Implementation of Telecommunications Provisions of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, 15031-15032 [2022-05496]

Download as PDF 15031 Rules and Regulations Federal Register Vol. 87, No. 52 Thursday, March 17, 2022 This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains regulatory documents having general applicability and legal effect, most of which are keyed to and codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, which is published under 50 titles pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 1510. The Code of Federal Regulations is sold by the Superintendent of Documents. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Rural Utilities Service [Docket Number RUS–20–TELECOM–0044] 7 CFR Parts 1735 and 1737 RIN 0572–AC48 Implementation of Telecommunications Provisions of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 Rural Utilities Service, USDA. Final rule; confirmation. AGENCY: ACTION: The Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), hereinafter referred to as ‘‘RUS’’ or ‘‘the Agency,’’ published in the Federal Register on September 10, 2021, a final rule with request for comments. This document presents the opportunity for the Agency to provide its responses to the public comments received on the final rule and to confirm the final rule as published. DATES: March 17, 2022. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurel Leverrier, Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, email: laurel.leverrier@usda.gov, telephone (202) 720–9556. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The RUS published a final rule with request for comments in the Federal Register on September 10, 2021 at 86 FR 50604. The final rule modified existing regulations to implement statutory provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill). The comment period on the final rule closed November 9, 2021. Comments were received from five respondents. The comments provided and Agency responses are as follows: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES SUMMARY: Respondent One Respondent one is an individual that offered general comments on the VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:41 Mar 16, 2022 Jkt 256001 importance of connectivity and how it can benefit rural areas and farmers. Agency Response: Thank you for your comment. Respondent Two Respondent two is a small company located in Kansas that started up specifically to offer broadband service with a grant through a COVID–19 response program. The company had to take on additional debt in order to expand their service and have provided general comments on their experience with providing service to a small area and the challenges they continue to face. They ‘‘would like to see refinancing limits to 100 percent loans and 50 percent for non-RUS loans.’’ They express the need for easier access to capital for network upgrades. Agency Response: Thank you for your comment. Respondent Three Respondent three is an organization that represents its member telecommunications companies and advocates on their behalf. They provided a general discussion on the changes made to the regulation and offered the following: ‘‘The proposed rules for implementing the changes to the Rural Telephone Loan Program represent a good faith and commendable effort to carry out the will of Congress expressed in the 2018 Farm Bill, and USDA has the benefit of decades of experience (and countless success stories) at RUS in supporting rural telecom and coordinating with other federal programs. As RUS begins administering the revamped program, however, it will be important to recommit to such efforts, including identifying where providers are receiving USF or other program support to deploy to at least the RUS broadband standard, and limiting future USDA awards in those areas to the recipients of support or funding from these other programs instead of duplicating the existing network and putting scarce federal resources at risk.’’ As part of their concern for identifying where existing providers are located, they recommended adding to § 1735.12 on nonduplication ‘‘that such loan will not results in duplication of lines, facilities, or systems that are obligated to be built in the area in question to provide reasonably adequate services under other programs PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 administered by the Agency or any other federal Agency.’’ Agency Response: The Agency supports the respondent’s comment and the Agency meets with other federal agencies that support the deployment of broadband facilities on a regular basis. We appreciate your suggestion and will keep it under consideration for a future change to the regulation. As the Agency works with our other federal partners, we will develop an overall strategy that ensures the most efficient use of all federal dollars allocated to providing broadband service. Respondent Four Respondent four is an existing Native American RUS borrower that has been in operation over 60 years. They have outstanding loans in the telecommunications and broadband programs. They ‘‘strongly support the included federal rule amendments and urge their expeditious implementation by the RUS.’’ In support of and relating to these changes, the company offered a detailed summary of their existing operations and their hard work in providing modern, state-of-the-art telecommunications services to its customers. Their broadband penetration ‘‘sits at approximately 58 percent and while the company understands the importance of making its broadband services more affordable, it has been unable to reduce its pricing given financial, cost recovery needs. As a small company providing broadband and voice services over a large, remote, and thinly populated area, the company faces significant cost recovery challenges.’’ In recognition of their cost recovery and price affordability concerns, they have been in discussions with the Agency on extensions, revised loan terms or full refinancing options. As to implementation of the final rule and issuance of the referenced funding opportunity announcement, ‘‘the borrower urges RUS to move swiftly in its process, issuing the required public notice at the earliest opportunity. Furthermore, the company requests that the RUS in making funds available for refinancing establish a process for receiving and reviewing applications that fairly takes into account the interest of the company and other service providers.’’ In its summary, the borrower ‘‘urges the RUS to sufficiently clarify within the released Notice of Funding E:\FR\FM\17MRR1.SGM 17MRR1 15032 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 52 / Thursday, March 17, 2022 / Rules and Regulations Opportunity the differences in the informational requirements, review processes and the estimated timelines that will apply with respect to the RUS review of refinance applications vs. original loan applications. Also, given the informational requirements and steps necessary for full review and final action by the RUS should not be as extensive for refinance applications, the borrower encourages the RUS to implement a timeline for its acceptance and review of refinance applications that is different than, and much shorter, that the timelines will be established for the submittal, review and action on applications for new infrastructure loans.’’ Agency response: The Agency is in the final phase of the funding announcement to open the Infrastructure Program to the new refinancing opportunities. The funding announcement will include the requirements that need to be satisfied to receive the refinancing. Applications will be processed as soon as they are submitted. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with RULES Respondent Five 16:41 Mar 16, 2022 Christopher A. McLean, Acting Administrator, Rural Utilities Service. [FR Doc. 2022–05496 Filed 3–16–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–15–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration 14 CFR Part 21 [Docket No. FAA–2020–1088] Airworthiness Criteria: Special Class Airworthiness Criteria for the TELEGRID Technologies, Inc. TELEGRID DE2020 Unmanned Aircraft Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT. ACTION: Issuance of final airworthiness criteria. AGENCY: The FAA announces the special class airworthiness criteria for the TELEGRID Technologies, Inc. Model TELEGRID DE2020 unmanned aircraft (UA). This document sets forth the airworthiness criteria the FAA finds to be appropriate and applicable for the UA design. DATES: These airworthiness criteria are effective April 18, 2022. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christopher J. Richards, Emerging Aircraft Strategic Policy Section, AIR– 618, Strategic Policy Management Branch, Policy and Innovation Division, Aircraft Certification Service, Federal Aviation Administration, 6020 28th Avenue South, Room 103, Minneapolis, MN 55450, telephone (612) 253–4559. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: Respondent five is a national trade association that represents small, rural telecommunications providers across rural America. Many of the rural location exchange carriers they represent have a long-standing relationship with the Agency going back more than 75 years. The respondent ‘‘supports RUS’ efforts that streamline the Loan Program and eliminate unnecessary requirements so that the Program operates more efficiently. In addition, the respondent supports some of the more substantive changes made to the Loan Program rules. Specifically, creating a minimum retail broadband service speed standard of 25/3 Mbps will help ensure rural areas are not left behind more populated areas when it comes to broadband service. In addition, broader loan restructuring and refinancing authority will allow RUS borrowers to take advantage of better interest rates. Finally, the creation of a public notice requirement for loan applications will help ensure funds are not used to duplicate existing networks; however, RUS should strengthen this provision by directly contacting incumbent service providers to let them know of a submitted application.’’ Agency response: The Agency believes that the public notice requirements, set out by statute, sufficiently put incumbent service providers on notice that an application has been submitted under any program at USDA for retail broadband assistance. VerDate Sep<11>2014 The Agency did not receive any significant adverse comments during the public comment period on the final rule, and therefore confirms the rule without change. Jkt 256001 Background TELEGRID Technologies, Inc. (TELEGRID) applied to the FAA on February 24, 2020, for a special class type certificate under Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) 21.17(b) for the Model TELEGRID DE2020 unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The Model TELEGRID DE2020 consists of a rotorcraft UA and its associated elements (AE) including communication links and components that control the UA. The Model TELEGRID DE2020 UA has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 24 pounds. It is approximately 39 inches in width, 39 inches in length, and 17 inches in height. The Model TELEGRID DE2020 PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 UA uses battery-powered electric motors for vertical takeoff, landing, and forward flight. The UAS operations would rely on high levels of automation and may include multiple UA operated by a single pilot, up to a ratio of 20 UA to 1 pilot. TELEGRID anticipates operators will use the Model TELEGRID DE2020 for delivering packages. The proposed concept of operations (CONOPS) for the Model TELEGRID DE2020 identifies a maximum operating altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL), a maximum cruise speed of 22 knots (25 mph), operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the pilot, and operations over human beings. TELEGRID has not requested type certification for flight into known icing for the Model TELEGRID DE2020. The FAA issued a notice of proposed airworthiness criteria for the TELEGRID DE2020 UAS, which published in the Federal Register on November 20, 2020 (85 FR 74289). Summary of Changes From the Proposed Airworthiness Criteria Based on the comments received, these final airworthiness criteria reflect the following changes, as explained in more detail under Discussion of Comments: A new section containing definitions; revisions to the CONOPS requirement; changing the term ‘‘critical part’’ to ‘‘flight essential part’’ in D&R.135; changing the basis of the durability and reliability testing from population density to limitations prescribed for the operating environment identified in the applicant’s CONOPS per D&R.001; and, for the demonstration of certain required capabilities and functions as required by D&R.310. Additionally, the FAA re-evaluated its approach to type certification of lowrisk UA using durability and reliability testing. Safe UAS operations depend and rely on both the UA and the AE. As explained in FAA Memorandum AIR600–21–AIR–600–PM01, dated July 13, 2021, the FAA has revised the airworthiness criteria to define a boundary between the UA type certification and subsequent operational evaluations and approval processes for the UAS (i.e., waivers, exemptions, and/ or operating certificates). To reflect that these airworthiness criteria rely on durability and reliability (D&R) testing for certification, the FAA changed the prefix of each section from ‘‘UAS’’ to ‘‘D&R.’’ Lastly, the FAA revised D&R.001(g) to clarify that the operational parameters listed in that paragraph are examples and not an all-inclusive list. E:\FR\FM\17MRR1.SGM 17MRR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 52 (Thursday, March 17, 2022)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 15031-15032]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2022-05496]



========================================================================
Rules and Regulations
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains regulatory documents 
having general applicability and legal effect, most of which are keyed 
to and codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, which is published 
under 50 titles pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 1510.

The Code of Federal Regulations is sold by the Superintendent of Documents. 

========================================================================


Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 52 / Thursday, March 17, 2022 / Rules 
and Regulations

[[Page 15031]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Rural Utilities Service

[Docket Number RUS-20-TELECOM-0044]

7 CFR Parts 1735 and 1737

RIN 0572-AC48


Implementation of Telecommunications Provisions of the 
Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018

AGENCY: Rural Utilities Service, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule; confirmation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development agency of the 
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), hereinafter referred to 
as ``RUS'' or ``the Agency,'' published in the Federal Register on 
September 10, 2021, a final rule with request for comments. This 
document presents the opportunity for the Agency to provide its 
responses to the public comments received on the final rule and to 
confirm the final rule as published.

DATES: March 17, 2022.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurel Leverrier, Assistant 
Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, 
U.S. Department of Agriculture, email: [email protected], 
telephone (202) 720-9556.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The RUS published a final rule with request 
for comments in the Federal Register on September 10, 2021 at 86 FR 
50604. The final rule modified existing regulations to implement 
statutory provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 
Farm Bill).
    The comment period on the final rule closed November 9, 2021. 
Comments were received from five respondents. The comments provided and 
Agency responses are as follows:

Respondent One

    Respondent one is an individual that offered general comments on 
the importance of connectivity and how it can benefit rural areas and 
farmers.
    Agency Response: Thank you for your comment.

Respondent Two

    Respondent two is a small company located in Kansas that started up 
specifically to offer broadband service with a grant through a COVID-19 
response program. The company had to take on additional debt in order 
to expand their service and have provided general comments on their 
experience with providing service to a small area and the challenges 
they continue to face. They ``would like to see refinancing limits to 
100 percent loans and 50 percent for non-RUS loans.'' They express the 
need for easier access to capital for network upgrades.
    Agency Response: Thank you for your comment.

Respondent Three

    Respondent three is an organization that represents its member 
telecommunications companies and advocates on their behalf. They 
provided a general discussion on the changes made to the regulation and 
offered the following: ``The proposed rules for implementing the 
changes to the Rural Telephone Loan Program represent a good faith and 
commendable effort to carry out the will of Congress expressed in the 
2018 Farm Bill, and USDA has the benefit of decades of experience (and 
countless success stories) at RUS in supporting rural telecom and 
coordinating with other federal programs. As RUS begins administering 
the revamped program, however, it will be important to recommit to such 
efforts, including identifying where providers are receiving USF or 
other program support to deploy to at least the RUS broadband standard, 
and limiting future USDA awards in those areas to the recipients of 
support or funding from these other programs instead of duplicating the 
existing network and putting scarce federal resources at risk.''
    As part of their concern for identifying where existing providers 
are located, they recommended adding to Sec.  1735.12 on nonduplication 
``that such loan will not results in duplication of lines, facilities, 
or systems that are obligated to be built in the area in question to 
provide reasonably adequate services under other programs administered 
by the Agency or any other federal Agency.''
    Agency Response: The Agency supports the respondent's comment and 
the Agency meets with other federal agencies that support the 
deployment of broadband facilities on a regular basis. We appreciate 
your suggestion and will keep it under consideration for a future 
change to the regulation. As the Agency works with our other federal 
partners, we will develop an overall strategy that ensures the most 
efficient use of all federal dollars allocated to providing broadband 
service.

Respondent Four

    Respondent four is an existing Native American RUS borrower that 
has been in operation over 60 years. They have outstanding loans in the 
telecommunications and broadband programs. They ``strongly support the 
included federal rule amendments and urge their expeditious 
implementation by the RUS.'' In support of and relating to these 
changes, the company offered a detailed summary of their existing 
operations and their hard work in providing modern, state-of-the-art 
telecommunications services to its customers. Their broadband 
penetration ``sits at approximately 58 percent and while the company 
understands the importance of making its broadband services more 
affordable, it has been unable to reduce its pricing given financial, 
cost recovery needs. As a small company providing broadband and voice 
services over a large, remote, and thinly populated area, the company 
faces significant cost recovery challenges.'' In recognition of their 
cost recovery and price affordability concerns, they have been in 
discussions with the Agency on extensions, revised loan terms or full 
refinancing options.
    As to implementation of the final rule and issuance of the 
referenced funding opportunity announcement, ``the borrower urges RUS 
to move swiftly in its process, issuing the required public notice at 
the earliest opportunity. Furthermore, the company requests that the 
RUS in making funds available for refinancing establish a process for 
receiving and reviewing applications that fairly takes into account the 
interest of the company and other service providers.''
    In its summary, the borrower ``urges the RUS to sufficiently 
clarify within the released Notice of Funding

[[Page 15032]]

Opportunity the differences in the informational requirements, review 
processes and the estimated timelines that will apply with respect to 
the RUS review of refinance applications vs. original loan 
applications. Also, given the informational requirements and steps 
necessary for full review and final action by the RUS should not be as 
extensive for refinance applications, the borrower encourages the RUS 
to implement a timeline for its acceptance and review of refinance 
applications that is different than, and much shorter, that the 
timelines will be established for the submittal, review and action on 
applications for new infrastructure loans.''
    Agency response: The Agency is in the final phase of the funding 
announcement to open the Infrastructure Program to the new refinancing 
opportunities. The funding announcement will include the requirements 
that need to be satisfied to receive the refinancing. Applications will 
be processed as soon as they are submitted.

Respondent Five

    Respondent five is a national trade association that represents 
small, rural telecommunications providers across rural America. Many of 
the rural location exchange carriers they represent have a long-
standing relationship with the Agency going back more than 75 years. 
The respondent ``supports RUS' efforts that streamline the Loan Program 
and eliminate unnecessary requirements so that the Program operates 
more efficiently. In addition, the respondent supports some of the more 
substantive changes made to the Loan Program rules. Specifically, 
creating a minimum retail broadband service speed standard of 25/3 Mbps 
will help ensure rural areas are not left behind more populated areas 
when it comes to broadband service. In addition, broader loan 
restructuring and refinancing authority will allow RUS borrowers to 
take advantage of better interest rates. Finally, the creation of a 
public notice requirement for loan applications will help ensure funds 
are not used to duplicate existing networks; however, RUS should 
strengthen this provision by directly contacting incumbent service 
providers to let them know of a submitted application.''
    Agency response: The Agency believes that the public notice 
requirements, set out by statute, sufficiently put incumbent service 
providers on notice that an application has been submitted under any 
program at USDA for retail broadband assistance.
    The Agency did not receive any significant adverse comments during 
the public comment period on the final rule, and therefore confirms the 
rule without change.

Christopher A. McLean,
Acting Administrator, Rural Utilities Service.
[FR Doc. 2022-05496 Filed 3-16-22; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-15-P