Federal Court Rejects Hurricanes Irma and Maria Funding Appeal

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The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has rejected claims by Tri-County Telephone Association (Tri-County), that the FCC improperly funded relief to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), made in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Tri-County (a Wyoming and Montana telecommunications carrier), appealed the denial of two Petitions for Reconsideration seeking review over Universal Service Funding, arguing in federal court that the FCC bypassed notice and comment without good cause when the FCC released Universal Service Funding to carriers to restore communications in Puerto Rico and the USVI; that the FCC failed to justify its chosen amount and allocation of funds; and that the FCC departed from previous precedent and the Communications Act.

The D.C. Circuit ultimately denied Tri-County’s claims, reasoning that the hurricanes and their aftermath presented good cause for the FCC to bypass notice and comment; that the FCC properly justified the funding amount, and placed oversight controls to ensure proper spending; and the Commission had previously used the Universal Service Fund for Hurricane Katrina relief.

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