News from the ITA

May 18, 2021

 

We are excited to announce this year's ITA Annual Virtual Convention "Broadband: Keeping Our Communities in the Game" Registration is Open!

Now more than ever, it's important to keep connected and learn from each other. Members and their staff can attend any and all presentations. This is a great opportunity for you and your team to grow and learn from our 12 presenters over our two-morning convention. 

  1. You do not want to miss these presenters who are ready to share their industry expertise with you and your team!
  2. You do not want to miss out on the abundance of knowledge that will be gained at this convention!
  3. You definitely will want to register today!

This year's Annual Convention will conclude with a Business Meeting on Tuesday. A complete agenda can be found by clicking on the link below or on the ITA Website under the EVENTS heading.

We hope you will join us for what we know will be a great convention!

Register Today!

Click Here to See The Agenda and Register!


ICC Approves Use of UTAC Funds to Provide Computers to Low-Income Families

The Illinois Commerce Commission approved a petition from the Universal Telephone Assistance Corporation that will provide for a transfer of $750,000 of the current $1.2 million balance in the fund to PCs for People, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that recycles business electronics and provides refurbished technology to low-income households. 

With very few low-income consumers requesting assistance in the form of a new connection to telephone service, the UTAC Board of Directors requested permission from the Commission to provide financial assistance to PCs for People to for the collection, refurbishment and distribution of computers and tablets to qualifying low-income consumers. In 2010, UTAC provided 56,189 installation fee payments for Eligible subscribers for a financial benefit of $627,573, but in 2019, UTAC provided 77 waivers for a benefit of $2,690. UTAC has provided landline connection waivers for only 6 customers from January 2020, to date, for a charitable benefit of only $200.

In it's Final Order, the Commission found the program proposed by UTAC, to work with PCs for People to distribute refurbished computers, is consistent with the authority in Section 13-301.1(a) of the Act to increase accessibility to broadband internet access service. The Commission further stated in the Order that based on changing technology and the urgent need for increasing the availability of broadband services to eligible new subscribers that a payment of $750,000 to PCs for People to provide refurbished computer equipment to eligible new subscribers is advisable, likely to aid in educating and assisting low-income residential customers with a transition to Internet protocol-based networks and services, and otherwise in the public interest.

PCs for People previously received a $1,450,000 grant from the Illinois COVID-19 response fund to launch a multi-prong digital inclusion program working in conjunction with local community organizations in 41 counties in southern Illinois and the metro-east. In addition, PCs for People has received a charitable grant from the Jewish United Fund in Illinois, the Illinois Office of Broadband has pledged $200,000 in matching grant funding and Cook County has identified and offered the use of a large warehouse facility to assist PCs for People in its startup efforts in the northern Illinois area. The $750,000 contribution from UTAC will allow PCs for People to expand its efforts to reach all counties in Illinois. UTAC will also continue to offer a connection fee waiver up to $35 for any low-income household wishing to connect to home phone service.


Broadband Advisory Council gets Update on Connect Illinois Round 2 Status and Plans for Round 3 

The Broadband Advisory Council held it's quarterly meeting May 12. The Director of the Office of Broadband, Matt Schmit, provided updates on the various programs the Office of Broadband is engaged in, including the Connect Illinois Grant Program and the various digital equity initiatives his office is undertaking.

Schmit noted that the Connect Illinois Round 2 application deadline had passed April 12th and that the proposed projects are posted on Interactive Map the Connect Illinois website. The Broadband Office is currently reviewing the applications and providers that are already providing broadband service where the proposed projects are located must contact the Office of Broadband with challenges by May 24. 

Schmit also briefly discussed the Connect Illinois Round 3 timeline and process with the Notice of Funding Opportunity to be posted this summer. He also said that while similar to Rounds 1 and 2, Round 3 would likely have some new characteristics.

Matt Schmit also provided an update on the digital equity programs in the Office of Broadband, including Illinois Connected Communities, Broadband READY, the Digital Navigator Program and the Connect Illinois Computer Equity Network. Schmit also discussed creating new working groups under the Broadband Advisory Council addressing Digital Equity and Inclusion, Smart Cities, and Rural Innovation. 

The Broadband Advisory Council got a brief preview of the new state broadband maps being created by Connected Nation and an overview of federal programs and funding to improve broadband access and adoption. The Council's nest meeting is September 15th.


Federal News & Programs

FCC Issues Agenda for May 20 Open Meeting (NECA Washington Watch)

The FCC issued the agenda on May 13, 2021, for its May 20, 2021 Open Meeting. The FCC will consider: an order on reconsideration to relieve certain affiliates of merging companies that receive model-based and rate-of-return universal service support from a mixed support merger condition cap; an FNPRM proposing to accelerate the date by which small voice service providers that originate an especially large amount of call traffic must implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication framework; an NPRM and order to set TRS fund compensation rates for VRS; a third report and order, order on reconsideration and fifth NPRM that would: lower interstate rates and charges for the vast majority of incarcerated people; limit international rates; and seeks comment on further reforms to the FCC’s calling services rules, including for incarcerated people with disabilities; and two enforcement actions.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Enrollment Opened May 12 (NECA Washington Watch)

The FCC issued a news release on May 12, 2021, announcing the start of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The program will make available up to $3.2 billion worth of consumer discounts on broadband services and equipment like computers and tablets, and will continue until the federal funding runs out or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic. The FCC said over 825 broadband providers are taking part in the program.

The FCC issued a fact sheet on the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program on May 10, 2021. The FCC said starting on May 12, 2021, the EBB will make available to consumers substantial discounts on broadband service and computers, and this program will continue until the $3.2 billion in federal funding runs out or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic. Consumers interested in enrolling can do so at GetEmergencyBroadband.org and Internet providers participating in the program are encouraged to review a Community Outreach Toolkit provided by the commission.

The Enforcement Bureau also issued an enforcement advisory on May 11, 2021, to remind broadband providers participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program of their obligation to comply with the program rules. The bureau said providers should ensure existing Lifeline customers give their informed affirmative consent to participate in the EBB program and are able to choose not to apply their emergency broadband benefit with their Lifeline provider without jeopardizing their existing Lifeline service. The bureau also said customers must pay a portion of the cost of a connected device subsidized by the program, and providers advertising free connected devices as part of the EBB program is inconsistent with the program rules.

Emergency Connectivity Fund Order Released (NECA Washington Watch)

The FCC released a report and order on May 11, 2021, establishing the $7.171 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund to provide funding for schools and libraries for the purchase of connected devices and broadband connections for use by students, school staff and library patrons during the pandemic.


Member Company News

ADVERTISEMENT FOR BIDS - FIBER OPTIC INSTALLATION

Notice is hereby given that sealed bids are being accepted for Century Enterprises, Inc. for the construction of 32.20 miles of new underground fiber optic facilities within Peoria County, Illinois, awarded through round one of the Connect Illinois Broadband Grant Program. The contractor must adhere to the Prevailing Wage Act (820 ILCS 130/0.01 et seq.), Employment of Illinois Workers on Public Works Act (30 ILCS 570/.01 et seq.), and Illinois Works Jobs Program Act (30 ILCS 559/20-1 et seq.).

Bid packages are available by contacting Jeanette Knock with Vantage Point Solutions at [email protected] Sealed bids will be accepted until 1 p.m. CST on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. All bids should be submitted to: Vantage Point Solutions, Attn: Jeanette Knock, 2211 North Minnesota Street, Mitchell, SD 57301.

Century Enterprises, Inc. reserves the right to reject any or all bids and to waive informalities.

Illinois Telecommunications Association

312 S. 4th Street, Suite 100

           Springfield, IL 62701             

 (217) 572-1262

www.il-ita.com