On February 25, 2020, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (the “Bureau”) released a Public Notice (“Notice”) seeking comment on the population distribution model and eligible census block list to be applied in the Alaska Plan (WC Docket No. 16-271). The Notice outlines GCI’s proposed methodology, and recognizes that Alaska Telecom Association (“ATA”) generally supports the use of this methodology, except in four geographic areas (Unalaska, Nome/Unalakleet, Prudhoe Bay, and Copper Area) where it believes local data sources should be used to approximate the location of populations rather than GCI’s predictors.

The Bureau tentatively concludes that GCI’s population distribution methodology as modified by ATA (the “Alaska Population-Distribution Model” or “Model”), is the “most appropriate methodology of those proposed in the record . . . because it includes useful indicators regarding the local road proximity and land use, while also taking into account local information where available.” The Bureau seeks comment on using the Alaska Population-Distribution Model to estimate the number of Alaskans who receive service in census blocks in remote areas in the Alaska Plan, and on procedures for updating the population distribution data, and whether any further modifications should be made to the Model. Specifically, the Bureau asks

  • what obligations should apply to participating providers to submit updated local data, including the type of information, deadlines, certifications, liability for failure to submit etc.;
  • whether a dispute/rebuttal process should be adopted; and
  • whether the Bureau should adopt requirements or release guidelines on the types of data sources that participants should use when updating population distribution.

The Bureau also asks whether the database of broadband-serviceable locations proposed under the Digital Opportunity Data Collection (“DODC”) should be used to estimate the distribution of population within remote Alaska census blocks for the purpose of determining whether mobile service providers have met their Alaska Plan performance commitments, in addition to, or in replacement of, the Alaska Population-Distribution Model.

Finally, the Bureau also proposes to use the Alaska Population-Distribution Model to identify those census blocks in remote areas of Alaska that are eligible for frozen support under the Alaska Plan. The Bureau proposes to use the list submitted by GCI to represent those census blocks.

Comments are due March 26, 2020.

Reply comments are due April 10, 2020.

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