Vol. 17, No. 1
January 4, 2021
Former Chairman Sherman Henderson Passes Away December 23
INCOMPAS is saddened to share that J. Sherman Henderson III, who served six terms as the chairman of the association, passed away on December 23, 2020.

“On behalf of the INCOMPAS Board of Directors, present and past, I wish to express our condolences to the Henderson family. A long-time and revered communications industry executive, Sherm played an important role in shaping the competitive marketplace – both at the company he led, and at the helm of INCOMPAS,” said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. “Sherm was a true entrepreneur, optimist and mentor to many. We are all grateful for his leadership and legacy for the competitive industry, and the difference he made in the lives of his family and friends. We appreciate Sherm’s dedication and tireless work on behalf of the association and its members. May he rest in peace.”
President Trump Signs Appropriations, COVID-19 Relief Bill
On December 27, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133), which provides appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021, and provides coronavirus emergency relief.

In part, the bill integrates provisions from the ACCESS BROADBAND Act and the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act. It also includes $374 million for the FCC’s FY 2021 budget, of which $33 million is reserved to improve the FCC’s broadband maps. Another $730 million is earmarked for the expansion of broadband service to provide economic development opportunities and improved education and healthcare services, including $635 million for the ReConnect program. Additionally, the bill provides $6.9 billion for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans.

For coronavirus emergency relief, the bill provides $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection program and $7 billion for broadband-related programs, including:
  • $1.9 billion for the FCC’s Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program
  • Two NTIA grant programs, $1 billion to support broadband connectivity on tribal lands and $300 million for broadband deployment in rural areas
  • $250 million to the FCC for its COVID-19 Telehealth program

“We want to thank Members of Congress from both political parties for stepping up to support extending broadband funding in the CARES Act, which has proven critical to families, students and small businesses who need to stay connected to the internet during the pandemic," said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. “Broadband funding in the stimulus package is an important band-aid that is helping keep Americans connected. But the pandemic makes clear that our networks require surgery. Millions of families lack coverage, while the majority of Americans are forced to live with older networks that are too slow, over-congested and expensive where there is a lack of competition," he added. “Other nations have taken massive steps forward to deploy faster speed networks with gigabit goals designed to win the race to 5G and beyond. The next Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration must make universal, high-speed, affordability a top priority in the first 100 days or our economy could get stuck in the slow lane for decades to come.”
INCOMPAS Discusses Members' Broadband Deployment Strategies, Accurate Mapping and Access to Poles and MTEs with FCC
Late last month, INCOMPAS filed letters with the FCC, discussing its members’ broadband deployment strategies and their need for access to poles, multi-tenant environments and accurate maps.

In two pole attachment ex parte letters (here and here), INCOMPAS and its member companies commended the FCC for its role in implementing “one touch make ready” and speeding deployment for competitors. However, barriers still persist, and additional action and clarity are necessary to speed deployment of new networks. INCOMPAS’ members encounter pole owners who demand that they pay for poles to be replaced in order to attach their infrastructure, and FCC clarification on the allocation of costs for such pole replacements to be fairly shared would speed deployment by avoiding disputes and promoting competitive broadband.

INCOMPAS also filed an ex parte regarding the implementation of the Broadband DATA Act calling on the FCC to follow explicit language from Congress that data and mapping information come from providers who have actually built out their networks in an area. The Commission’s Order on circulation will require companies leasing facilities of other providers to file duplicative information that will overstate competitive network availability. INCOMPAS emphasized that consumers and state and local policymakers seek accurate data about the availability of alternative networks, and the FCC’s efforts is contrary to the Broadband DATA Act requirements and will continue to misrepresent network infrastructure that’s available.

Finally, INCOMPAS praised several recent filings by its members encouraging the FCC to prohibit exclusivity agreements that make it difficult for competitive providers to offer cost effective and innovative broadband to consumers in multiple tenant environments. In their filings, Starry, which offers fixed wireless internet service, and Sonic, a gigabit fiber Internet provider, explain that incumbents have engaged in exclusive commercial agreements that create economic and contractual barriers to competitive entry. Like INCOMPAS, these providers are asking the Commission to issue a Report and Order that would level the playing field for competition by prohibiting service providers’ participation in these unreasonable and anticompetitive practices.