FCC Increases OPEX Relief to USF Recipients Serving Tribal Lands


The FCC has released a Report and Order which raises the limit on the amount of operating expenses (OPEX) that select eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) can recoup from the Universal Service Fund (USF).  Specifically, the Commission is amending Part 54.303 of its rules such that the limit on OPEX for which rate-of-return carriers may receive high-cost support is raised to 2.5 standard deviations above the regression model-generated OPEX per location.  The current variable used is 1.5.  This change will help only those carriers who serve those study areas most in need and where a majority of the housing units are on Tribal lands.  According to the FCC’s review, this change is only likely to impact five service providers, and it will only be applied so long as:  (1) the requesting carrier has not yet deployed broadband service of 10 Mbps downlink/1 Mbps uplink to 90 percent or more housing units on the Tribal lands in its study area; and (2) unsubsidized competitors have not yet deployed similar services to 85 percent or more of housing units in that same market.  The rule change will go into effect 30 days after the Report and Order is published in the Federal Register, and it will be applied retroactively to January 1, 2017.

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