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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 16-31


Petition of NEP Cellcorp, Inc. to Relinquish its Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in the Commonwealth

[46 Pa.B. 113]
[Saturday, January 2, 2016]

Public Meeting held
December 17, 2015

Commissioners Present: Gladys M. Brown, Chairperson; John F. Coleman, Jr., Vice Chairperson; Pamela A. Witmer; Robert F. Powelson; Andrew G. Place

Petition of NEP Cellcorp, Inc. to Relinquish its Designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in the Commonwealth of PA; Doc. Nos. P-2015-2511520, P-2013-2356640


By the Commission:

 On October 30, 2015, NEP Cellcorp, Inc. (NEP) filed a Petition to relinquish its designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pursuant to 52 Pa. Code § 1.36, NEP attached the verification of its President. NEP's certificate of service indicates that it served its Petition on the statutory advocates and the current ETCs that provide service in NEP's service area. No responses were filed to NEP's Petition.


 NEP is a commercial mobile radio service licensee authorized to provide GSM service using broadband personal communication service spectrum and 70 MHz spectrum in northeastern Pennsylvania, including Lacka- wanna, Susquehanna and Wayne Counties. In 2008, NEP was designated as an ETC in the entire study areas served by the following rural telephone companies in Pennsylvania: Deposit Telephone Co., Inc. and Hancock Telephone Co. NY (Hancock). Although Hancock is based in New York, the telephone company serves territory in both New York and Pennsylvania. In 2010, the FCC amended NEP's ETC designation in Pennsylvania to include the entire study area of North Eastern Pennsylvania Telephone Company. Most recently, by Order entered October 2, 2014, this Commission amended NEP's ETC designation to include the entire study area of South Canaan Telephone Company, the Beach Lake wire center of Verizon North LLC, and the Hamlin, Honesdale, Hawley, Lake Ariel, Moscow and Newfoundland wire centers of Verizon Pennsylvania LLC. NEP amended its designation in order to compete in the FCC's (Federal Communications Commission) Mobility Fund Phase II auction for federal universal service fund (USF) support.

 NEP states that, on June 8, 2015, it announced that it had decided to exit the retail wireless business. As a result of that decision, NEP entered into an agreement with AT&T Mobility (AT&T) through which AT&T will purchase certain NEP spectrum assets, pending FCC approval. By this Petition, NEP seeks to relinquish its ETC status in all areas of Pennsylvania for which it is currently so designated. NEP attached a copy of its Press Release as Exhibit A to its Petition. In response to staff's questions, NEP also provided a copy of the Notice of Relinquishment of ETC Designation that was filed with the FCC on November 19, 2015, and documentation that it returned all of the Mobility Phase II funding that it received.

 Section 214(e)(4) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TA 96), as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 214(e)(4), authorized the Commission to rescind a carrier's ETC status upon request and provides in pertinent part:

A state commission . . . shall permit an eligible telecommunications carrier to relinquish its designation as such a carrier in any area served by more than one eligible telecommunications carrier. An eligible Telecommunications carrier that seeks to relinquish its eligible designation for an area served by more than one eligible telecommunications carrier shall give advance notice to the State commission . . . of such relinquishment. Prior to permitting a telecommunications carrier designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier to cease providing universal service in an area served by more than one eligible telecommunications carrier, the State commission . . . shall require the remaining eligible telecommunications or carriers to ensure that all customers served by the relinquishing carrier will continue to be served, and shall require sufficient notice to permit the purchase or construction of adequate facilities by any remaining eligible telecommunications carrier.

 In a Secretarial Letter issued September 3, 2013, the Commission reaffirmed the rules and requirements for relinquishment under TA96 and provided further guidance and directives to Pennsylvania ETCs seeking to relinquish ETC status. In addition to the relinquishment requirements listed in TA96 the Commission requires the following:

 (1) All Petitions to relinquish ETC status must be accompanied by an affidavit or verification of an authorized individual.

 (2) The Petition must be served upon the statutory advocates and all carriers referenced in the petition as alternative ETCs.

 (3) Notice must be provided to all affected Lifeline customers as follows:

 (a) Written notice 90 days prior to discontinuance of Lifeline service in the form of a stand-alone mailing separate from any billing or collections mailing.

 (b) Telephone notice 60 days prior to discontinuance of Lifeline service.

 (c) Written notice 30 days prior to discontinuance of Lifeline service in the form of a billing insert or stand-alone mailing.

 (4) The notices should inform the affected customers of the date certain that Lifeline service will end, list alternative Lifeline providers and offer assistance to those customers who wish to retain Lifeline service.

 (5) Petitioners are directed to ensure that the transition to another Lifeline provider is seamless for the Lifeline customer and ensure that the customer is not subject to additional connection fees or deposits. Also the Petitioner is to assist the Lifeline customer with any Lifeline certification requirements occasioned by the petition.


 In its Petition, NEP states that more than one ETC currently serves in its service area. NEP states that it satisfies the advance notice requirement by the filing of its Petition and serving it on the statutory advocates and remaining ETCs. NEP does not believe that any of the remaining ETCs will be required to purchase or construct facilities to provide service to NEP's Lifeline customer. NEP states that on or about June 8, when NEP announced it was exiting the retail wireless business, NEP had one Lifeline customer in Pennsylvania. At that time, NEP avers that it provided written notice to all of its customers, including its sole Lifeline customer, of its exit decision, identifying a date certain upon which service would end, informing them of their wireless service options and offering assistance with the transition to another wireless carrier. NEP states that the customer notice was sent as a stand-alone mailing by first class mail, and attached it to its Petition as Exhibit D.

 NEP states, on July 6, 2015, August 24, 2015 and September 11, 2015, it sent text messages to its remaining customers directing them to visit NEP's website for additional information, or to contact AT&T for information on AT&T's limited promotional offer (i.e. waived activation fee and bill credits). During this time period, NEP also included a bill message on its customers' bills which reminded them of the service end date and the need to make arrangements to find another provider.

 NEP reports that all non-Lifeline customers were successfully migrated to other carriers of their choice by October 16, 2015. Those customers were not subject to any fees from NEP for migration, and the customers electing to move to AT&T did not pay an activation fee to their new carrier. NEP states that its only Lifeline customer voluntarily elected to switch service to AT&T, and that customer's number was successfully ported on July 24, 2015. NEP advises that it followed up telephonically with its former Lifeline customer to discuss the transition, and the customer indicated that they were pleased with their migration and AT&T's promotional offer. No fees were charged by NEP or AT&T for the migration. NEP submits that it has satisfied the notice requirements and ensured that its Lifeline customer had at least one option for a seamless transition to another Lifeline carrier.

 As stated earlier, NEP no longer has any retail wireless customers. However, it continues to provide roaming services and will do so as long as it owns spectrum that is subject to the proposed transaction with AT&T. In addition, NEP states that it retains open numbers for 911 network testing purposes. As stated earlier, NEP provided documentation confirming that it has returned to USAC all of the Mobility Fund Phase II money that it received from the USF.


 Based upon the foregoing, NEP has satisfied all of the requirements necessary to relinquish its ETC designation. It gave advance notice to the Commission as well as the FCC. NEP satisfied the customer notice requirements and successfully migrated all of its customers, including its lone Lifeline customer, to alternative service providers. It appears that the migration and number porting was seamless and at no additional cost to the customers. Furthermore, the ETC designation that NEP seeks to relinquish in Pennsylvania is not transferrable to any other entity. As a result of NEP's actions, NEP has not had any retail wireless customers in Pennsylvania since October 16, 2015. In addition, there are no informal or formal complaints pending against the NEP before the Commission. Accordingly, we will grant NEP's Petition to relinquish its ETC designation in Pennsylvania as in the public interest; Therefore,

It Is Ordered That:

 1. The Petition filed at P-2015-2511520 by NEP Cellcorp, Inc. to relinquish its designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is hereby granted.

 2. The authorization of NEP Cellcorp, Inc. to provide Eligible Telecommunications Carrier services at P-2013-2356640 is hereby cancelled and its name be stricken from all active utility lists maintained by the Commission's Bureau of Technical Utility Services.

 3. A copy of this order be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 4. The Secretary shall serve a copy of this Order on the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the Office of Consumer Advocate and the Office of Small Business Advocate.

 5. A copy of this Order shall be appended at P-2013-2356640.

 6. Upon publication this docket shall be marked closed.


[Pa.B. Doc. No. 16-31. Filed for public inspection December 31, 2015, 9:00 a.m.]

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