(1) Based on consumer complaints or upon its own motion, the Public Service Commission may open a docket to consider the implementation and operation of a funding redirection program that awards funding to broadband Internet service providers to support high-speed Internet infrastructure deployment projects in unserved or underserved exchanges within the State of Nebraska. The commission may, in its discretion, withhold funding from the Nebraska Telecommunications Universal Service Fund to any telecommunications company that has not served, to the commission's satisfaction, those areas with service that meets the criteria for successful investment of funding from the Nebraska Telecommunications Universal Service Fund.
(2) The commission shall adopt and promulgate rules and regulations that establish standards governing the withholding of funding from the Nebraska Telecommunications Universal Service Fund from any recipient, including the provision of notice and the right to a hearing prior to the issuance of an order withdrawing such funding. If the commission withdraws funding from the Nebraska Telecommunications Universal Service Fund from any telecommunications company, the commission may redirect the withdrawn funding through a reverse auction or rural-based plan to another eligible telecommunications company, except that any funding that is withdrawn shall be utilized in the exchange area for which the funding was originally granted. The commission shall have wide discretion in the design, implementation, and operation of a funding redirection program but may use as a guide the reverse auction program designed by the Federal Communications Commission in its Connect America Fund Phase II Auction process.
(3)(a) In redirecting funding that has been withheld from an eligible telecommunications company, the commission may consider rural-based plans. To qualify for commission consideration, a rural-based plan shall include an eligible telecommunications company.
(b) The commission shall consider rural-based plans based on the following scoring criteria:
(i) The history of the participating eligible telecommunications company in providing quality and affordable telecommunications and broadband services in rural areas;
(ii) The capability of the eligible telecommunications company to use the proposed technology to provide broadband services to every location in the exchange area on a reasonably comparable basis;
(iii) The support of local businesses, hospitals, schools, colleges, agricultural producers, and residents;
(iv) Other sources of funding;
(v) Partnerships and other cooperative arrangements with local public power providers;
(vi) Partnerships and other cooperative arrangements with local wireless Internet service providers; and
(vii) Cooperation by the incumbent local exchange carrier from which funding has been withheld.
(c) In entering an order redirecting funding, the commission shall establish a timeline for deployment that includes periodic milestones for ensuring timely deployment and shall require the eligible telecommunications company to file reports sufficient to assess compliance with deployment milestones.
(d) The commission shall adopt and promulgate rules and regulations to carry out this subsection.
(4) Funding support shall not be withheld from an eligible telecommunications company for infrastructure found by the commission to be capable of reliably providing broadband service at a minimum download speed of one hundred megabits per second and a minimum upload speed of twenty megabits per second that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video communications using any technology.
(5) For purposes of this section, rural-based plan means a proposal for redirecting funding as described in this section which is made by rural residential and business users of telecommunications and broadband services in high-cost areas of the exchange.