Blanca Telephone Company Asks SCOTUS to Reconsider Cert. Petition in USF Program Challenge

Blanca Telephone Company filed a petition for rehearing before the Supreme Court on Wednesday in a case against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its rejection of the petitioner’s application for funds from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) grant program. The Colorado telecom company urged the court to take up its case on the bases that the FCC’s action violates the constitutional spending power clause and that the federal government has taken inconsistent positions in two separate cases, violating its equal protection rights.

In June 2016, the FCC determined that Blanca’s telecom service was “ineligible for USF reimbursement in a novel asset forfeiture proceeding which improperly used the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA) to assess damages in favor of the USAC, a non-governmental entity.” Accordingly, Blanca is on the hook for the public telecom service it used up to 11 years prior to the issuance of the asset forfeiture order.

In its bid for rehearing, Blanca asserts that the FCC’s decision was baseless as it “never cited any rule which prohibited Blanca’s use of USF funding.” The decision, the petitioner argues, transgresses the constitutional requirement that the FCC provide “unambiguous” notice to Blanca regarding USF fund use. 

The petitioner also asks the court to hold off reconsidering its dispute, No. 21-472, until a Supreme Court abortion law case, United States v. Texas, No. 21-588, is resolved.  In that case, Blanca’s filing says, “[t]he United States argues that the Constitution prohibits the State of Texas from using its sovereign law making power to avoid judicial review of a state law which impinges upon the constitutionally protected abortion right by authorizing private citizens, rather than government officials, to impinge upon the protected right.”

That argument is irreconcilable with the government’s position in Blanca’s own case, the petition says. Blanca explains, “the Government cannot fairly or rationally maintain that private party enforcement of governmental rules which hide from judicial review private party violations of guaranteed rights is proscribed in No. 21-588, but is simultaneously properly prescribed in No. 21-472.”

Blanca is represented by Hill and Welch of Silver Spring, Maryland.