[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 77 (Thursday, April 21, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 22340-22342]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-9860]



47 CFR Part 1

[WT Docket No. 10-208; DA 11-702]

Further Inquiry Into Tribal Issues Relating to Establishment of a 
Mobility Fund

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: This document seeks comment on particular issues for 
consideration by the Federal Communication Commission in connection 
with the proposed creation of a new Mobility Fund to make available 
one-time support to significantly improve coverage of current-
generation or better mobile voice and Internet service for consumers in 
areas where such coverage is currently missing. Specifically, comment 
is sought on developing a more tailored approach that provides at least 
some Mobility Fund support for Tribal lands.

DATES: Comments are due on or before May 4, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by WT Docket No. 10-208, 
by any of the following methods:
     Federal Communications Commission's Web Site: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
     Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must 
file an original and four copies of each filing. Filings can be sent by 
hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by 
first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be 
addressed to the Commission's Secretary, Office of the Secretary, 
Federal Communications Commission.
     All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings 
for the Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 
445 12th St., SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. All hand 
deliveries must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any 
envelopes must be disposed of before entering the building.
     Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton 
Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
     U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority 
mail must be addressed to 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554.

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     People with Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request 
reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language 
interpreters, CART, etc.) by e-mail: [email protected] or telephone: 202-
418-0530 or TTY: 202-418-0432.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, 
Auctions and Spectrum Access Division: Scott Mackoul, Attorney Advisor, 
at (202) 418-7498.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's 
Further Inquiry into Tribal Issues Relating to Establishment of a 
Mobility Fund Public Notice (Tribal Issues for Mobility Fund Public 
Notice) adopted and released on April 18, 2011, in WT Docket No. 10-
208. The complete text of the Tribal Issues for Mobility Fund Public 
Notice is available for public inspection and copying from 8 a.m. to 
4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday or from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET on 
Fridays in the FCC Reference Information Center, 445 12th Street, SW., 
Room CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. The Tribal Issues for Mobility Fund 
Public Notice may be purchased from the Commission's duplicating 
contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc. (BCPI), 445 12th Street, SW., 
Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, telephone 202-488-5300, fax 202-
488-5563, or you may contact BCPI at its Web site: http://www.BCPIWEB.com. When ordering documents from BCPI, please provide the 
appropriate FCC document number, for example, DA 11-702. The Tribal 
Issues for Mobility Fund Public Notice is also available on the 
Internet at the Commission's Web site or by using the search function 
for WT Docket No. 10-208 on the ECFS Web page at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/.

Synopsis of Public Notice

    1. The Commission recently received comments on a Notice of 
Proposed Rulemaking, Universal Service Reform Mobility Fund, Notice of 
Proposed Rulemaking, 75 FR 67060, November 1, 2010 (Mobility Fund 
NPRM), to use reserves accumulated in the Universal Service Fund (USF) 
to create a Mobility Fund which would employ a market-based, reverse 
auction mechanism to award one-time support to providers to extend 
mobile voice coverage over current-generation 3G or 4G networks in 
areas where such networks are lacking.
    2. In proposing the Mobility Fund, the Commission acknowledged the 
relatively low level of telecommunications deployment on and the 
distinct challenges in bringing connectivity to Tribal lands. The 
Commission further noted that, in light of the United States' unique 
government-to-government trust relationship with American Indian Tribes 
and Alaska Native Villages, and to address the particular challenges in 
advancing deployment on Tribal lands, a more tailored approach that 
provides at least some Mobility Fund support for Tribal lands on a 
separate track may be beneficial. The Commission sought broad comment 
on whether to reserve funds for developing a Mobility Fund program to 
target USF support separately to Tribal lands that trail national 3G 
coverage rates. Commenters to the proceeding generally support the 
adoption of a mechanism or program within the Mobility Fund focused on 
Tribal areas and provided input on a number of elements important to 
establishing a separate fund. There are particular issues related to 
the establishment of such a mechanism, however, for which additional 
comment may benefit the Commission as it considers how to proceed.

1. Possible Mechanism To Reflect Tribal Priorities for Competitive 

    3. The Commission acknowledges and respects the sovereignty and 
self-determination of Tribal governments, and recognizes their rights 
to establish their own communications priorities and goals. Commenters 
have suggested that Tribal governments are best positioned to identify 
what the needs of their members and communities are and to target 
resources to best achieve those goals. At the same time, the Commission 
has proposed that scarce USF resources may best be awarded through a 
competitive, market-based mechanism to maximize their impact. In 
considering whether to establish a program within the Mobility Fund 
focused on Tribal areas, the Commission seeks comment on how it might 
tailor its competitive bidding and other procedures to best meet Tribal 
needs. Accordingly, the Commission seeks comment on ways to afford 
Tribal governments an opportunity to identify their own priorities 
within the context of a reverse auction mechanism for Mobility Fund 
    4. By way of background, the reverse auction as proposed in the 
Mobility Fund NPRM would determine winning bidders support based on the 
lowest per-unit bids to cover designated unserved census blocks, using 
the population or some other metric such as road miles in the unserved 
areas as units and taking into account a requirement that there be no 
more than one Mobility Fund recipient in any particular unserved area. 
The auction mechanism would compare all per-unit bids across all areas 
(that is, compare all bids against all other bids throughout the 
eligible areas of the county, rather than compare all bids for a single 
area against each other), and rank all the submitted bids from lowest 
per-unit amount to highest. The bidder making the lowest per-unit bid 
would first be assigned support in an amount equal to the amount needed 
to cover the units deemed unserved in the specific area at the per-unit 
amount that was bid. Support would continue to be assigned to the 
bidders with the next lowest per-unit bids in turn, as long as support 
had not already been assigned for that area, until the sum of funds 
requested by the winning bidders was such that no further winning bids 
could be funded by the money available in the Mobility Fund. Support 
amounts would be based on the per-unit bids of the winning bidders 
times the number of unserved units associated with a particular 
geographic area.
    5. The Commission seeks comment here on the possibility of 
providing to Tribal governments an additional specified number of 
``priority units'' to ensure that Mobility Fund support for Tribal 
areas best serves Tribal needs. The priority units could be based upon 
the total number of units, however defined, in unserved blocks located 
within their Tribal lands boundaries. Tribes would have the flexibility 
to allocate these units in whatever manner they choose. Under this 
mechanism, Tribes could elect to allocate all of their priority units 
to one census block that is particularly important to them (for 
instance, because of the presence of an anchor institution, large 
numbers of unserved residents, etc.), or to divide the total number of 
priority units among multiple census blocks according to their relative 
priority. By giving Tribes an opportunity to allocate additional units 
to particular unserved census blocks within the boundaries of their 
Tribal land, a bidder could increase the number of units covered by its 
bid to cover those Unserved census blocks and therefore reduce its per-
unit bid amount. This would increase the likelihood that the unserved 
census blocks assigned priority units would receive funding through the 
proposed competitive bidding process. If such bids were to be among 
those selected to receive support, support amounts would be based on 
the per-unit bid amount times the total of regular units and priority 
units for the area. The Commission invites comment on this proposal. In 
particular, the Commission invites comment on whether this

[[Page 22342]]

mechanism would help to ensure that Tribal priorities are met in 
providing USF support for the extension of mobile voice service. To the 
extent other options may be preferable, commenters are requested to 
discuss alternatives in detail and explain how these options would work 
in the context of the proposed competitive bidding mechanism. 
Commenters are also invited to provide information about what factors 
are most important in targeting limited support for mobile wireless 
service within Tribal lands.

2. Possible Requirement for Engagement With Tribal Governments Prior to 

    6. Several commenters suggest that parties participating in a 
Mobility Fund auction seeking support to serve Tribal lands be required 
to demonstrate that Tribal governments have been formally and 
effectively engaged in the planning process and that the service to be 
provided will advance the goals established by the Tribal government. 
The Commission seeks comment on those proposals. What issues should 
receive priority in a flow of information and exchange of ideas with 
Tribal governments? What subjects of discussion will increase the 
potential for sustainability and adoption of the contemplated service? 
Among other things, the Commission believes the topics of engagement 
with Tribal governments could include: (1) Needs assessment, deployment 
planning and inclusion of Tribal anchor institutions and communities; 
(2) feasibility and sustainability planning; (3) marketing supported 
services in a culturally sensitive manner; (4) rights-of-way processes, 
land use permitting, facilities siting and cultural preservation review 
processes; and, (5) compliance with Tribal business and licensing 
requirements. At what point in time should any such engagement 
requirement apply (e.g., at the short-form or long-form application 
stage)? Commenters are invited to address the appropriate scope and 
timing of a potential consultation requirement.

3. Possible Preference for Tribally-Owned and -Controlled Providers

    7. At least one comment to the Mobility Fund NPRM suggested a 
preference for Tribally-owned and -controlled providers. Specifically, 
the Commission seeks comment on a proposal that would provide a form of 
bidding credit to qualified Tribally-owned and -controlled providers. 
If a provider qualified for this bidding credit, its per-unit bid 
amount would be reduced by a designated percentage for purposes of 
comparing it to other bids made--although if the bid were to win, 
support would be calculated at the full, undiscounted bid amount. That 
is, the ``reduced'' bid would fall lower in the ranking of bids from 
lowest to highest, making it more likely that a Tribally-owned and -
controlled entity would be among the winning bidders eligible to 
receive funding, but the bidding credit would not reduce the amount of 
funding that the entity would receive if it were to be awarded support. 
The Commission seeks comment on this approach. The Commission also 
invites comment on whether a Tribal preference is appropriate in the 
context of awarding universal service funds. To the extent the 
Commission wishes to adopt such a bidding credit for Tribally-owned and 
-controlled providers, what percentage would be appropriate? Are there 
other methods the Commission should consider to provide a preference to 
Tribally-owned and -controlled providers? The Commission notes that the 
establishment of an absolute Tribal priority, as proposed in the mobile 
spectrum context and adopted in the context of the Tribal Priority for 
radio broadcast licensing, may not be appropriate here. This is because 
in the reverse auction mechanism proposed for the Mobility Fund, an 
award would not be made for each area, but instead support would be 
granted only for those areas where the per-unit bids are lowest.
    8. The Commission also seeks comment on whether it should employ 
both a priority unit mechanism and a bidding preference for Tribal 
entities at the same time. And, if not, which of these mechanisms may 
work more effectively in a Mobility Fund auction to target support 
consistent with Tribal needs?

4. Timing of a Tribal Mobility Fund Auction

    9. In the Mobility Fund NPRM, the Commission noted that addressing 
Mobility Fund support for Tribal lands on a separate track could be 
beneficial in providing adequate time to consult with Tribal 
governments and seek their input. While commenters generally supported 
creation of a separate Tribal Mobility Fund, they cautioned that 
addressing Tribal issues on a ``separate track'' should not put them on 
a ``slow track.'' The Commission agrees that Tribal issues are a 
priority and should be resolved expeditiously in order to speed the 
provision of services on Tribal lands. The Commission observes, 
however, that there are pending proposals regarding utilization of 
spectrum over Tribal lands that could benefit from the support that may 
be available through a Tribal Mobility Fund auction. In particular, the 
Improving Communications Services for Native Nations by Promoting 
Greater Utilization of Spectrum Over Tribal Lands, Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking, 76 FR 18476, April 4, 2011, proposes a variety of options 
for Tribal entities to access spectrum over Tribal lands. The 
Commission seeks comment on the extent to which these open issues 
should influence the timing of a possible Tribal Mobility Fund auction.

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), the Mobility 
Fund NPRM included an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) 
pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 603, exploring the potential impact on small 
entities of the Commission's proposal. The Commission invites parties 
to file comments on the IRFA in light of this additional notice.

Procedural Matters

    Ex Parte Presentations. This matter shall be treated as a ``permit-
but-disclose'' proceeding in accordance with the ex parte rules. 
Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda 
summarizing the presentations must contain summaries of the substance 
of the presentations and not merely a listing of the subjects 
discussed. More than a one- or two-sentence description of the views 
and arguments presented generally is required. Other requirements 
pertaining to oral and written presentations are set forth in section 
1.1206(b) of the Commission's rules.

Federal Communications Commission.
Margaret W. Wiener,
Chief, Auctions and Spectrum Access Division.
[FR Doc. 2011-9860 Filed 4-20-11; 8:45 am]