Wednesday, October 25, 2023
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News From the FCC
Here’s everything we have on deck for our November Open Meeting.
- We’re taking new measures to close the digital divide. In November 2021, Congress adopted and President Biden signed into law the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This law included the first broadband access anti-discrimination provisions of the digital age, requiring the FCC to adopt rules by November 15, 2023 to “prevent” and identify necessary steps to “eliminate” digital discrimination. The Commission will consider rules to meet its obligations under the law.
- We’re empowering survivors of domestic violence. The Commission will consider rules to help domestic violence survivors access safe and affordable connectivity and to fulfill the Commission’s obligations under the Safe Connections Act of 2022. These new rules will help survivors separate service lines from accounts that include their abusers, protect the privacy of calls made by survivors to domestic abuse hotlines, and support survivors who suffer from financial hardship.
- We’re exploring the implications of AI for robocalls and robotexts. Artificial intelligence technologies can generate automated voice calls and text messages, while also enabling tools to help filter out sophisticated spam and phishing schemes that cost Americans millions each year. We will vote to open an inquiry on how best to seize the opportunities of AI regarding robocalls and robotexts, while mitigating the harms.
- We’re protecting cell phone consumers from fraud. The Commission will vote on rules to crack down on scammers who take over victims’ cell phone accounts by covertly swapping SIM cards to a new device or porting phone numbers to a new carrier. If adopted, the FCC’s Privacy and Data Protection Task Force will take the lead in closing the loophole that leaves consumers open to this kind of fraud.
- We’re bolstering amateur radio. We will vote on a proposal to incentivize innovation and experimentation in the amateur radio bands by removing outdated restrictions and providing licensees with the flexibility to use modern digital emissions.
- We’re reducing regulatory requirements for a rural provider of access for long-distance services. In light of dramatic changes in the marketplace for long-distance voice services, the Commission will vote on relieving the Minnesota Independent Equal Access Corporation from dominant carrier regulation for its service for originating and completing long-distance calls.
- We will also consider three items from our Enforcement Bureau.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Rosenworcel is proposing final rules to prevent discrimination in access to broadband services based on income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, and national origin. The rules will be voted on by the full Commission at its November 15 Open Commission Meeting. If adopted, they would establish a balanced framework to facilitate equal access to broadband internet service by preventing digital discrimination. Under these rules, the FCC could protect consumers by:
- Directly addressing companies’ policies and practices if they differentially impact consumers’ access to broadband internet access service or are intended to do so;
- Apply these protections to ensure communities see equitable broadband deployment, network upgrades, and maintenance;
- Investigate possible instances of discrimination of broadband access, work to solve and – when necessary – penalize companies for failing to meet the obligations defined in the rules;
- Review consumer complaints of digital discrimination through an improved consumer complaint portal;
- Help protect both current and prospective subscribers to a broadband internet service.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced at the National Conference on Domestic Violence that she will be sharing with her colleagues an Order that would help domestic violence survivors access safe and affordable connectivity. The proposed rules would implement key provisions in the Safe Connections Act of 2022 to support survivors of domestic abuse and other related crimes seeking to maintain critical connections with friends, family, and support networks. If adopted at the FCC's November 15, 2023 open meeting, the Order would:
- Help survivors by requiring providers to separate phone lines linked to family plans where the abuser is on the account;
- Protect the privacy of survivors by requiring providers to block records of calls or text messages to hotlines and other support services for survivors of domestic violence, and;
- Provide support for survivors who suffer from financial hardship through the FCC’s Lifeline program.
The Parker Lecture matters because Everett Parker matters. He stood for justice and stood up to the FCC when it approved the license of a Jackson, Mississippi television station that was suppressing Black voices. He petitioned the agency to change course and he had something I think is common to all changemakers—tenacity. Because he took that case all the way to the Supreme Court. And he prevailed in a milestone decision that opened the door for an African American to lead WLBT and for more minority voices to be broadcast over the airwaves. In one of his last interviews, at age 99, he said, “I want them to remember that I was a guy who fought like the devil for the rights of minorities.” He can rest assured that we remember because none of us will ever forget Everett Parker. Looking at this list of past speakers (at this event), I also noticed that the first FCC Chair to deliver this address was Reed Hundt back in 1994. That was a long time ago. It was the very beginning of the internet era. Back then, maybe you called the internet the “information superhighway.” I know I did. I decided to take a look at the remarks of my predecessor. When I did, something quickly caught my eye. He thanked UCC Media Justice, which was then known as the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ. He said: “We can’t afford to deny anyone the opportunity to enjoy the communications revolution. In this regard, your organization has been particularly important.” He went on to say that you have “provided the Commission with valuable input . . . on critical issues ranging from cable television to equal employment opportunities and,” wait for it, “electronic redlining.”
A coalition of 41 states and Washington (DC) are filing lawsuits alleging that Meta Platforms has intentionally built its products with addictive features that harm young users of its Facebook and Instagram services. The lawsuits, in federal and state courts, say Meta misled the public about the dangers of its platforms for young people. The states also allege that Meta knowingly has marketed its products to users under the age of 13, who are barred from the platform by both Meta’s policies and federal law. The states are seeking to force Meta to change product features that they say pose dangers to young users. The lawsuits follow failed settlement talks with Meta, according to people familiar with the situation. They come after a joint, multiyear investigation led by Republican Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti of Tennessee and Democrat Philip Weiser of Colorado. Thirty-three of the states joined a suit filed in federal court in Northern California. Some of the attorneys general, including Skrmetti of Tennessee and Andrea Campbell of Massachusetts, have chosen to bring cases making essentially the same arguments under their home states’ consumer protection laws for what people familiar with the efforts called strategic reasons.
Mediacom is making progress in bridging the digital divide across rural Iowa, as it just wrapped up two fiber expansion projects in the towns of Rutland and Williams (IA). Residents can now sign up for broadband plans with up to 2-gigabit download speeds as well as low-cost phone plans. Including these two projects, Mediacom has built fiber in 12 communities in collaboration with the Empower Iowa Rural Broadband Grant Program. The public-private partnership has allowed the operator to bring fiber to over 1,600 rural Iowa locations. According to Mediacom, it and the state of Iowa have invested $4.4 million in expanding broadband to underserved Iowa communities. The Rutland and Williams projects were part of round seven of the Empower Iowa grant program.
Verizon released its third-quarter earnings and subscriber numbers for 2023. The company ended the quarter with approximately 10.3 million broadband subscribers, an increase of nearly 21 percent year over year. Total broadband net additions were 434,000, representing the fourth consecutive quarter that Verizon reported more than 400,000 broadband net additions. Total broadband net additions included 384,000 fixed wireless net additions, an increase of 42,000 fixed wireless net additions from third-quarter 2022. Verizon now has nearly 2.7 million subscribers on its fixed wireless service. Verizon also reported 72,000 Fios Internet net additions, an increase from 61,000 Fios Internet net additions in the third-quarter of 2022. For wireless, Verizon reported a total wireless service revenue of $19.3 billion, a 2.9 percent increase year over year. Postpaid phone net additions reached 100,000, and retail postpaid net additions of 581,000.
T-Mobile has achieved its year-end goal of covering 300 million people with Ultra Capacity 5G ahead of schedule. With additional network enhancements made, T-Mobile’s overall 5G footprint has expanded as well, now covering more than 330 million people or 98 percent of the population. Currently, more than 116 million people are relying on T-Mobile’s network nationwide. "We have been leaders in the 5G era from the start, deploying the largest, fastest, most awarded and most advanced 5G network in the country faster than anyone else," said Ulf Ewaldsson, President of Technology at T-Mobile. "While the other guys are playing catch-up, finally beginning to build out their mid-band 5G networks, we are maintaining our lead and will continue offering customers the best network – paired with the best value – for years to come."
Oct 25––Tribal Broadband Opportunities and Challenges (Fiber Broadband Association)
Oct 26––Oregon Connections: Navigating the Funding Flood. (Oregon Connections)
Oct 29––The CyberShare Summit (NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association)
Oct 30––Alerting Security Roundtable (FCC)
Oct 30––Tribal Business of Broadband (Institute for Local Self-Reliance)
Oct 31––The Future of Private Networks (New America)
Nov 1––Truth, Trust, and Democracy: Leadership in the Information Ecosystem (Shorenstein Center)
Nov 2-3––Michigan Broadband Summit (Merit Network)
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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