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Nationwide Competitive
Local Exchange Carrier

 
 

Tele-Tech Updates

October 2013

Rural Carriers Expand Local Calling Areas

Researchers at Tele-Tech Services report that several Rural Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (RLECS) in Texas, South Dakota and Kentucky are expanding their local calling areas.  In some cases, providers are extending the local area by as much as two LATAs.

Thacker-Grigsby Telephone Company's April 2013 tariff filing reveals why. The Kentucky RLEC is attempting to offset its higher local calling prices, by offering local rates to areas that, in the past, would have been considered long distance. Thacker-Grigsby serves four counties in eastern Kentucky.

Rural carriers are complying with an FCC mandated three-step rate floor, in order to continue receiving high-cost loop support. 

Local residential calling rates increased to $10 in July 2012. This past July, the rate went up to $14. The Wireline Competition Bureau will set rates in 2014 and after.

These changes are part of the 2011 Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation Reform Order.

The rate-of-return reform portion aims to reduce what Commissioners believe is an over-dependence on high-cost support, which keeps rural rates artificially low. The national urban average is $15.47.

Here are some of the updates we've made to our local data since June 2013:

  • TX - Nortex Communications increased the local calling scope for all of its exchanges to include toll free calling to all exchanges in the Dallas LATA (552) and the Wichita Falls LATA (548) under Project 41519.
  • TX - Southwest Texas Telephone Company enlarged local calling areas from its exchanges to exchanges in LATA 566, where 210 and 830 are the primary NPAs under Project 41457.
  • TX - Peoples Telephone Cooperative enlarged local calling areas by allowing toll free one way local calling scope within all exchanges owned by company under Project 41374.
  • TX - Cap Rock Telephone Cooperative enlarged the local calling area with a toll-free calling scope within the entire Lubbock LATA 544 under Project 41340.
  • TX - Alenco Communications enlarged the local calling areas slightly by removing an optional EAS and replaced with a mandatory toll free local calling scope (ELCS) to allow local calls to Laredo and calls to Mexia and Grossbeak from Donie.
  • SD, NE, WY - Golden West Telephone Cooperative is a large company that contains many smaller rural companies: Kadoka Telephone, Vivian Telephone, Sioux Valley Telephone all D/B/A Golden West Telephone.  The expanded local calling is described as "Golden West is expanding your local calling area".  The new expanded local calling areas are located on each side of the Missouri River with toll free calling to all Golden West areas on each side of the Missouri River; basically two way toll free calling within all exchanges owned by Golden West.
  • KY - Thacker-Grigsby  Communications offered their customers a new Limited Extended Area Calling plan.  Residential  customers have 1,000 free minutes per month, business customers have 1,500 free minutes per month to call the seven surrounding counties, including over 30 additional exchanges.

By expanding local calling areas, do you think RLECs can retain their customers? What consequences might this have on intercarrier billing?

We want to hear your opinion. Comment on our blog at www.TelecomDB.com

FCC Caps Inmate Calling Rates

The FCC in late September released its interstate inmate calling services (ICS) reform order. Commissioners voted 2-1 in August to approve the order.

Interim interstate rates are now capped at:

  • $0.21 per minute for debit and pre-paid calls
  • $0.25 per minute for collect calls

According to an FCC news release, a 15-minute call can cost no more than $3.75 or $3.15 per call. Before the new order, a similar call would cost more than $17.

The cost of security features, such as advanced mechanisms that block calls to victims, witnesses, prosecutors and other prohibited parties; biometric caller verification; real-time recording systems; and monitoring to prevent evasion of restrictions on call-forwarding or three-way calling is included in the above rates.

The order prohibits providers from recovering site commission costs through inmate calling rates. While providers can recover ancillary costs, it must be cost based.

Additionally, carriers can no longer charge inmates who use teletypewriter equipment or other technologies to access the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS).

ICS providers must submit data on their underlying costs, so the Commission can develop a permanent rate structure.

The Commission seeks additional comments on reforming rates and practices affecting calls within a state, as well as fostering competition to reduce rates.

In another move to lower inmate calling costs, the Wireline Competition Bureau last month ruled that ICS providers cannot unilaterally block lower-cost call routing services.

Read the FCC ruling here.

Providers Expand Availability of Discounted Broadband Internet

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) in August announced Comcast and CenturyLink will provide broadband internet services, starting at about $10 per month, to eligible low-income subscribers.

Both CenturyLink and Comcast are among a handful of telecom carriers offering discounted broadband service under a private-public partnership.

The MPSC has partnered with Connect Michigan, a subsidiary of Connected Nation, to bring high-speed internet access to residents who normally wouldn't be able to afford the service.

Connected Nation currently operates in 9 other states and Puerto Rico.

While Connected Nation is a partner and advisor to the FCC's broadband adoption initiatives, it is not to be confused with the federal Connect 2 Compete (C2C) program.

Under the FCC's auspices, C2C was formed as a nonprofit in October 2011. It has been operating in all 50 states since January 2013.

Providers participating in the C2C Home Broadband Coverage program are Comcast, Bright House Networks, Wilco, FreedomPop, Mediacom and Cox. You can view a map of coverage here.

Additionally, the Commission is conducting a Lifeline Broadband Pilot Program using about $14 million in Lifeline reform savings. 

Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, in her remarks to the New America Foundation in early September, said the pilot program would "test the potential for expanding Lifeline support to cover broadband services."

More than a dozen providers are participating in this wireline and wireless research project, gathering data on different service terms such as subsidy amount, end-user charges, access to digital literacy training, equipment type, speed ranges and data usage limits.

Enrollment began in February and will end November 1, 2013.

This activity appears to be paving the way for a regime in which Connect America Fund (CAF) monies will subsidize high-speed internet. The Lifeline program under CAF currently subsidizes voice service only.

U.S. legislators are also looking at Lifeline as a way to fund internet subsidies. In April 2013, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Anne Eshoo (D-CA) introduced a bill that would allow Lifeline eligible subscribers to use those funds for their choice of broadband, mobile, telephone or a bundle of services.

The FCC's overall National Broadband Plan clearly includes Lifeline subsidies for high-speed internet, so it may be just a matter of time before Commissioners act to put these new service rules into place.

NANPA Q3 Recap

NEBRASKA
Rate Center changes:

  • 308-764 Rate center HYANNIS will change back to ARTHUR.
  • 308-538 Rate center THEDFORD will change back to DUNNING.
  • 308-547 Rate center THEDFORD will change back to BREWSTER.
CONNECTICUT
NPA 959 to Overlay NPA 860, effective August 30, 2014

INDIANA
NPA 930 to Overlay NPA 812, effective October 6, 2014.

NATIONWIDE
844 toll free NPA opens December 7, 2013.

Q4 Contribution Factor 

The proposed Universal Service Fund contribution factor for Fourth Quarter 2013 is 15.6 percent, up from 15.1 percent in the previous quarter.

 
KFR News