FCC Orders Blanca Telephone to Repay Over $6 Million in USF Support


The FCC has released a Second Order on Reconsideration and Order (Second Blanca Order) which dismisses a Second Petition for Reconsideration, and Supplements, and Emergency Request for Stay (Second Blanca Petition) filed by Blanca Telephone Company (Blanca) and orders Blanca to repay to the U.S. Treasury $6,748,280 in previously disbursed universal service fund (USF) support.  Blanca’s troubles actually began in 2013 when NECA required the carrier to revise its accounting procedures to remove all costs related to its provision of mobile wireless services for purposes of high-cost universal service support.  NECA asked Blanca to adjust its 2011 and 2012 cost studies, which the carrier did, and Blanca made payment adjustments to reflect those changes.  However, on June 2, 2016, the FCC sent Blanca a letter demanding repayment of USF support to which the carrier was not entitled.  The FCC letter asserted that because Blanca is an RLEC, the company could only be reimbursed for providing specific local exchange services, and that after a Commission investigation, Blanca was in fact claiming costs for landline and fixed wireless services, despite the fact that Blanca was providing only mobile cellular services, and that this improper request for reimbursement might have started as early as 2005.  Later that month, Blanca filed a Petition for Reconsideration of this agency decision.  In December 2017, the Commission adopted a Memorandum Opinion and Order (Blanca Order) which upheld the repayment order.  Blanca immediately filed the Second Blanca Petition, which was subsequently amended and followed up by a response letter to the FCC.  The Second Blanca Petition presents several arguments, some procedural and others substantive.

The Commission’s Second Blanca Order dismisses all of Blanca’s arguments in its second attempt to avoid repayment of the USF support.  First, the Commission dismisses the “amended” Second Blanca Petition as being procedurally deficient.  Second, the Commission has determined that the Second Blanca Petition, even without amendments, is meritless.  Finally, the Commission has determined that the “emergency stay” request is both procedurally defective and meritless.  Accordingly, the Second Blanca Order holds that the first Blanca Order and “subsequent collection efforts remain in effect” and orders the Commission staff to “pursue collection of that amount from Blanca, whether by offset, recoupment, referral of the debt to the United States Department of Treasury for further collection efforts, or by any other means authorized by law.”

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