May 01 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Thanks to the work of Womble Bond Dickinson attorneys Erin Fitzgerald and Carri Bennet and firm client the Rural Wireless Association (RWA), rural broadband companies will receive some regulatory relief in complying with an important Mobility Fund Phase II requirement.

The FCC’s Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and Wireline Competition Bureau have agreed to increase the maximum distance between speed test measurements from 500 to 800 meters and the associated buffer radius from 250 to 400 meters. The regulatory changes came as the result of an RWA ex parte document filed by Fitzgerald and Bennet.

In its April 30 Order on Reconsideration, the FCC writes that “Upon consideration of new evidence in the record, which was unavailable at the time of our prior decision, we are now persuaded that applying a buffer radius of one-quarter of one kilometer may be unduly burdensome to some challengers.” The amended speed test requirements will provide accurate data, while being significantly less time-consuming for rural carriers, the FCC said.

Bennet, the RWA General Counsel, said, “We are encouraged by the Bureaus’ decision. [W]hile the grid cell size remains the same, lengthening the buffer radius will lessen the amount of hours required to launch a challenge. As it stood prior to the FCC reconsidering its choice of a ¼ kilometer buffer, RWA members were looking at 50 or more hours a day for the entire 150-day challenge window just to take the necessary measurements.”

Mobility Fund Phase II will provide up to $4.53 billion in support available over 10 years to primarily rural areas that lack unsubsidized 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., RWA - the Rural Wireless Association is a trade association representing rural wireless carriers who each serve fewer than 100,000 subscribers. RWA’s members have joined together to spread the delivery of new, efficient and innovative wireless technologies to remote and underserved communities.

Also, click here to read how Bennet discussed supply chain issues impacting rural broadband carriers and their customers with the New York Times.

Erin Fitzgerald advises telecommunications carriers, broadband service providers, and technology companies on complex commercial and regulatory matters. Erin also serves as Regulatory Counsel to the Rural Wireless Association, and has extensive experience on issues regarding privacy/data protection, spectrum auctions, universal service, broadband deployment, data roaming, network neutrality, and wireless licensing.  Erin advocates in rulemaking and policymaking proceedings on behalf of RWA as well as individual clients, and frequently appears before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Carri Bennet has more than three decades of experience representing wireline, wireless and broadband communications providers, as well as commercial and noncommercial broadcasters, in regulatory compliance matters. She has a particular focus on advocating for small rural carriers, including serving as General Counsel to the Rural Wireless Association. Bennet represents telecom industry clients before the FCC, state regulatory agencies, the courts, and Congress.