and administration, and take additional measures to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.

The FCC has signaled via blog posts and fact sheets that it will consider a number of reforms to the Lifeline program during its March 31st open meeting.  The FCC seeks to increase the number of Lifeline users, noting that of the 40 million homes that are eligible, only about 13 million participate. 

The revisions include offering $9.25 per month Lifeline support for qualifying subscribers to pay for fixed broadband internet service or standalone mobile internet service.  It sets an overall budget cap of $2.25 billion per year, an increase of about $750 million.  Under this new budget cap, the FCC says about 7 million more individuals would be able to join the program. 

The FCC proposes a number of other changes to Lifeline, including:

·         Setting a minimum speed standard based on what a substantial majority of consumers receive.  To begin, the speed standard will be 10/1. 

·         Supporting mobile voice with unlimited talk through the end of 2019, after which Lifeline providers of mobile services will be required to include broadband as part of any supported service.

·         Setting a minimum monthly fixed broadband usage allowance standard of 150 GB

·         Phasing in minimum standards for mobile broadband service, starting at 500 Megabits per month of 3G data, increasing to 2 gigabits/per month by the end of 2018

·         Requiring unlimited minutes for mobile voice service, starting in December 1, 2016, reflecting typical plans in the market

·         Establishing a third-party National Eligibility Verifier

·         Amending the list of federal programs that may be used to validate Lifeline eligibility to those that support electronic validation, are most accountable, and best identify people needing support (SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, Veterans Pension, Tribal), along with income-based eligibility

·         Requiring the Wireline Competition Bureau to notify the Commission when spending reaches 90 percent of the budget and to prepare an analysis of the causes of spending growth, followed by Commission action within 6 months.

More details will become available when the Order is published.

(contact Dave Duncan for more information)

 Education & Events News    
  Register Today for the Cyber Summit April 27th    

Cyber threats to your business are increasing daily. We invite you to join your colleagues at the first Iowa Communications Alliance Cyber Summit where you will identify your risk level, learn how to prepare your network and your staff for a possible attack and develop a plan to respond to an attack.

The agenda is full of Cyber Security experts including representatives from Iowa Homeland Security and the State Chief Information Officer. Here’s a look at just one of the sessions during the conference: 

Protecting Your Data & Your Customers’ Data

Jay Nickelson, DMACC Instructor, Network Technology/Telecommunications

Vicky McKim, INS Manager-Enterprise Business Continuity

Practical & technical aspects of protection will be discussed during this session.  Vicky McKim will discuss your cyber polices and employee training programs including establishing basic security practices to protect sensitive business information, communicating policies to all employees on a regular basis, establishing rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data. Jay Nickelson will discuss the technical practices of protecting your data including controlling access to workstations, securing your wifi networks, email security practices, resetting desktop passwords and much more. 

Click here for the full conference agenda and to register today. 

Hotel reservations:  ICA has a room block for $129 plus tax at the Courtyard Marriott in Ankeny.  Call 515-422-5555 by April 5th to reserve your room.  Be sure to ask for the ICA rate.

(Contact Jolene Davis with questions)


Register Today for the 2016 Leadership Conference
June 8 at the Kirkwood Hotel, Cedar Rapids, IA


Join ICA members at this one-day conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.   The conference agenda provides a unique blend of speakers and topics from our opening Keynote Speaker Dr. Bill Withers, industry experts from South Slope Communications & Kiesling Associates and attendees sharing best practices in our most-requested open forum discussions.  Click here for the full conference brochure. 

Dr. Wither’s; Keynote Address will be
Organizational Culture—Keeping it Simple.  He will reference Patrick Lencioni’s,  book
The Advantage at the conference.  Each attendee will receive a copy of the book with their registration. 

Advance copies are available if you would like to read the book prior to the conference.  Register today and we’ll ship your copy today!

(Contact Jolene Davis with questions)


Impact 2016 Call for Speakers & Sponsors


The Iowa Communications Alliance Technicians, Marketing & Front Office Training Committee is planning the agenda for the 2016 Combined ConferenceNovember 9 & 10 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.     The conference will include general sessions and tracks for each personnel type:  Marketing professionals, front office/customer service reps and technicians.  There may also be a few ITC managers in attendance. 

We are asking for your input as a member of this association to help provide high quality information to its members.   The committee will begin selecting topics/speakers program at their next meeting.     Click here to download the Impact 2016 Call for Speakers.  

(Contact Jolene Davis with questions)

Legislative News     

Wheels are Turning at the Capitol, Adjournment Expected this Month


Deals continue to be made at the Iowa Capitol which is fueling the sentiment that the Legislature may adjourn on time this year, a feat that has alluded lawmakers for the last 5 years. As reported in previous Communicators, the deal struck on the federal tax “coupling” bill and the K-12 education funding proposal has paved the way for other negotiations to move forward. The Governor signed the former bill and has not yet acted on the latter. That has not stopped conversations from happening on the rest of the State’s budget and “joint targets” are expected to be released soon. “Joint targets” are the agreement between the Appropriations Committee Chairs and party Leadership that will set forth how big “the pie” is that the Legislature will spend. Once the size of “the pie” is set, the budget subcommittee chairs can move forward with finalizing their spending proposals for state agencies.

As the budget negotiations continue, both chambers continue to work through the remaining bills on their debate calendars. As the list of bills continue to dwindle and be sent to the Governor for signature or veto, the lingering budget issues will receive more and more attention. The Alliance will continue to monitor the appropriations process to ensure that state agencies of interest to our industry (Iowa Communications Network, Iowa Utilities Board, Chief Information Officer, Department of Revenue, etc.) are funded fairly, adequately but NOT excessively.

To see the complete 2016 Alliance Bill Tracker please click here.

Also, don’t forget to see the Alliance Legislative Counsel Paula Dierenfeld’s weekly update every Monday morning on our Good Government Blog

(Contact Kevin Condon with questions)


Alliance to Attend Public Hearing on Broadband Tax Exemption


Next Wednesday, the Alliance will participate in the public hearing over the rules being written to administer the broadband tax exemption by the Iowa Department of Revenue. As previously reported, the DOR is one of the agencies that has been tasked with promulgating rules to carry out the broadband expansion property tax exemption created last year in House File 655. Unfortunately, DOR’s initial drafts of the rulemaking greatly diminished the impact of the tax exemptions benefit to rural communications companies. The Alliance has been aggressively working with the DOR, lawmakers, the Governor’s office and other industry players to correct the shortcomings of the rulemaking.

The Alliance has received pledges from the DOR to “make every effort” to include in the calculation of the exemption any data that will show “value added” by a network expansion project. The law clearly states that providers who are capable of increasing connectivity speeds to 25/3 where that access had not previously been possible are eligible for a ten-year, 100% property tax exemption on the new infrastructure installed to achieve that speed threshold. While it is unfortunate that the Alliance, our members and our partners have spent as much time and resources on realizing that 100%, we are committed to ensuring the final exemption calculation provides the full tax relief intended by lawmakers.

The following are recent and future important dates in the rulemaking process:

·         Notice Filing Publication Date – March 16, 2016 (click here to see the filing)

·         Public Hearing Date – April 6, 2016

·         Rules Review Committee Appearance – April 8, 2016

·         Adopted Filing Date – April 22, 2016

·         Adopted Filing Publication Date – May 11, 2016

·         Second Rules Review Committee Appearance – Early June

·         Rule Effective Date – June 15, 2016

(Contact Kevin Condon with questions)

FCC News     

FCC Releases Voice Service Report


The Wireline Competition Bureau issued its Voice Telephone Services Report on March 30, 2016, providing data on telephone services as of December 31, 2014, and as of June 2014.

The Report notes

·         In December 2014, there were 73 million end-user switched access lines in service, 54 million interconnected VoIP subscriptions, and 323 million mobile subscriptions in the United States

·         Over the past three years, interconnected VoIP subscriptions increased at a compound annual growth rate of 14%, mobile voice subscriptions increased at a compound annual growth rate of 3%, and retail switched access lines declined at 12% per year.

·         Of the 127 million wireline retail voice telephone service connections (including both switched access lines and interconnected VoIP subscriptions) in December 2014, 70 million (or 55%) were residential connections and 57 million (or 45%) were business connections

·         Cross-classified by technology, the 70 million wireline residential connections in December 2014 were: 43% ILEC switched access lines, 41% non-ILEC interconnected VoIP subscriptions, 14% ILEC interconnected VoIP subscriptions, and 3% non-ILEC switched access lines

Click here to read the Report.  

(Contact Dave Duncan with questions)

Industry News    


INS is Now Aureon 


The INS Family of Companies, announced it will operate under the name Aureon, combining Iowa Network Services, Alliance Technologies, Alliance Connect, Merit Resources, Caleris and Portico Staffing into one brand.  It

The new entity will now have three operating divisions:

  • INS, Alliance Technology and Alliance Connect are now Aureon Technology.
  • Merit Resources, Merit Senior Living and Portico Staffing are now Aureon HR.
  • Caleris is now Aureon Contact Center.

CEO Ron Keller said the rebranding, which has included some internal realignment of support operations, will not result in staff reductions.  "We're really trying to build a platform for growth," he said. "Increasing the scope and scale of our operations is the best way for us to provide shareholder value, additional career opportunities for employees and provide value to the customers. What we're really hoping to do is rather than see this as expense reductions, we're hoping to create core groups of excellence that can support larger growth without having to add to staff."

In the aggregate, Keller projects a 20 percent bump in revenues for Aureon in 2016, led by businesses such as Alliance Connect, which he expects will more than double in size in the next year, and Merit Resources, which expects a nearly 30 percent growth in revenues for 2016. 

(Contact Dave Duncan for more information)

Broadband News    

FCC Issues Proposed Broadband Privacy Rules


At its meeting yesterday, the FCC approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a proposed framework for ensuring that consumers have the tools they need to make informed choices about how their data is used and when it is shared by their broadband providers,

According to the FCC, the proposed NPRM separates the use and sharing of information into three categories, and proposes adoption of clear guidance for both ISPs and customers about the transparency, choice and security requirements for customers’ personal information:

·         Consent Inherent in Customer Decision to Purchase ISP’s Services: Customer data necessary to provide broadband services and for marketing the type of broadband service purchased by a customer – and for certain other purposes consistent with customer expectations, such as contacting public safety – would require no additional customer consent beyond the creation of the customer-ISP relationship.

·         Opt-out: Broadband providers would be allowed to use customer data for the purposes of marketing other communications-related services and to share customer data with their affiliates that provide communications-related services for the purposes of marketing such services unless the customer affirmatively opts out.

·         Opt-in: All other uses and sharing of consumer data would require express, affirmative “opt-in” consent from customers.

The FCC proposes transparency requirements that require ISPs to provide customers with clear, conspicuous and persistent notice about what information they collect, use and share with third parties, and how customers can change their privacy preferences.  The rules also will require ISPs to adopt risk management practices, institute employee training, and implement strong customer authentication practices and other requirements. 

The scope of the NPRM is limited to broadband service providers. The NPRM does not apply to the privacy practices of web sites and other “edge services” over which the Federal Trade Commission has authority.  The text of the Order is not yet available, but click here to read the Press Release.  

(contact Dave Duncan for more information)

  FCC Releases Broadband Access Report    

Based on 2014 Form 477 data, the FCC has released its latest “Internet Access Services” Report.  The report includes data using the “old” measuring stick of 200 kbps, but also includes data on much higher speed availability as well.  

Among the findings:

·         In December 2014, 8% of fixed connections (or 8 million connections) were slower than 3 Mbps downstream, 19% (or 19 million connections) were at least 3 Mbps downstream but slower than 10 Mbps, 28% (or 27 million connections) were at least 10 Mbps downstream but slower than 25 Mbps, and 45% (or 44 million connections) were at least 25 Mbps downstream.

·         In December 2014, 21% of fixed connections (or 21 million connections) were slower than 1 Mbps upstream, 28% (or 27 million connections) were at least 1 Mbps upstream but slower than 3 Mbps, and 51% (or 49 million connections) were at least 3 Mbps upstream,

·         The percentage of fixed connections with a downstream speed of at least 25 Mbps has grown from 8% (or 7 million connections) in December 2011 to 45% (or 44 million connections) in December 2014

·         The median downstream speed of all reported fixed connections was 18 Mbps and the median upstream speed was 3 Mbps. For residential fixed connections, the median downstream speed was 20 Mbps and the median upstream speed was 3 Mbps

The report notes in Figure 35 that as of 12-31-14 in Iowa, 85.7% of fixed connections were at least 3 Mbps, 56.3% were at least 10 Mbps, and 16.7% were at least 25 Mbps downstream.  The report also measures broadband speeds by county and census tracts.  Click here to read the Report.

(contact Dave Duncan for more information)

IUB Filings    

OCA Conditionally Objects to MAGICJACK App


The Consumer Advocate has filed a conditional objection to the application by MAGICJACK to obtain a certificate to provide local service throughout the state of Iowa.  In its filing the OCA says that upon review of the application, it is “unable to determine whether MAGICJACK possesses the necessary technical, financial, and managerial ability to provide service” and that it questions “the lack of current specific financial and ownership information provided by MAGICJACK, its relationship with YMax Communications Corp., and any other affiliated companies, and its dialing parity plans.”  OCA seeks additional time to investigate these questions further.  Click here to read OCA’s filing. 

(contact Dave Duncan for more information)

 Video Provider News    

FCC Issues Proposed Video Access Rules


The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on proposals to expand the amount of and access to video described programming, for the benefit of consumers who are blind or visually impaired.   The rules expand the scope of broadcasters subject to the programming requirements, increase the required amount of video described programming on each included network carried by a covered broadcast station or MVPD from 50 hours per calendar quarter to 87.5 hours, and require that covered distributors provide dedicated customer service contacts who can answer questions about video description and other requirements.  Click here to read the FCC’s Press Release.  

(contact Dave Duncan for more information)


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