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                                                      Calendar No. 305
115th Congress       }                                  {       Report
 2d Session          }                                  {      115-206                                                                


                   RURAL WIRELESS ACCESS ACT OF 2017


                              R E P O R T

                                 of the



                                S. 1621


                February 7, 2018.--Ordered to be printed

                         U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE 

79-010                         WASHINGTON : 2018                
                     one hundred fifteenth congress
                             second session

                   JOHN THUNE, South Dakota, Chairman
 ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi         BILL NELSON, Florida
 ROY BLUNT, Missouri                  MARIA CANTWELL, Washington
 TED CRUZ, Texas                      AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota
 DEB FISCHER, Nebraska                RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, Connecticut
 JERRY MORAN, Kansas                  BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii
 DAN SULLIVAN, Alaska                 EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
 DEAN HELLER, Nevada                  TOM UDALL, New Mexico
 JAMES M. INHOFE, Oklahoma            GARY C. PETERS, Michigan
 MIKE LEE, Utah                       TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
 RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin               TAMMY DUCKWORTH, Illinois
 CORY GARDNER, Colorado               CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO, Nevada
 TODD C. YOUNG, Indiana               JON TESTER, Montana
                       Nick Rossi, Staff Director
                 Adrian Arnakis, Deputy Staff Director
                    Jason Van Beek, General Counsel
                 Kim Lipsky, Democratic Staff Director
           Christopher Day, Democratic Deputy Staff Director

                                                      Calendar No. 305
115th Congress       }                                  {       Report
 2d Session          }                                  {      115-206


                   RURAL WIRELESS ACCESS ACT OF 2017


                February 7, 2018.--Ordered to be printed


Mr. Thune, from the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 1621]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to 
which was referred the bill (S. 1621) to require the Federal 
Communications Commission to establish a methodology for the 
collection by the Commission of information about commercial 
mobile service and commercial mobile data service, and for 
other purposes, having considered the same, reports favorably 
thereon without amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.

                          Purpose of the Bill

    S. 1621 would direct the Federal Communications Commission 
(FCC) to establish a methodology for the collection of mobile 
coverage data for the Universal Service program or any other 
similar program.

                          Background and Needs

    Ninety-five percent of Americans own a mobile phone,\1\ and 
in many instances, consumers are now using mobile services, 
including mobile broadband, as their sole means of 
communicating or connecting to the Internet. As ownership of 
mobile phones has increased, so has the expectation of 
consumers that mobile services will be available to them in 
nearly all locations in the United States. In part due to this 
expectation and the recognition of the value of mobile services 
to the country, the FCC is planning to spend billions of 
dollars over the next several years to promote deployment of 
advanced commercial mobile services.\2\
    \1\See Mobile Fact Sheet, Pew Research Center, at http://
    \2\In 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established 
the Mobility Fund Phase II and Tribal Mobility Fund Phase II to 
allocate up to $4.53 billion over the next decade to advance the 
deployment of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service to areas that are so 
costly that the private sector has not yet deployed there and to 
preserve such service where it might not otherwise exist. See Connect 
America Fund et al., WC Docket No. 10-90 et al., Report and Order and 
Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 26 FCC Rcd 17712, para. 2 (2011) 
(USF/ICC Transformation Order), aff'd sub nom., In re: FCC 11-161, 753 
F.3d 1015 (10th Cir. 2014), at
    Congress has found that the deployment and adoption of 
broadband technology have resulted in the following: enhanced 
economic development and public safety for communities across 
the Nation; improved health care and educational opportunities; 
and a better quality of life for all Americans.\3\ As a result, 
Congress has directed the FCC to annually assess whether 
advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all 
Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.\4\ Congress also 
has determined that improving Federal data on the deployment 
and adoption of broadband service would assist in the 
development of broadband technology across all regions of the 
    The FCC's primary means of obtaining data about broadband 
service deployment is its Form 477 data collection. Each 
facilities-based broadband provider is required to file FCC 
Form 477 biannually indicating where it offers Internet access 
service at speeds exceeding 200 kbps in at least one direction. 
The FCC established Form 477 in 2000 in an effort to collect 
uniform and reliable data regarding broadband services, local 
telephone service competition, and mobile telephony services on 
a single form and in a standardized manner.\6\ In 2008, 
Congress passed the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which 
requires the FCC to issue reports on the deployment of advanced 
telecommunications capabilities throughout the country 
annually,\7\ as well as to provide specific demographic 
information within that report,\8\ among other things.\9\
    In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, 
Congress directed the National Telecommunications and 
Information Administration through the State Broadband 
Initiative program to collect robust data about broadband 
deployment and create ``a comprehensive nationwide inventory 
map of existing broadband service capability and availability'' 
through a National Broadband Map.\10\ Also, in 2009, the 
National Broadband Plan recommended that the FCC revise Form 
477 data collection to better monitor broadband availability, 
adoption, and competition.\11\ In a 2013 Order, the FCC 
substantially revised and enhanced its collection of mobile 
voice and broadband coverage data\12\ by revising the scope and 
nature of the new Form 477 data on mobile services coverage in 
an attempt to improve, among other things, uniformity of data 
reporting.\13\ In 2014, the FCC proposed to use Form 477 mobile 
deployment data, rather than earlier sources, as it moved 
forward on determining how best to distribute mobile broadband 
universal service support for mobile broadband.\14\
    Nonetheless, many believe that the FCC has consistently 
failed to gather information necessary to properly assess 
mobile broadband network coverage or to take the steps 
necessary to allow it to do so in the future. In 2015, the FCC 
concluded ``that the mobile data available today are not 
sufficiently reliable to include when we determine whether 
advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all 
Americans in a reasonable and timely manner . . . .''\15\ 
Although it stated at that time that it was ``taking steps to 
resolve inadequacies in the mobile data,''\16\ as recently as 
August 2017, the FCC decided against using its Form 477 data 
``as the basis for determining deployment of qualifying 4G LTE 
for the map of areas presumptively eligible for MF-II 
support.''\17\ As a result of this deficiency of uniform and 
reliable data, the FCC's ability to direct Mobility Fund Phase 
II support to primarily rural areas that lack unsubsidized 4G 
LTE service will require costly and time-consuming 
    The measure seeks to remedy this lack of uniform and 
reliable data. Collection of more reliable data on mobile 
coverage (including coverage of commercial mobile data 
services) would provide both the FCC and Congress a better 
basis upon which to base decisions about how to spend public 
funds and promote the deployment of mobile services.
    \3\47 U.S.C. Sec. 1301(1).
    \5\47 U.S.C. Sec. 1301(3).
    \6\Local Competition and Broadband Reporting, CC Docket No. 99-301, 
Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd 7717, 7718, 7749-50, 7753-54, 7756-57, 
7772-90, paras. 1, 66, 75, 84, App. B. (2000). Form 477 also currently 
collects limited information from broadband providers about the 
availability of broadband service. FCC Form 477 Instructions at 9-10, 
    \7\47 U.S.C. Sec. 1302(b).
    \8\47 U.S.C. Sec. 1302(c) (requiring the FCC to ``compile a list of 
geographical areas not served by any provider of advanced 
telecommunications capability.'' Id. To the extent that Census Bureau 
data are available, the FCC must then ``determine, for each such 
unserved area--(1) the population; (2) the population density; and (3) 
the average per capita income.'' Id.
    \9\47 U.S.C. Sec. 1303(b).
    \10\Public Law No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115.
    \11\FCC, Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan, GN Docket 
No. 09-51, at 9, 29 (2010) (National Broadband Plan or Plan). The 
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 directed the FCC to 
develop a national broadband plan to ensure that all people of the 
United States have access to broadband. See American Recovery and 
Reinvestment Act of 2009, Sec. 6001(k), Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123  Stat. 
115, 516 (2009).
    \12\See Modernizing the FCC Form 477 Data Program, Report and 
Order, 28 FCC Rcd 9887 (2013) (477 Report & Order). Also see Form 477 
PN 2016.
    \13\See Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced 
Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and 
Timely Fashion, and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such Deployment 
Pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as 
Amended by the Broadband Data Improvement Act, 2016 Broadband Progress 
Report, 31 FCC Rcd 699, 708-09 para. 22 (2016) (``[D]ata from the Form 
477 . . . help us better analyze mobile broadband deployment than in 
years past.'').
    \14\Since that time, the FCC has relied on Form 477 data to analyze 
mobile deployment outside the universal service context. See, e.g., 
id.; Implementation of Section 6002(b) of the Omnibus Budget 
Reconciliation Act of 1993, Annual Report and Analysis of Competitive 
Market Conditions With Respect to Mobile Wireless, Including Commercial 
Mobile Services, Eighteenth Report, 30 FCC Rcd 14515 (WTB 2015) 
(Eighteenth Mobile Competition Report).
    \15\Broadband Progress Report and Notice of Inquiry on Immediate 
Action to Accelerate Deployment, 30 FCC Rcd 1375, (2015 Broadband 
Progress Report) at para. 75.
    \17\Connect America Fund, Order on Reconsideration and Second 
Report and Order, WC Docket No. 10-90, WT Docket No. 10-208, 32 FCC Rcd 
6282, 86, at para. 7 (2017) (Mobility Fund Phase II Data Order).
    \18\See generally, id.
    \19\See, e.g., Connect America Fund; Universal Service Reform - 
Mobility Fund II, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking, 32 FCC Rcd 2152 (2017). In particular, the challenge 
process established for Mobility Fund Phase II is expected to 
contribute significantly to the development of coverage data collection 
    \20\Modernizing the FCC Form 477 Data Program, WC Docket No. 11-10, 
Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 17-103 (Aug. 3, 2017).

                          Legislative History

    S. 1621 was introduced on July 24, 2017, by Senator Wicker 
(for himself, and for Senators Manchin, Sullivan, Barrasso, 
Fischer, Moran, Schatz, Klobuchar, Peters, and Wyden) and was 
referred to the Committee. Senator Heller is also a cosponsor. 
On August 2, 2017, the Committee met in open Executive Session 
and, by voice vote, ordered S. 1621 reported favorably without 
     A similar bill, H.R. 1546, was introduced in the House of 
Representative by Representative Loebsack on March 17, 2017, 
and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the 
House of Representatives.

                            Estimated Costs

    In accordance with paragraph 11(a) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate and section 403 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee provides the 
following cost estimate, prepared by the Congressional Budget 

S. 1621--Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017

    S. 1621 would require the Federal Communications Commission 
(FCC) to conduct a rulemaking to establish a methodology for 
collecting information about the availability of commercial 
mobile data services for Universal Service Fund programs.
    On the basis of costs reported for similar FCC rulemakings, 
CBO estimates that implementing S. 1621 would cost the agency 
$1 million over the 2018-2022 period. Because the FCC is 
authorized under current law to collect fees sufficient to 
offset the costs of its regulatory activities each year, CBO 
estimates that the net cost to the FCC to implement S. 1621 
would be negligible, assuming appropriation actions consistent 
with that authority.
    Enacting S. 1621 would not affect direct spending or 
revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. CBO 
estimates that enacting S. 1621 would not increase net direct 
spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 
10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    S. 1621 contains no intergovernmental mandates as defined 
in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and would impose no 
costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    If the FCC increases annual fee collections to offset the 
costs of the rulemaking and analysis required by the bill, S. 
1621 would increase the cost of an existing private-sector 
mandate on commercial entities required to pay those fees. On 
the basis of information from the FCC, CBO estimates that the 
incremental cost of the mandate would be small--no more than $1 
million over the 2018-2022 period--and would fall well below 
the annual threshold established in UMRA for private-sector 
mandates ($156 million in 2017, adjusted annually for 
    The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Stephen Rabent 
(for federal costs) and Logan Smith (for private-sector 
mandates). The estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, 
Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                      Regulatory Impact Statement

    In accordance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides the 
following evaluation of the regulatory impact of the 
legislation, as reported:

                       number of persons covered

    The bill would only apply to the FCC. The bill would have 
no effect on the number or types of individuals and business 
regulated in the United States.

                            economic impact

    By providing the FCC, Congress, other policy makers, and 
the public more accurate information regarding mobile service 
coverage data, the bill is expected to facilitate more 
efficient investment in mobile commercial service and to have a 
positive economic impact.


    The bill is not expected to have an adverse effect on the 
personal privacy of any individuals.


    The Committee does not anticipate an increase in the number 
of entities that would be required to maintain or file 
paperwork as a result of this bill. However, the Committee 
understands that it is possible that this measure could result 
in an increased paperwork burden on certain regulated entities 
(namely providers of commercial mobile service and commercial 
mobile data service) as a result of the data collection 
methodology that would be developed by the FCC pursuant to this 
bill. The Committee believes, though, that any increases in 
paperwork resulting from this bill may be offset, at least in 
part, by reductions in paperwork brought about by revising 
existing FCC data collection processes. Additionally, the 
Committee believes that any increased paperwork burden 
resulting from this bill is outweighed by the benefit to 
consumers, the FCC, Congress, and the economy from having 
better coverage data.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

    In compliance with paragraph 4(b) of rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides that no 
provisions contained in the bill, as reported, meet the 
definition of congressionally directed spending items under the 

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

Section 1. Short title.

    This section would provide that the Act may be cited as the 
``Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017.''

Section 2. Methodology for collection of mobile service coverage data.

    This section would define the terms used in the bill and 
would direct the FCC not later than 180 days after the date of 
enactment of the Act to promulgate regulations to establish a 
methodology that would apply to the collection of coverage data 
by the FCC for the purposes of the Universal Service program or 
any other similar program.
    This section further would require the methodology 
established by the FCC to do the following: contain standard 
definitions for different mobile service speed tiers, such as 
the 2G, 3G, 4G, and 4G LTE tiers; ensure that coverage data is 
collected in a consistent and robust way; improve the validity 
and reliability of coverage data; and increase the efficiency 
of coverage data collection. The Committee understands that 
because a number of factors affect the quality of service 
mobile users may experience even from a single tower (e.g., 
terrain, location, weather, foliage, time of year, type of 
device, congestion, etc.) definition of speed tiers may best be 
expressed in a range of speeds, and such ranges may overlap 
between speed tiers.
    The Committee is aware that the FCC already has two ongoing 
proceedings relevant to this legislation: (collectively known 
as the ``Coverage Data Proceedings'') one regarding Mobility 
Fund Phase II;\19\ and another on data collection on FCC Form 
44720 . The Committee believes that both of these proceedings 
may provide additional information regarding collection of 
standardized coverage data. The Committee intends that in the 
event the Coverage Data Proceedings are not completed prior to 
the deadline established by this section, the FCC should 
supplement the framework developed under this bill as 
appropriate through further regulatory proceedings to 
incorporate improvements, refinements, or differing approaches 
identified in the Coverage Data Proceedings. The Committee also 
believes that the FCC should try to avoid adopting specific 
requirements pursuant to this Act that are likely to be 
inconsistent with rules informed by the Coverage Data 
Proceedings, unless such requirements better effectuate this 

                        Changes in Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee states that the 
bill as reported would make no change to existing law.