Today’s Regulatory Mix: Connecticut Requires Free Telecommunications Services for Incarcerated Persons, Pennsylvania PUC Lowers TRS Surcharge, Texas Governor Vetoes Universal Service Fund Bill, FCC Offers Guidance on Connected Care Pilot Program and Announces 36 Newly Approved Project
Connecticut Requires Free Telecommunications Services for Incarcerated Persons
Connecticut became the first state to require free telecommunications services for anyone confined to a correctional facility. SB 972, signed by Governor Ned Lamont (D.), requires the Department of Correction to provide telephone services for inmates in correctional facilities without charge as of October 1, 2022. The new law permits the commissioner to supplement phone services with other telecommunications services, such as video communication and e-mail, free of charge to the inmates and to the people who initiate or receive the communication.
Pennsylvania PUC Lowers TRS Surcharge
In spite of recommendations to maintain the Pennsylvania Telecommunications Relay Service surcharge (TRS surcharge) rate at $0.08 per line per month for the upcoming surcharge year, the Public Utilities Commission elected to reduce the charge to $0.04 for 2021-2022 effective August 1, 2021. The TRS surcharge recovers the costs of providing calling services and equipment to individuals that are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking to make and receive telephone calls.
Texas Governor Vetoes Universal Service Fund Bill
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R.) vetoed HB 2667, a bill that would have added VoIP providers to a shrinking Texas Universal Service Fund contribution base. In his veto statement, Governor Abbot noted that “Coming into the 87th Legislative Session, everyone knew the Legislature needed to consider significant reforms on broadband and the Texas Universal Service Fund. Transformational broadband reform was achieved through multiple bills that have been signed into law, which significantly expand broadband access in Texas, especially in rural areas. Yet the only meaningful change made to the Texas Universal Service Fund was, in House Bill 2667, to expand the number of people paying fees. It would have imposed a new fee on millions of Texans.”
FCC Offers Guidance on Connected Care Pilot Program and Announces 36 Newly Approved Projects
The Federal Communications Commission approved a Report and Order offering further guidance on the administration of its $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program, including guidance on eligible services, competitive bidding, invoicing, and data reporting for selected participants, which will enable applicants selected for the Pilot Program to begin their projects. Additionally, the FCC this week voted to approve 36 additional pilot projects for a total of over $31 million in funding. The newly selected Pilot projects join an initial set of 23 projects approved earlier this year, bringing the total to over $57 million in funding for 59 pilot projects serving patients in 30 states plus Washington, DC.
The Regulatory Mix will be on Summer Break 6/23/21 through 6/28/21 and will return on Tuesday, 6/29/21.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.