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NewsBytes-Sept21_12
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September 21, 2012

 

September 21, 2012

In This Issue

Meetings and Events

MTA Updates

>> Lifeline Information

>> Industry Showcase: Early Bird Deadline is Today

>> Have You Engaged Your Local Tribe?

>> Klobuchar Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Wireless Broadband Access in Rural Communities

>> FCC Lifeline Reform

>> Adelstein Leaves RUS

>> Autumn Health and Safety Tips

People and Companies


MTA Staff

MTA President/CEO:
Brent Christensen
Team Leader:

Jacquie Jaskowiak
Meeting Planner:
Julie Cygan
Member Services:
Chris Swanson
Website/Newsletter:
Janey Duntley
Administrative Assistant:
Lindsey Clancy


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!

 

 

 


October 4-5, 2012: MTA 2012 Fall Industry Showcase

October 9-10, 2012: CSR Peer Group Meeting – CANCELLED


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ACTION ITEMS:

Lifeline Information

Now that the electronic verification project with the MN Department of Human Services is complete, many members have had questions about the next steps in the new Lifeline verification process. This article will attempt to help answer some of these questions and provide guidance on how companies may want to proceed. The FCC's Lifeline Order puts new requirements on ETCs, including collecting Social Security Numbers and Dates of Birth for people already participating in the program. The MN PUC has approved a new application, which went into effect August 1 of this year. ETCs must collect all information included on the Lifeline Application form from all lifeline participants, including those who were verified electronically.

In addition, those who were not verified electronically must be sent a letter requesting proof of eligibility in addition to the other information. ETCs are required to send a follow-up letter to those participants who have not responded within 30 days. The MN Department of Commerce’s suggested letters for ETC's use can be found here. This link also contains the current Customer Application form.

The MTA recommends the following steps be followed for Lifeline verification:

ETCs who participated in electronic verification with DHS

  1. Send a letter to those who were verified asking for participants SSN, DOB, and signed certification statement
  2. Send a verification letter to those who were not electronically verified (include approved application from link above); require response within 30 days
  3. Send a follow-up letter 30 days after the first letter to those who do not respond to the first letter (include approved application from link above)
  4. 30 days after second letter, remove any participants who have not responded to any of the above.

ETCs who participated in electronic verification with DHS

  1. Send a verification letter to all Lifeline customers.
  2. Send a follow-up letter 30 days after the first letter to those who do not respond to the first letter (include approved application from link above)
  3. 30 days after second letter, remove any participants who have not responded to any of the above.

Any questions can be directed to MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen at bchristensen@mnta.org or 651-288-3723.

Industry Showcase: Early Bird Deadline is Today

As great as this summer has been, it is time to start thinking about fall. Back to school, the Vikings, cooler temperatures, leaves turning color, and most importantly… the MTA Industry Showcase!

We know times are changing and the MTA needs to make changes to keep our programs current, relevant, and informative. To that end, the MTA Event Planning Committee and staff have been working with the Video Peer Group, IT Peer Group, and Economic Development Committee to create the MTA’s first-ever Industry Showcase. This new event will open with a general session on diversifying your business. It will continue with separate tracks giving attendees the most current, up-to-date information on Video, IT, and our second Telework Summit. Know you want to attend, but don’t know which sessions you want to attend? It doesn’t matter; you can mix and match sessions to meet your individual needs. Don’t wait…

Register now!

Become a Sponsor or Video Peer Group Exhibitor

Maximize your company's exposure to the Video Peer Group and MTA membership at the 2012 Industry Showcase. MTA members will be coming to Minneapolis from all over the state to learn more about the important issues facing our industry and this is your opportunity to get your company’s message in front of them. Thank you in advance for your consideration and all you do to support the Video Peer Group and MTA. Without your support, events like this would not be possible!

Sign up now!

SEE YOU AT THE 2012 MTA INDUSTRY SHOWCASE!


USF/ICC REFORM:

Have You Engaged Your Local Tribe?

The FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy, Wireline Competition Bureau and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau have issued "guidance" detailing actions that "should" be taken by Tribal governments and carriers to comply with Section 54.313 (a)(9) of the Commission's rules, which requires eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) serving tribal lands to "engage" with tribal governments as a condition of receiving federal universal service support. While these rules have not yet been approved by the Federal Office of Management and Budget, ETCs should begin preparations to comply with the new "guidelines.” "MTA members should not wait to be contacted by their Tribal governments; we recommend that they take the initiative,” commented MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen.

ETC/Tribal government discourse should be between decision makers and not ETC sales and marketing personnel with Tribal administrative staff or advisors. ETCs should take immediate steps to do the following:

  • Prepare for and initiate engagement with Tribal governments whose lands they serve; and
  • Establish a lead and/or team to identify appropriate Tribal government leaders with whom they will initiate the engagement process.

Discussions must include at a minimum:

  • A needs assessment and deployment planning with a focus on Tribal community anchor institutions;
  • Feasibility and sustainability planning;
  • Marketing services in a culturally sensitive manner;
  • Rights of way processes, land use permitting, facilities siting, environmental and cultural preservation review processes; and
  • Compliance with Tribal business and licensing requirements.

It appears that the alleged "guidance" amounts to a new or revised rule imposed on carriers and tribal governments without the benefit of notice and comment rulemaking. Nonetheless, the Bureau Guidance states that ETCs must begin discussions with Tribal governments and conclude such discussion during 2012, for inclusion in the ETC's required FCC filing due by July 1, 2013.

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INFORMATIONAL ITEMS:

Klobuchar Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Wireless Broadband Access in Rural Communities

On September 11, after consulting with the MTA and other stakeholders, Senator Amy Klobuchar cosponsored bipartisan legislation to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities. The bill, introduced by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), would provide incentives for wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers in order to expand wireless coverage in rural areas.

"In today’s 21st century economy, access to high-speed Internet is not just a benefit for businesses, students and families – it is essential,” Klobuchar said. "This bill will help expand high-quality, wireless communications to rural areas, giving local businesses the ability to connect to global markets and strengthening the rural communities that are so vital to Minnesota’s economy.”

"The increasing importance of wireless communications and broadband has a direct correlation to our nation’s competitiveness, economy, and national security,” said Senator Snowe. "The main goal of this legislation is to provide a catalyst to expand next generation wireless broadband service to rural areas, which will mean more reliable service, more innovation, and more choice to consumers and businesses. I am pleased this bipartisan legislation has Sen. Klobuchar’s support and will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure consumers in rural areas of Maine and the nation have the access to the broadband services they require to succeed.”

The Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a program that would provide a 3-year extension of the spectrum license to wireless carriers that lease unused spectrum to rural and smaller carriers, encouraging collaboration between companies to bridge service gaps in rural areas.


FCC Lifeline Reform

Reprinted with permission from Vantage Point Solutions

In addition to the change to the $9.25 flat rate support for Lifeline service that went into effect August 1, USAC is also changing its Lifeline support payment process; all payments will be based on actual support claims no later than October 2012. Beginning October 8, ETCs that file electronically by the 8th of the current month through USAC’s E-File system will be paid for the previous month’s claims by the end of the same month. ETCs filing via email, fax or mail will receive payment for the previous month’s support claims at the end of the following month. If ETCs continue to file quarterly via email, mail or fax, they will only receive quarterly lump-sum payments and will no longer receive a monthly disbursement unless they submit a Form 497 by the 8th of each month via USAC’s E-File system.

August 2012 support claims must be filed on the new version of the FCC Form 497 which is available on USAC’s website and available for electronic filing through E-File beginning September 1. If you file via USAC’s E-File system, a company officer must now certify the FCC Form 497. Original and revised support claims for months prior to August 2012 must be submitted on the old version of the 497. However, original or revised submissions for months prior to August that are filed via USAC’s E-File system after September 1 must be certified by a company officer.

ETCs must re-certify the eligibility of 100% of their Lifeline subscriber base as of June 1, 2012 by the end of 2012 and report the results to USAC by January 31, 2013. The FCC is in the process of obtaining Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval of a new Annual Lifeline Eligible Telecommunications Carrier Certification Form which ETCs can use to comply with this new rule. This annual re-certification requirement replaces the previous process by which ETCs re-certified only a sample of their total Lifeline subscribers and submitted the results to USAC by August 31 of every year.

USAC has also developed a worksheet that must be completed any time more than one subscriber at a single address receives Lifeline service or when a new applicant applies for Lifeline service at an address where there is already a Lifeline subscriber.

If you have any questions in regards to the reporting requirements or would like VPS’ assistance, please contact any of the following VPS staff:

Leah Richter at (605) 995-1793 or Leah.Richter@Vantagepnt.com
Doug Eidahl at (605) 995-1750 or Doug.Eidahl@vantagepnt.com
Ross Petrick at (605) 995-1746 or Ross.Petrick@vantagepnt.com


Adelstein Leaves RUS

We received word recently that our good friend Jonathan Adelstein will be leaving the Rural Utilities Service to head up PCIA (Wireless Infrastructure Association). Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement on the departure of USDA Rural Utility Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein:

"I want to thank Jonathan Adelstein for his service to the Obama Administration and to rural America as Administrator of the USDA Rural Utilities Service. During his three years at USDA, he helped make significant investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and this work will strengthen rural America for decades to come. Under Jonathan’s leadership, USDA expanded broadband access for nearly 7 million Americans and 365,000 rural businesses, provided more than 5,500 grants and loans to modernize rural water and waste systems, and strengthened rural telecommunications services. Our country will also benefit from a stronger and more reliable electric grid – more than 91,000 miles of new and upgraded electric line, along with deployment of smart grid technology across America and new renewable energy systems that are saving enough energy to power nearly 600,000 American homes for a year. Including his service here, Jonathan has contributed more than 25 years to public service and I wish him well.”

Adelstein left USDA effective September 15, 2012, and John Padalino, has been designated Acting Administrator.

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SAFETY CORNER:

Autumn Health and Safety Tips

You can sure tell autumn is fast approaching: the days are getting noticeably shorter, the farmers are working the fields, the trees have that shade of color and the weather is getting cooler. Autumn is a busy time of year, but also it can be a dangerous time of year if we let our guard down. Following are some items you may want to address this autumn in preparation for what is to follow.

SERVICE FURNACE: Before the heating season, a qualified heating technician should service your furnace to ensure that it will operate safely and efficiently. Make sure the area around your furnace is clear for good air circulation. Keep all flammable materials, such as clothing, cardboard boxes, paint thinners, fuels and solvents, far away from the furnace.

CHECK THE CHIMNEY: Inspect your chimney to make sure it is unobstructed. Because many furnaces vent into the chimney, it must be free of debris to allow products of combustion to vent to the outside atmosphere. If you will be burning wood in a fireplace, have the chimney inspected to make sure it is in good condition and free of creosote buildup.

LOOK UP: When cleaning gutters, installing storm windows, picking apples, or trimming trees, avoid overhead power lines. Before you work, look up from your work area to inspect for overhead power lines. Then make sure to stay clear of electrical lines when working with ladders, pruning poles or equipment with antennas, etc.

LIGHT FOR SAFETY: As days are growing short, make sure outdoor lighting is in good working order. Good lighting can protect you against crime and falls or accidents caused by darkness. Inspect fixtures and outlets for weather damage and replace burnt-out bulbs.

TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT THE FLU: The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year in the fall. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or at least cough into your sleeve. Wash your hands often; it is best to wash your hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds. If that’s not possible, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

BE PREPARED FOR COLD WEATHER: Know what to do if a cold-weather emergency arises. Get your winter survival kits together for all your vehicles.

TEST AND REPLACE BATTERIES: Check and replace carbon monoxide batteries twice a year, when you change the time on your clocks. Replace smoke alarm alkaline batteries at least once a year. Test alarms every month to ensure they work properly.

BE PREPARED FOR FOG AND ICY CONDITIONS: Fog can be more prevalent during the autumn months and icy sidewalks and road conditions will affect travel plans. Be sure to watch for weather updates and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Bridge decks freeze first.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, but it is too short for most folks. Being prepared for the cooler months of the year can prevent some of the accidents that we read and hear about.

As always, thank you for your continued support of the MTA Safety Program!

Take care,
Dan Berg, M.S.
Lead Safet
y Consultant

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