October 31, 2014

October 31, 2014

In This Issue

Meetings and Events

MTA Updates

>> 2015 MTA Annual Convention - Now Accepting Call for Proposals!

>> FCC Form 477 Filing Interface Closed Until November 10

>> NECA Lawsuit

>> Wireline Competition Bureau Announces Dates for 2015 Urban Rates Survey

>> Commissioner O’Rielly Speaks at NTCA Summit

>> FCC Releases 2015 E-rate Eligible Services List

>> FCC Adopts Methodology for Calculating Comparable Broadband Rates

>> 2015 Telco Marketing Peer Group Winter Conference

>> Hunting Safety

People and Companies

>> Olsen Thielen & Co., Ltd. Reorganizes, Rebrands Business Valuation Group

>> Vantage Point Solutions Hires Mara as Senior Analyst

MTA Staff

MTA President/CEO:
Brent Christensen
Team Leader:

Jacquie Durant
Event Planners:
Julie Cygan
Carissa Wolf
Member Services:
Chris Swanson
Janey Scrivner
Administrative Assistant:
Anne Christensen

Stay up-to-date on daily happenings at the MTA offices by following us on Facebook. From peer group meetings to annual conferences and everything in between, get the scoop on what’s happening at our offices!




Meetings and Events

November 11-12, 2014: 2014 Customer Service Peer Group Fall Conference

February 5-6, 2015: 2015 Telco Marketing Peer Group Winter Conference

March 23-25, 2015: 2015 MTA Annual Convention & Trade Show Exhibitor and sponsor registration available next week!

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MTA Updates


2015 MTA Annual Convention - Now Accepting Call for Proposals!

We are planning for the Annual Convention and Trade Show, March 23-25, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our convention offers you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to (estimated 1,100) MTA attendees face-to-face. We are now requesting submissions of speakers and presenters for our breakout sessions and luncheons. Topics ideas for presentations identified by the MTA Event Planning Committee are listed in the Call for Proposals.

Click here to submit a Call for Proposal.

The deadline to submit a proposal is Monday, November 24, 2014.

FCC Form 477 Filing Interface Closed Until November 10

from NECA’s Washington Watch

The Wireline Competition Bureau issued a Public Notice on October 28, 2014, announcing that it expects the FCC 477 Form filing interface website to remain closed until at least November 10, 2014, due to the implementation of technical improvements to the site that should enhance its overall performance. After the site re-opens, the Bureau will release a Public Notice announcing the new filing deadline for Form 477 data as of June 30, 2014, which will be no less than 14 days after the release of that Public Notice.


NECA Lawsuit

from ITCI

Earlier this week ITCI sent the following email to its clients:

Last Friday NECA sent the below email relating to a pending lawsuit, giving no indication as to what the lawsuit involved. The lawsuit is NOT relating to the Intra-MTA access billing issue recently filed by Sprint and Verizon. This lawsuit was filed by a current NECA employee and involves two different accounting and ratemaking rules. Almost every LEC has been listed as defendants in the filing.

The NECA employee, James A. Stoltz, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the United States of America. We understand that he is really being a whistleblower and could receive 10% of any proceeds if the court should rule that the LECs violated any rules. The two issues in the lawsuit are as follows:

Back in 2006 and 2007 when the RTB stock was liquidated, many LECs received cash payments for their stock. Mr. Stoltz is claiming that the cash receipt was improperly booked by the LECs as revenue to the company. He felt that the interstate portion (30%) of the proceeds should have been a direct reduction of the cost study and High Cost Loop Support (HCLS) calculations which would benefit the rate payers (IXCs, end users, etc.). On page 124 of the lawsuit, Mr. Stoltz is accusing over 30 NECA employees and one NECA board member of wrongly informing the NECA members as to how to handle the RTB stock proceeds. Mr. Stoltz claims that the LECs have bilked hundreds of millions of dollars of subsidies based on false information.

Mr. Stoltz is claiming that the method LECs used to calculate deferred income taxes has been improper. Account 4340 – Deferred Income Taxes, represents the impact of using accelerated depreciation for income tax purposes. Usually account 4340 is a credit balance and is a reduction of the rate base. Over time account 4340 can become a debit balance. When this happened NECA began allowing the deferred taxes as in increase in the rate base, therefore generating additional cost study and HCLS revenues. Once again, Mr. Stoltz is claiming that the LECs have generated hundreds of millions of dollars that they weren’t entitled to.

Since average schedule companies settlements and HCLS is based on cost company information, they could be impacted by the courts decisions and are listed as defendants in the lawsuit. NECA indicated in their e-mail that companies will soon be served with a summons. NECA also stated that “we will continue to monitor the matter and hope to assist member companies in consolidating resources to minimize litigation costs”.

If you have any questions, please contact Jerry W. Burmeister, Interstate Telcom Consulting, 320-848-6641

Wireline Competition Bureau Announces Dates for 2015 Urban Rates Survey

from NECA’s Washington Watch

The Wireline Competition Bureau released a Public Notice on October 27, 2014, announcing the timeline for completion of the 2015 urban rate survey. The Bureau will collect the rates offered by providers of fixed voice and broadband services identified using the most recent FCC Form 477 data in up to 500 urban Census tracts. For the 2015 survey, the Bureau has removed all questions regarding non-recurring charges on both the voice and broadband surveys and a question about taxes, surcharges, and TRS charges on the voice survey. Notifications that a provider is required to complete a survey will be sent via email to each selected provider’s FCC Form 477 contact person and certifying official on or around October 28, 2014. Completed surveys will be due on November 26, 2014. The information collected in this survey will be used, among other things, to develop voice and broadband benchmarks that will be in place in 2015.

Commissioner O’Rielly Speaks at NTCA Summit

from NECA’s Washington Watch

Commissioner O’Rielly spoke at NTCA’s Telecom Executive Policy Summit on October 27, 2014. He said if old rules are frustrating federal USF policy, then they must be revised, and noted there is an old interpretation that is preventing carriers from receiving support when they offer VoIP on a common carriage basis bundled with broadband, even though the USF/ICC Transformation Order reinterpreted voice telephony service in order to facilitate those types of offerings. He expressed appreciation for NTCA and others’ willingness to put forward solutions that transition away from legacy rules to a broadband-focused CAF, including the proposal for ways to stay within a budget. With regards to net neutrality, he said he does not agree with separating out and applying Title II to a so-called transmission component of broadband Internet access service, saying the fact that some providers may choose to offer a service a certain way does not mean it is necessary or appropriate to require all others to do the same.

FCC Releases 2015 E-rate Eligible Services List

from NECA’s Washington Watch

The Wireline Competition Bureau issued an Order on October 28, 2014, releasing the 2015 E-rate Eligible Services List and authorizing USAC to open the application filing window no earlier than December 29, 2014. The 2015 ESL renames the Priority One section as Category One and the Priority Two section as Category Two. The Bureau, pursuant to the E-rate Modernization Order, removed web hosting, voice mail, email, paging, directory assistance charges, text messaging, custom calling services, direct inward dialing, 900/976 call blocking, and inside wire maintenance plans from the ESL; clarified that multi-protocol label switching is eligible for Category One E-rate support; and explained telecommunications transmission and Internet access used for distance learning and video conferencing remains eligible. The 2015 ESL did not alter the eligibility of basic maintenance, but added managed internal broadband services to Category Two and adopted a definition of caching for funding year 2015.

FCC Adopts Methodology for Calculating Comparable Broadband Rates

from NECA’s Washington Watch

The Wireline Competition Bureau issued a Report and Order on October 29, 2014, adopting a weighted linear regression methodology for calculating reasonable comparability benchmarks for fixed broadband services. The Bureau adopted the Rural Associations’ proposal to develop a single regression using a broader sample of observations, ranging in download speeds from 2 to 40 Mbps, and said calculating two different standard deviations for the lower speed service and the higher speed service effectively addresses the Rural Associations’ concern that these services are differentiated products. The Bureau noted that because it is announcing the methodology late in the year, the results for 2014 are illustrative and may be used to inform parties that are potentially interested in bidding on CAF funding for rural broadband experiments and to adjudicate CAF Phase II challenges. The Bureau plans to announce the 2015 reasonable comparability benchmarks for fixed broadband services when it completes its analysis of the data collected in the 2015 annual urban rate survey. The Bureau also waived implementation of the reasonable comparability benchmarks for Alaska carriers for 2015 to allow further time to determine whether an alternative methodology should be adopted for Alaska. The Bureau will post an Excel file and online tool in which providers can plug in the relevant variables to determine the benchmark for specific service characteristics. This Report and Order will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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Peer Group Bulletin
All MTA members are welcome to join a Peer Group

2015 Telco Marketing Peer Group Winter Conference

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Safety Corner

Hunting Safety

Deer hunting season begins soon, and thousands of people will be attempting to land that big buck! Unfortunately every year, hundreds of hunters suffer injuries. Here are a few tips to help make your hunt safe and injury free.

  1. Don’t Hunt Alone. Whenever possible, you should go hunting with at least one other person and carry two-way radios for communication as your cell phone may not get reception deep in the woods. Together, you and your partner can watch out for one another. If either of you should have an accident, the other can assist the injured party or go get help. Without a partner, you're left on your own. Something as simple as a twisted ankle can quickly become a life-threatening situation under the wrong set of circumstances. If you prefer to go alone, as a minimum, inform someone about where you will be hunting and set up a time to check in.
  2. Wear Hunter Orange. Since you won’t be the only one out there trying to get that big buck, make sure you’re visible to the other hunters and they can identify you as a person. The best way to do this is to wear hunter (blaze) orange. Minnesota Regulations require “at least 50% of a hunter's garment to be hunter orange and that the visible portion of a cap and outer clothing above the waist, excluding sleeves and gloves, must be blaze orange when hunting during any open season where deer may be taken by firearms.” In hunting accidents involving two or more people, 76% of the time it was due to someone not wearing orange and being mistaken as game. If you're heading to or from your deer stand in darkness, use a flashlight.
  3. Be Sure of Your Target. Although all humans should wear hunter orange (see above), you still need to verify that your target is actually game and not another hunter or a non-game animal. Be aware of what's between you and your target, as well as what's beyond your target. If you are hunting near a farm or road, you have to consider what might happen if you miss your shot — or if it goes clean through your target and keeps on going. Never take a shot unless you are certain that there are no safety risks involved. That might mean you'll miss the opportunity for that big buck, but will prevent those accidental shootings.
  4. Practice Good Gun Safety. This may seem obvious, but it cannot be overstated! Treat every firearm as if it were loaded at all times, even if you are absolutely certain it's unloaded. Always keep that muzzle pointed in a safe direction and NEVER point a firearm at yourself or another person. If you’re using a tree stand, wait until you’re up in the stand and then pull your firearm up after you by the butt so that is pointed toward the ground. When you're ready to come down, lower your unloaded firearm to the ground first. NEVER try to climb up to or down from a tree stand with a loaded firearm.

If you’re planning to hunt with a young or inexperienced hunter, they’re required to attend a firearms safety course in order to get their license. For you experienced hunters, the DNR is always looking for people to help teach these courses, so get involved and pass on your knowledge to these new hunters.

Have a good hunt!
Jeff Ulmen
Safety Consultant


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People Companies

Olsen Thielen & Co., Ltd. Reorganizes, Rebrands Business Valuation Group

Olsen Thielen & Co., Ltd., is pleased to announce the reorganization and rebranding of its wholly owned subsidiary, Minnesota Business Valuation Group. The newly formed Valuation and Forensic Services Group combines the skillsets of Olsen Thielen's existing valuation group with our forensic accounting and litigation support staff to create a more powerful offering for our clients.

"Over the years, Olsen Thielen has successfully served our clients through our broad array of services and our commitment to exceptionalism," said Michael Bromelkamp, Principal at Olsen Thielen. "These qualities are the core of our business. In order to more richly serve our clients, we are pleased to announce the coming together of our valuation, forensic accounting and litigation support expertise. We believe unifying these complementary skillsets will enhance the impact we can have for our clients, better complement our core accounting, compliance and consulting offerings, and bring the business valuation group fully into the Olsen Thielen family where it belongs."

Olsen Thielen acquired the Minnesota Business Valuation Group in 2007. Members of the Valuation and Forensics Services Group have been awarded several designations including Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP).

Vantage Point Solutions Hires Mara Vasile as Senior Analyst

Vantage Point Solutions (VPS) is pleased to announce the addition of Mara Vasile as a Senior Analyst to its staff. Mara has over 20 years’ experience in the telecom industry and comes from a family that’s been in the business for a century. She has extensive knowledge of state and federal regulatory issues, telecom accounting, average schedule and cost reporting, carrier access billing and traffic, tariffs, customer service, back office processes, employee training and marketing.

Do you have an announcement for People & Companies? Send an email to MTA at info@mnta.org or fax to 651-290-2266.

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Minnesota Telecom Alliance
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