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FCC Launches Broad Rulemaking to Protect and Promote the Open Internet

May 15, 2014 Comments off

FCC Launches Broad Rulemaking to Protect and Promote the Open Internet
Source: Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission today launched a rulemaking seeking public comment on how best to protect and promote an open Internet. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today poses a broad range of questions to elicit the broadest range of input from everyone impacted by the Internet, from consumers and small businesses to providers and start-ups. The Internet is America’s most important platform for economic growth, innovation, competition, free expression, and broadband investment and deployment. The Internet has become an essential tool for Americans and for the growth of American businesses. That’s because the Internet has been open to new content, new products and new services, enabling consumers to choose whatever legal content, services and applications they desire.

The FCC has previously concluded that broadband providers have the incentive and ability to act in ways that threaten Internet openness. But today, there are no rules that stop broadband providers from trying to limit Internet openness. That is why the Notice adopted by the FCC todays starts with a fundamental question: “What is the right public policy to ensure that the Internet remains open?”

See also: Fact Sheet
See also: Blog post

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New From the GAO

March 28, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Spectrum Management: FCC’s Use and Enforcement of Buildout Requirements. GAO-14-236, February 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-236
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661154.pdf

2. DHS Asset Forfeiture: Additional Actions Could Help Strengthen Controls over Equitable Sharing. GAO-14-318, March 28.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-318
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662079.pdf

Net Effects: The Past, Present & Future Impact of Our Networks – History, Challenges and Opportunities

December 3, 2013 Comments off

Net Effects: The Past, Present & Future Impact of Our Networks – History, Challenges and Opportunities
Source: Federal Communications Commission

Almost a month into my new job, the fact that I’ve always been a “network guy” and an intrepid history buff should come as no surprise. Reading history has reinforced the central importance networks play and revealed the common themes in successive periods of network-driven change. Now, at the FCC, I find myself joining my colleagues in a position of both responsibility and authority over how the public is affected by and interfaces with the networks that connect us.

Prior to my appointment by President Obama, I was doing research for a book about the history of networks. The new job stopped that project. However, I believe strongly that our future is informed by our past. While awaiting Senate confirmation, I tried to distill the project on which I had been working to connect what I had learned in my research to the challenges in my new job.

The result is a short, free eBook, “Net Effects: The Past, Present & Future Impact of Our Networks – History, Challenges and Opportunities”. It’s a look at the history of three network revolutions – the printing press, the railroad, and the telegraph and telephony – and how the fourth network revolution – digital communications – will be informed by those experiences.

CRS — The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape

November 26, 2013 Comments off

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency with its five members appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act) and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to ensure that the American people have available—at reasonable cost and without discrimination—rapid, efficient, nation- and world-wide communication services, whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.

Although the FCC has restructured over the past few years to better reflect the industry, it is still required to adhere to the statutory requirements of its governing legislation, the Communications Act of 1934. The 1934 Act requires the FCC to regulate the various industry sectors differently. Some policymakers have been critical of the FCC and the manner in which it regulates various sectors of the telecommunications industry—telephone, cable television, radio and television broadcasting, and some aspects of the Internet. These policymakers, including some in Congress, have long called for varying degrees and types of reform to the FCC. Most proposals fall into two categories: (1) procedural changes made within the FCC or through congressional action that would affect the agency’s operations or (2) substantive policy changes requiring congressional action that would affect how the agency regulates different services and industry sectors. Nine bills have been introduced during the 112th Congress that would change the operation of the FCC.

For FY2014, the FCC has requested a budget of $359,299,000. The FCC’s budget is derived from regulatory fees collected by the agency rather than through a direct appropriation. The fees, often referred to as “Section (9) fees,” are collected from license holders and certain other entities (e.g., cable television systems) and deposited into an FCC account. The law gives the FCC authority to review the regulatory fees and to adjust the fees to reflect changes in its appropriation from year to year. It may also add, delete, or reclassify services under certain circumstances.

CRS — The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape

August 13, 2013 Comments off

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency with its five members appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act) and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to ensure that the American people have available—at reasonable cost and without discrimination—rapid, efficient, nation- and world-wide communication services, whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.

Although the FCC has restructured over the past few years to better reflect the industry, it is still required to adhere to the statutory requirements of its governing legislation, the Communications Act of 1934. The 1934 Act requires the FCC to regulate the various industry sectors differently. Some policymakers have been critical of the FCC and the manner in which it regulates various sectors of the telecommunications industry—telephone, cable television, radio and television broadcasting, and some aspects of the Internet. These policymakers, including some in Congress, have long called for varying degrees and types of reform to the FCC. Most proposals fall into two categories: (1) procedural changes made within the FCC or through congressional action that would affect the agency’s operations or (2) substantive policy changes requiring congressional action that would affect how the agency regulates different services and industry sectors. Nine bills have been introduced during the 112th Congress that would change the operation of the FCC.

For FY2014, the FCC has requested a budget of $359,299,000. The FCC’s budget is derived from regulatory fees collected by the agency rather than through a direct appropriation. The fees, often referred to as “Section (9) fees,” are collected from license holders and certain other entities (e.g., cable television systems) and deposited into an FCC account. The law gives the FCC authority to review the regulatory fees and to adjust the fees to reflect changes in its appropriation from year to year. It may also add, delete, or reclassify services under certain circumstances.

In the 113th Congress, three hearings have been held on FCC oversight, reform, and management and four bills have been introduced that would affect the manner in which the FCC conducts its business.

FCC Launches Modernization of E-Rate Program to Deliver Students & Teachers Access to High-Capacity Broadband Nationwide

July 22, 2013 Comments off

FCC Launches Modernization of E-Rate Program to Deliver Students & Teachers Access to High-Capacity Broadband Nationwide
Source: Federal Communications Commission

Today, the Federal Communications Commission initiated a thorough review and modernization of the E-rate program built around three goals: increased broadband capacity, cost- effective purchasing, and streamlined program administration.

E-rate was established in 1997 and represents the federal government’s largest education technology program. When Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, only 14 percent of classrooms had Internet; today it’s near 100%. To date, the E-rate program has successfully connected virtually all U.S. schools and libraries (97% of U.S. classrooms) to the Internet.

Over the past 15 years, support provided by the E-rate program has helped revolutionize schools’ and libraries’ access to modern communications networks, but the needs of schools and libraries are changing. In schools, high speed broadband access means an increasingly interactive and individualized learning environment and expands school boundaries through distance learning applications. In libraries, high- speed broadband access provides patrons the ability to apply for jobs; interact with federal, state, local, and Tribal government agencies; engage in life-long learning; and stay in touch with friends and family. The Commission’s initiative today marks the first comprehensive update of the E-rate program since 1997. According to a 2010 survey of E-rate applicants, half had slower connection speeds than the average American home and 39% cited cost of service as the greatest barrier to better meeting their needs And according to a recent American Library Association survey, one quarter of libraries still have broadband speeds of 1.5 Mbps or less, and only 9 percent of libraries have speeds of 100 Mbps or greater. In light of these findings, there is growing consensus that E-rate needs to be updated and revitalized with a renewed focus on ensuring that all schools and libraries have affordable access to high-capacity broadband.

To meet the needs of today’s students, teachers, and library patrons the Commission sets forth three proposed goals to modernize the E-rate program and seeks comment on options to advance these goals: Increased Broadband Capacity: To ensure schools and libraries have affordable access to 21st century broadband, the Commission seeks comment on a range of proposals to focus funds on supporting high-capacity broadband, including: simplifying rules on fiber deployment to lower barriers to new construction; prioritizing funding for new fiber deployments that will drive higher speeds and long-term efficiency; phasing out support for services like paging and directory assistance; ensuring that schools and libraries can access funding for modern high-speed Wi-Fi networks in classrooms and library buildings; and allocating funding on a simplified, per-student basis.

Hat tip: PW

FCC Releases Third “Measuring Broadband America” Report

February 15, 2013 Comments off

FCC Releases Third "Measuring Broadband America" Report

Source: Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission today released the results of its ongoing, nationwide performance study of residential broadband service in its third “Measuring Broadband America” report. The report continues the Commission’s efforts towards bringing greater clarity and competition to the home broadband services marketplace. This year’s report reveals that most broadband providers continue to improve service performance by delivering actual speeds that meet – or exceed – advertised speeds during the past year and that consumers are subscribing to faster speed tiers and receiving faster speeds than ever before.

The FCC released the first Measuring Broadband America Report in August 2011. That report covered data collected in March 2011 and found that most broadband providers who participated in the study were providing over 80 percent of advertised speeds during peak usage periods. The FCC’s second report, released July 2012, included data collected from participating broadband providers in April 2012, and found that ISPs on average delivered 96 percent of advertised download speed during peak usage period. Specifically, this year’s report indicates three key areas of improvement.

First, most broadband providers continue to closely meet or exceed the speeds they advertise. In the time period measured for the August 2011 report, the average broadband provider delivered 87 percent of advertised download speed during times when bandwidth demand was at its peak. During the time period measured for the July 2012 report, that number rose to 96 percent. In this year’s report, ISPs maintained their performance levels, delivering 97 percent of advertised speeds during peak periods. One provider significantly improved actual performance speeds by 13 percent from the previous report. FCC analysis indicates that the improvements of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in meeting their advertised speeds were largely driven by improvements in network performance, and not downward adjustments to the speed tiers offered.

Second, consumers of broadband providers covered by the report are continuing to migrate to faster speed tiers and receiving faster speeds than ever before. The FCC found that the average speed tier subscribed to by consumers increased from 14.3 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 15.6 Mbps. Nearly half of consumers who subscribed to speeds of less than 1 Mbps six months ago have adopted higher speeds, and nearly a quarter of the users who subscribed to speeds between 1 Mbps and 3 Mbps have upgraded to faster speed tiers.

Third, significant improvements have been made to satellite broadband technology service quality. For the first time, the report includes results on satellite technology based on test results from ViaSat, a major satellite services provider. Although satellite technology has the highest overall latency, test results indicate that during peak periods, 90 percent of satellite consumers received 140 percent or better of the advertised speed of 12 Mbps. In addition, there was very little difference between peak and non-peak performance.

Consumer Alert: Using or Importing Jammers is Illegal

March 9, 2012 Comments off

Consumer Alert: Using or Importing Jammers is Illegal
Source: Federal Communications Commission

In recent days, there have been various press reports about commuters using cell phone jammers to create a “quiet zone” on buses or trains. We caution consumers that it is against the law to use a cell or GPS jammer or any other type of device that blocks, jams or interferes with authorized communications, as well as to import, advertise, sell, or ship such a device. The FCC Enforcement Bureau has a zero tolerance policy in this area and will take aggressive action against violators.

+ Jammer Enforcement

Federal Communications Commission: Digital Textbook Playbook

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Federal Communications Commission: Digital Textbook Playbook (PDF)
Source: Federal Communications Commission

The Digital Textbook Playbook is a guide to help K-12 educators and administrators advance the conversation toward building a rich digital learning experience. This Playbook offers information about determining broadband infrastructure for schools and classrooms, leveraging home and community broadband to extend the digital learning environment, and understanding necessary device considerations. It also provides lessons learned from school districts that engaged in successful transitions to digital learning.

This Playbook is the output of the Digital Textbook Collaborative, a joint effort of industry stakeholders, school nonprofit leaders to encourage collaboration across the ecosystem, accelerate the development of digital textbooks and improve the quality and penetration of digital learning in K-12 public education. The collaborative was convened by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Education and builds upon the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and the Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan.

FCC — Genachowski Remarks on Reforming and Modernizing the Lifeline Program

January 15, 2012 Comments off

Genachowski Remarks on Reforming and Modernizing the Lifeline Program
Source: Federal Communications Commission

Consistent with a number of Congressional directives to ensure modern communications are available to all Americans, the FCC administers a number of programs to help connect underserved populations – rural Americans, the hearing-impaired, children, and low-income Americans.

These are vital programs, grounded in a longstanding national commitment to the idea that essential infrastructure and platforms—electricity, highways, telephone service, and now broadband—should be available to all Americans, and that we all benefit from universal service.

We’ve put all of the programs we administer under the microscope – asking the tough questions, and reforming our programs to make sure they are efficient and fiscally responsible.

A program can be efficient and fiscally responsible and still be ineffective. That’s why we’ve also asked if programs need to be modernized to meet today’s needs. We found that we had inherited a series of programs that needed to be updated for the Internet age, and most also needed careful scrubbing to ensure they were carrying out their missions effectively and efficiently.

And so we’ve worked to reform and modernize our programs – rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse, and ensuring that our programs are serving the right policy goals in today’s broadband world.

+ Fact Sheet on the Lifeline Program (PDF)

FCC — Bureau Dismissal Without Prejudice of AT&T’s Applications for Transfer of Control of T-Mobile USA, Inc.

December 2, 2011 Comments off

Bureau Dismissal Without Prejudice of AT&T’s Applications for Transfer of Control of T-Mobile USA, Inc.
Source: Federal Communications Commission
From press release:

Given the overwhelming mass of competitive concerns raised in the Department of Justice suit against the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T, and the possibly even greater public interest harms identified in the FCC’s Staff Report, I welcome withdrawal of this application.

The competition concerns are well known and profound. A merged AT&T and T-Mobile would vest approximately 75 percent of the mobile market in two sets of hands. That type of consolidation—in a market already overly consolidated—deserves the close, hard look that our FCC staff has given it. The Staff Report finds, in great and compelling detail, that the transaction raises “significant competitive concerns” in the mobile market, and “substantial and material” questions about its competitive effects on roaming, wholesale, and resale services, backhaul, and handsets. The Staff Report further finds that the parties’ claim that this deal would lead to lower prices is flawed and over-estimates the benefits that would be passed on to consumers.

This agency’s charge under the Communications Act is to look at not just the competitive effects but also the broader public interest implications of an acquisition. Despite repeated claims that this transaction will be a significant job creator, the staff, after thorough review, could make no such finding. Here is something else worth highlighting: T-Mobile has built a business model targeting budget-conscious consumers. With lower-income consumers increasingly thinking of mobile as their only broadband service, and with no guarantee the new entity will continue to serve this population, many consumers may find themselves priced right out of broadband. That is not a direction the country can afford to go.

While I welcome withdrawal of this application, I would like to think we will no longer be expending significant FCC resources to examine this paradigm-shifting and complex transaction. I would hope the withdrawal is not a strategic gambit along the road to resubmission of this or a similar application in the months ahead. That would not strike me as a good route to travel. The significant resources the Commission has spent over these last seven months analyzing this proposed acquisition—and so many other consolidations that have come our way during my ten years here—would have been much better spent furthering the goals of competition, consumer protection and the public interest.

FEMA & FCC Unveil New Tip Sheet for Consumers on How to Communicate During Disasters

September 24, 2011 Comments off

FEMA & FCC Unveil New Tip Sheet for Consumers on How to Communicate During Disasters
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency and Federal Communications Commission

As part of National Preparedness Month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today released new tips for consumers aimed at preparing them for major disasters when communications networks are more likely to be compromised or damaged. Nearly one month ago, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake and Hurricane Irene struck the East Coast. In the minutes and hours that followed, mobile networks experienced significant network congestion, temporarily making it harder for millions of people to reach loved ones and emergency services. This tip sheet aims to help prepare Americans about how to communicate with each other, and loved ones, in the event of another disaster.

“Between the East Coast earthquake, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and wildfires in Texas and California, we have had a lot of powerful reminders lately that disasters can strike anytime, anywhere – and can often make it difficult for the public to communicate with friends, loved ones or emergency personnel,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “An important part of preparing for disasters includes getting ready for potential communications challenges, whether caused by power outages or heavy cell network congestion. These simple tips are easy for anyone to follow and could make a world of difference when it matters the most.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “When disaster strikes, the ability to communicate is essential. However, power outages and other issues can interfere with the way people ordinarily communicate, making it harder to reach loved ones or emergency services. The FCC is committed to ensuring the public’s safety through the reliability of our nation’s communications networks. But there are also simple steps that consumers can take to prepare for a disaster as well as practical ways to better communicate during and after an event. I encourage all Americans to become familiar these tips and share them with friends and family.”

Quarterly Report of Informal Consumer Inquiries and Complaints for Fourth Quarter of Calendar Year 2010 Released

August 18, 2011 Comments off

Quarterly Report of Informal Consumer Inquiries and Complaints for Fourth Quarter of Calendar Year 2010 Released (PDF)
Source: Federal Communications Commission

2010 Fourth Quarter Inquiries. During the fourth quarter of 2010, the overall number of inquiries for the top four reported inquiry categories increased by more than 84% from the number received and processed by CGB during the previous quarter, from 17,782 during the third quarter of 2010, to 32,894. The number of Cable and Satellite Services inquiries decreased by nearly 26%, from 2,614 to 1,922. Inquiries regarding Billing and Rates Issues constituted more than 53% of the inquiries in this category during the fourth quarter. The number of Radio and Television Broadcasting inquiries increased by nearly 37%, from 3,490 to 4,783. The bulk of these inquiries (more than 40%), pertained to broadcast programming issues. Wireless Telecommunications inquiries notably increased by more than 450%, from 3,282 to 18,311, with a substantial number of fourth quarter inquiries, related to Bill Shock (15,263). Wireline Telecommunications inquiries decreased more by than 6%, from 8,396 to 7,878, with Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) matters constituting more than 60% of the fourth quarter inquiries in this category.

2010 Fourth Quarter Complaints. During the fourth quarter of 2010, the overall number of complaints in the top four reported categories increased by 1% from those received and processed during the third quarter of 2010, from 47,947 to 48,469. Cable & Satellite Services complaints increased by nearly 9%, from 1,581 to 1,724. The number of Radio and Television Broadcasting complaints increased by more than 19%, from 2,611 to 3,116. Wireless Telecommunications complaints increased by more than 16%, from 18,064 to 21,076, with TCPA issues comprising nearly 51% of the fourth quarter complaints in this category. Wireline Telecommunications complaints decreased by nearly 12%, from 25,691 to 22,553, with TCPAOther Issues, Do Not Call List and Unsolicited Faxes constituting the top categories of Wireline complaints which, when combined, constituted over 86% of the Wireline complaints in the reported subcategories during the fourth quarter.

Local Information Programming and the Structure of Television Markets

July 27, 2011 Comments off

Local Information Programming and the Structure of Television Markets (PDF)
Source: Federal Communications Commission

We analyze the relationship between the ownership structure of television markets and the amount of local news and public affairs programming provided in the market (at both the overall market and individual station levels). We find that commercial television stations that are cross-owned with major newspapers in the same market tend to air more local news programming, but that the station-level increase does not translate into more local news programming at the market level. Television-radio cross-ownership has a moderate (but statistically significant) positive impact on local information programming at the station level, and each additional in-market radio station controlled by the television station owner corresponds to additional local news minutes aired by the television station. However, local news programming at the market level is likely to be lower, as the scale economies enjoyed by the cross-owned stations are outweighed by the crowding out of local news programming on other stations. Multiple ownership (i.e., situations in which a single parent controls two or more stations in the same market) does not appear to impact the amount of local information programming at either the market or station level (though this result appears somewhat dependent upon model specification). But we do find that multiple ownership and broadband subscribership have a positive impact on the relative mix of local vs. national news programming.

15th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report

June 29, 2011 Comments off

15th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report
Source: Federal Communications Commission

In this Mobile Wireless Competition Report, we present our findings regarding the state of competition in the mobile services marketplace, pursuant to Congress’s instruction in section 332(c)(1)(C) of the Communications Act. Promoting competition is a fundamental goal of the Commission’s policymaking. Competition has played and must continue to play an essential role in mobile – leading to lower prices and higher quality for American consumers, and producing new waves of innovation and investment in wireless networks, devices, and services.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Speech — FCC Chairman — “The Cloud: Unleashing Global Opportunities”

March 31, 2011 Comments off

“The Cloud: Unleashing Global Opportunities” (PDF)
Source: Federal Communications Commission (Chairman Julius Genachowski)

The advent of cloud computing, with its ability to enable collaboration in ways no other technology has before, can multiply the benefits of a free and open Internet.

Consider that in the United States, the number of ads for full-time IT jobs focused on cloud computing grew more than 300 percent last year.

And the benefits of cloud computing and a widely available Internet extend as well to health care, education, and energy – improving quality of life, while also generating new markets and new businesses in each of those categories.

This can be true all over the world. Cloud computing is already a $68 billion global industry, and worldwide cloud adoption is expanding at roughly 17 percent per year, according to Gartner. European companies like Flexiant and Mvine in the U.K. and GreenQloud in Iceland are offering innovative cloud computing solutions.

The opportunities and benefits of cloud computing are not limited by geography. Nor are the challenges to unleashing its opportunities.

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