In a November 2013 Declaratory Ruling and Order, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) granted a petition for declaratory ruling filed by the Rural Independent Competitive Alliance (RICA) and addressed a universal service fund (USF) contribution issue. The Bureau determined that unlike ILECs, CLECs are not required to recover from end-user customers a portion of their non-traffic-sensitive (NTS) costs of providing interstate or interstate exchange access services, and therefore, only those CLECs that recover these NTS costs from end-user customers are required to allocate and report for USF contribution purposes a portion of their fixed local revenues to the interstate jurisdiction. RICA members filed their petition for declaratory ruling after submitting revised 2010 FCC Forms 499-A (USF contributions) under protest to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). In its decision, the Bureau directed USAC to accept newly revised FCC Forms 499-A from those RICA members that had originally filed their forms under protest, and instructed USAC to refund any resulting overpayments to them.
ComSouth Telenet has filed a petition for limited waiver and request for review of a USAC decision which asks the FCC to treat it as a RICA member for purposes of being allowed to file a revised FCC Form 499-A and receive a “refund” from USAC. Only a small subset of RICA members participated in the original proceeding, and while ComSouth was not a RICA member, it joined that group for purposes of petitioning the FCC. In its petition, ComSouth explains that it contributed to the expenses and work the same as the RICA members that were part of the group, and it states that it filed an FCC Form 499-A under protest, and after the Bureau’s decision, timely filed a revised form with USAC. Accordingly, ComSouth argues that formal RICA membership should not be a requirement that prevents it from availing itself of the relief given in the Bureau’s November 2013 Declaratory Ruling and Order. The Bureau has placed ComSouth’s petition on Public Notice – comments are due on or before July 10, 2014, and reply comments are due July 25, 2014.