Monday, February 25, 2019
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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the items below are tentatively on the agenda for the March Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Friday, March 15, 2019:
- Spectrum Horizons – The Commission will consider a First Report and Order that would adopt rules to make available 21.2 GHz of spectrum above 95 GHz for unlicensed operations and create a new class of experimental licenses for the 95 GHz to 3 THz spectrum range. (ET Docket No. 18-21; RM-11795)
- Expanding Broadband to the 900 MHz Band – The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would propose to reconfigure the 900 MHz band to create a broadband segment to facilitate technologies and services for a wide variety of businesses, including critical infrastructure, as well as seek comment on various transition mechanisms to achieve this goal. (WT Docket No. 17-200)
- Wireless E911 Location Accuracy Requirements – The Commission will consider a Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes a vertical, or z-axis, location accuracy metric in connection with wireless E911 calls. (PS Docket No. 07-114)
- LPTV, TV Translator, and FM Broadcast Station Reimbursement – The Commission will consider a Report and Order that implements Congress’s directive in the Reimbursement Expansion Act that the Commission reimburse certain low power television, television translator, and FM broadcast stations for costs incurred as a result of the Commission’s broadcast television spectrum incentive auction. (MB Docket No. 19-214, GN Docket No. 12-268)
- Reauthorizing Television Satellite Stations – The Commission will consider a Report and Order that streamlines the reauthorization process for television satellite stations when they are assigned or transferred. (MB Docket Nos. 18-63, 17-105)
- Partitioning, Disaggregation, and Leasing of Spectrum – The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would explore how potential changes to our partitioning, disaggregation, and leasing rules might better close the digital divide and increase spectrum access by small and rural carriers, fulfilling the Commission’s requirement under the MOBILE NOW Act. (WT Docket No. 19-38)
- Rural Call Completion – The Commission will consider a Fourth Report and Order to implement the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act of 2017 by establishing service quality standards for intermediate providers. (WC Docket No. 13-39)
House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) and Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Latta (R-OH) agreed with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai that the FCC's latest Sec. 706 broadband deployment report shows "significant progress" in closing the digital divide. "This report shows that the FCC’s efforts to reduce regulatory burdens are helping more Americans gain access to broadband and bringing us closer to finally closing the digital divide,” Ranking Member Walden said. “But despite these breakthroughs, there is still more work to be done — and that’s why Republicans want to find a bipartisan solution for net neutrality. We need open internet certainty without the excessive and unrelated burdens of Title II.”
“Closing the ‘digital divide’ is one of my top priorities as Republican Leader on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and this report shows that efforts to reduce regulatory burdens and support investment are helping more Americans gain access to high-speed broadband,” said Ranking Member Latta. “Representing a number of rural areas in Congress, I know the difference that this will make in family homes and for businesses on Main Street in these communities. At the same time, there’s still more work to be done at the FCC and in Congress to make access to high-speed internet a reality for all Americans.”
House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Latta (R-OH), and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Ranking Member Cath McMorris Rogers (R-WA) wrote to Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) to engage on three network neutrality bills the Republican Reps have offered up, describing them as a "menu of options to get started" on a "bipartisan solution."
The three bills were introduced following a Feb 7 net neutrality oversight hearing. None would classify internet access as a Title II common carrier telecommunications service, which many Democratic Reps still say is necessary. "We ask that you reject the special interest groups who insist on Title II or nothing. Their approach will not lead to bipartisan legislation that the President would sign into law," the letter reads. "Join us in keeping the internet vibrant and free from over-regulation while making sure consumers are protected from possible anti-competitive behaviors."
NCTA-The Internet & Television Association has proposed a three-step method for improving the broadband availability data the Federal Communications Commission uses to direct Universal Service Fund subsidy money:
- Polygon shapefiles, instead of proposed address-based reporting, could be achieved as early as 2020.
- FCC to use crowdsourcing to backstop the reported data
- Focus on pinpointing unserved areas, which the shapefiles will help do.
Who would Americans trust to best understand the broadband-related interests of the residents of a city: its mayor, or the head of the Federal Communications Commission? About twice as many Americans have a positive view of their local government than they do the federal government. Americans would be right in trusting mayors more than federal officials. Mayors, after all, are answerable to local citizens far more than a far-off federal official, and they have obtained the consent of the governed in a way the federal official has not. Further, different cities should be allowed to answer the question differently as that is the best, market-based way to determine the trade-offs of different approaches. In addressing policies affecting the internet, we have to find a way to honor the wisdom of distributed decision making and while protecting interstate commerce. The FCC failed. Let’s hope other government officials get the balance right.
The US needs a positive alternative to the Chinese 5G model, and it needs to put it forward right now, before or during Barcelona. If we don’t, this year’s Mobile World Congress risks turning into a victory lap for Huawei and Beijing. The solution is not, as some have put it, to “become like China to beat China.” China is playing to its own strengths—state-directed investment and financing, lack of checks and balances internally, and a unified decision-making structure—to support its goal of wireless domination.
To counter this, we should play to our own strengths in turn: A culture of innovation, the power of price discovery, and deep and liquid financial markets. Our incumbent carriers are moving too slowly on 5G, content to deceptively rebrand their existing 4G networks as suddenly “5G” rather than deploy the networks of the future. Decisive action building a public-private partnership in the near term demands that we make shared spectrum available for a carrier-neutral, wholesale-only, nationwide 5G network to be built in the next two to three years across the entire country. This could be a kind of wireless moonshot (but with private capital) that will spur microelectronics manufacturing here at home, accelerate the deployment of next-generation networks, and show the world that Chinese wireless dominance is not inevitable.
By making the network wholesale and adhering to a principle of open access (rather than limited access for some companies) both existing industry players and new, entrepreneurial startups could get in the game. This would ensure the new spectrum would not become the plaything of one industry giant to the detriment of all others. Open access should also mean that available network capacity cannot be hoarded. This will increase utilization, expand the economically viable edge of the network, and allow price competition rather than oligopoly economics to set the cost of network access. This will increase return on new investment and accelerate investment in American 5G. The project should be nationwide, with broad geographic coverage—in contrast to current operators’ plans for targeted, urban-specific 5G rollouts, which leave rural America in a 3G or 4G world.
[Newt Gingrich was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999]
Verizon is asking the Federal Communications Commission to let it keep new smartphones locked to its network for 60 days, as part of an initiative to prevent identity theft and fraud. After the 60-day period, the phones would unlock automatically. Verizon says it should have the authority to do this under the so-called “C-block rules” put in place following the FCC’s 2008 wireless spectrum auction. AT&T already requires your phone be activated for 60 days for you to unlock it, and the company even requires you to wait two weeks to unlock your old phone if you’re upgrading to a new one. T-Mobile requires you wait 40 days, and also limits users to two unlocks per year per line. Sprint has a 50-day limit, and only unlocks devices from the onset if the phones are prepaid.
The surprisingly complex journey a text message takes every time we hit 'send.'
Engineers would say that, when the phone senses voltage fluctuations over the ‘send’ button, it sends the encoded message to the SIM card (that tiny card your cell provider puts in your phone so it knows what your phone number is), and in the process it wraps it in all sorts of useful contextual data. By the time it reaches my wife’s SIM, it goes from a 140-byte message (just the text) to a 176-byte message (text + context).
My wife’s message is massaged into the 279-byte SS7 channel, and sent along to the local base transceiver station (BTS) near the bakery. From there, it gets routed to the base station controller (BSC), which is the brain of not just our antenna, but several other local antennas besides. The BSC flings the text to AT&T Pittsburgh’s mobile switching center (MSC), which relies on the text message’s SCA (remember the service center address embedded within every SMS? That’s where this comes in) to get it to the appropriate short message service center (SMSC). The SMS has to go from the SMSC to a global switchboard and then potentially bounce around the world before finding its way to my phone.
[Scott B. Weingart is an historian of science, a data scientist, and a librarian at Carnegie Mellon University.]
Millions of smartphone users confess their most intimate secrets to apps, including when they want to work on their belly fat or the price of the house they checked out last weekend. Unbeknown to most people, in many cases that data is being shared with someone else: Facebook. The social-media giant collects intensely personal information from many popular smartphone apps just seconds after users enter it, even if the user has no connection to Facebook. The apps often send the data without any prominent or specific disclosure. Previously unreported is how at least 11 popular apps, totaling tens of millions of downloads, have also been sharing sensitive data entered by users. Facebook software collects data from many apps even if no Facebook account is used to log in and if the end user isn’t a Facebook member. Apple and Alphabet’s Google, which operate the two dominant app stores, don’t require apps to disclose all the partners with whom data is shared
Consumer advocates are furious that the Senate Commerce Committee's initial witness list for its upcoming hearing on data privacy consists entirely of industry-backed groups. The panel, led by Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS), announced a slate of witnesses headlined by representatives from prominent tech trade groups. A Senate staffer familiar with the committee described the Feb. 27 session as a starting point on privacy discussions that will lay the groundwork for future hearings. But privacy advocates said the snub reflected a lack of regard for consumers.
“Senator Wicker’s initial witness lineup makes a mockery of protecting the privacy of consumers,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called it “unconscionable for the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on consumer privacy and to not invite a single consumer privacy advocate to testify.” And India McKinney, legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the “witnesses will not portray an accurate assessment of the current status of privacy protections.”
In 2018 the panel, then led by John Thune (R-SD), faced similar blowback from advocacy groups after convening a hearing that featured only industry representatives from companies like AT&T, Apple, Amazon and Google. After the uproar, the panel later held a second session featuring voices more critical of tech’s privacy practices, including the European Union’s top privacy official and one of the architects of California’s privacy push.
It's great to be with the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE). I’d like to briefly walk through the latest developments on three key issues where our interests overlap: the transition to ATSC 3.0, the next-generation broadcast television standard; the post-incentive auction repack; and interference involving FM translators.
The goal of antitrust is to preserve competition and free flowing markets, but some industries have no competition to preserve, and instead need regulation to help competition flourish. Antitrust enforcement can punish companies that are out of line, but often not in time to save competition, and strong regulation is the best and fastest way to revive competition. We need new tech sector-specific guardrails to open the door to new competition, ensure diversity of ownership and viewpoints in our public discourse and prevent dominant companies from abusing their power — both economic and political. Achieving more competitive economic markets that expand the marketplace of ideas and protect our democracy requires both antitrust law and regulation working hand in hand.
[Gene Kimmelamn is President and CEO of Public Knowledge]
In my new book, “From Gutenberg to Google,” I examine the two great network revolutions of the past—the printing press in the 15th century, as well as the combination of the railroad and telegraph in the 19th century—to put in historical perspective the confusion and uncertainty brought about by the internet today. Though current technology may be causing massive societal changes faster than ever before, the book discusses how these past upheavals shed light on how to deal with the issues of the information age.
Economic protectionism is the default response to new technology. Through it all, however, the threat to one is an opportunity for another. The lesson of history is that the “good old days” that seem so stable in retrospect were in reality as destabilized by new technology as our own time.
[Tom Wheeler is the former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission]
President Donald Trump’s war on the press hasn’t stopped. This week, he praised a $250 million libel lawsuit against the Washington Post, got some support from a Supreme Court Justice to review the nation’s libel laws, and issued his sharpest words yet against the New York Times, calling the newspaper “a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Political journalists often ask the question: Is Trump winning his war on the media? Winning or losing, the point is that the war is ongoing. As we stated a year ago, the question should be: Are the American people the losers in this fight? And after this week, we have to ask: Is this what winning looks like?
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) is slated to participate in a fundraiser hosted by the telecommunications industry on Feb. 26 — the evening before the panel holds the hearing on privacy issues that are a point of contention between telecom and internet companies. The political action committees for AT&T and US Telecom are listed as hosts. Entry starts at $1,500 for individual guests, $2,500 to attend as a sponsor and $5,000 to co-host.
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