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FCC April Agenda
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FCC April Agenda
The agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's April open meeting:
- Gear up for an auction of the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz spectrum bands: The public notice makes proposals and asks questions about the essential features of this auction.
- Facilitate next-generation wireless services in the 37 GHz band: This proposal would finalize arrangements for the upper 37 GHz band by establishing a process for the Department of Defense to operate there on a shared basis in limited circumstances. This proposal would also establish rules authorizing Fixed-Satellite Service operators, such as satellite broadband service operators, to license individual earth stations in the 50 GHz band.
- Over-the-air reception devices: current rules prohibit state and local restrictions that unreasonably impair the ability of users to deploy these devices, but they don't apply to antennas operating as hub or relay antennas used to transmit signals to or receive signals from multiple customer locations—in short, the kind of equipment that could be used for innovative new wireless services. We will propose to update these rules.
- Modernize or eliminate outdated rules. The rules on the block: A) the "rate floor" that requires certain rural carriers that receive Universal Service Fund support to impose minimum monthly rates for telephone service, B) requirements that cable companies to keep a hard copy of current listing of the cable television channels it offers, C) the rule that smaller, rural incumbent carriers offer long-distance telephone service through a separate affiliate -- the order under consideration would also relieve incumbent carriers from the obligation to submit unnecessary reports about their legacy "special access" services and from a duplicative statutory provision regarding access to telephone poles.
Having accurate broadband deployment data is important to the Federal Communications Commission’s work for a lot of reasons. First, our decision-making should be based on rigorous analysis. Second, good broadband deployment data helps the Commission target our policies and resources as effectively as possible. And third, broadband deployment data empowers consumers. Accurate information on Internet access options can be useful if you’re moving to a new area and trying to decide where you want to live, or if you’re dissatisfied with your current service and want to change providers. It’s with this context that I’m pleased that US Telecom, along with broadband industry partners ITTA and WISPA, are taking up the cause. The mapping pilot project they are announcing today is intended to help flesh out the record in our Form 477 reform proceeding. By testing new ideas on the ground, it is my hope that this pilot and similar initiatives will give the Commission and other stakeholders useful information to consider as we move ahead.
USTelecom is leading the charge on a new, more precise, approach to broadband reporting and mapping. We have proposed to Congress and regulatory agencies a method to create a public-private partnership to map America's broadband infrastructure so policymakers and providers can better target scarce funding to communities with limited or no service options. Currently, the Federal Communications Commission collects some deployment data from broadband providers by census block. What is lacking in that methodology, however, is location data on the homes and businesses that are not accurately reflected in the census block data collected today. We need a detailed map of all the locations where people live and work (using a single methodology) so providers can efficiently plan and deploy network facilities that can service these locations. The map will provide critical insights for federal agencies and states so their broadband deployment policies are effectively targeting unserved locations.
Our plan begins with a pilot program (funded by broadband providers) to test the concept in Missouri and Virginia, states with a mix of rural and urban communities where there is a range of fixed service providers using different technologies to provide connectivity. The pilot will include several steps:
- First, development of a database of all broadband serviceable locations in the country with input from broadband provider address databases and other public and private third-party sources, such as land records.
- Next, once the gathered inputs are harmonized and duplicates removed, our technology and database experts will geocode the locations, converting them into geographic coordinates on a map. This geocoded list of locations would be ready for broadband providers to overlay their service coverage areas, regardless of technology and the speeds offered in those locations.
[Jonathan Spalter is the president and CEO of USTelecom]
USTelecom, an industry group representing carriers like AT&T, CenturyLink, and others serving rural America, says it may have the fix for broadband mapping that will provide far more granularity in the data than ever before. The lobbying group will work with other telecom industry groups, including WISPA, which represents fixed wireless providers, and ITTA, which represents smaller rural carriers, to pilot a new mapping program in two states: Virginia and Missouri. They say the program will lead to the creation of a better, more accurate nationwide broadband deployment map. While USTelecom's plan sounds good on paper, there are skeptics who worry that solely depending on a plan crafted by the broadband industry will always be inherently flawed. After all, the model relies on those carriers to report where they're offering service, which has proven to be inaccurate in the past.
Kevin Taglang, executive editor at the Benton Foundation, said he thinks the level of granularity that USTelecom hopes to achieve would go a long way in making the maps more accurate. But he's surprised that the proposal has come from the telecom industry, which he says has traditionally resisted reporting such specific data. Still, if the pilot is successful and produces more accurate maps, Taglang said he's open to it. "I'm skeptical," he said. "But if it's a great idea, it's a great idea. It doesn't matter where it comes from, but until I see the details I can't really comment."
T-Mobile is launching a pilot home broadband service to a small group of its wireless subscribers. The invitation-only pilot will connect around 50,000 homes of subscribers to a fixed wireless access service on T-Mobile’s LTE network. The company said it’s targeting rural and underserved areas of the country and expects to be able to deliver 50 Mbps to residents. The service will cost $50 per month to subscribers who sign up for autopay, and will be free of data caps, annual service contracts, or equipment costs.
Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim and Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O'Rielly offered different perspectives on how the government should treat antitrust cases - especially in the media industry. Delrahim suggested that courts should "bifurcate trials," with one segment evaluating the transaction and another phase offering a remedy. He warned that, "Defendants, not the public, should bear the burden of proof of whether [a merger or acquisition] does likely harm to competition" and he urged that "courts should be careful in the future." Delrahim also acknowledged that, "Our market definitions change." "There is a lot of convergence of different forms in [the media] industry," he said. "We look at the facts of the market as well as the changes in technology."
"His standards stink," said FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly, describing Delrahim's approach. "That's the issue. We have to modernize how we examine the marketplace, across segments. Everyone is in the same market. The big tech companies are trying to steal everyone's lunch." "All types of providers are figuring out what they want to be in this business." That was a theme of the Commissioner's speech, in which he emphasized the need for better local awareness and oversight of new unregulated entrants competing entrenched cable operators. "Your companies have invested heavily to meet the immediate and long-term commercial and consumer demand for broadband speeds and capacity, despite a vastly changing marketplace and revenue streams," he said. Commissioner O'Rielly lamented that, "You have been under constant attack by those pointy-headed liberal advocacy groups hell-bent on driving profit margins to zero."
According to a series of letters from Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons to US senators, the agency is planning to launch a wide-ranging study of tech companies' data practices. He wrote that the FTC is planning to conduct a so-called 6(b) study, which the agency has previously applied to data brokers and businesses accused of abusing the federal patent system. He suggested the study would target large tech firms but didn't specifically name companies like Google, Facebook or Amazon. In such a study, the agency can order companies to turn over detailed information about their business practices. That could force tech companies to share closely held corporate secrets about their inner workings that they've long resisted disclosing.
Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica’s “improper data-gathering practices” months before the Guardian first reported on them in Dec 2015, according to a court filing by the attorney general for Washington DC. The new information “could suggest that Facebook has consistently mislead [sic]” British lawmakers “about what it knew and when about Cambridge Analytica”, tweeted Damian Collins, the chair of the House of Commons digital culture media and sport select committee (DCMS) in response to the filing. In a statement, a company spokesperson said: “Facebook absolutely did not mislead anyone about this timeline.”
More than two-thirds of Republicans say they have little confidence in the media, a figure that has risen nearly 20 points since 2014. On the other end of the political spectrum, fewer Democrats express low confidence in the media than at any point in nearly 30 years. The result is a gap of 43 points between members of the two parties, a broad gulf on whether the news media is trustworthy.
Day in, day out, the @WhiteHouse Twitter account shills for President Donald Trump, coordinating messages that cast his presidency in a positive light. But @WhiteHouse, which has over 18 million followers, doesn’t just share policy accomplishments and favorable statistics: it aims snarky put-downs at Trump’s critics and the news media, and retweets some of the president’s most concerning anti-press attacks. While journalists obsess over the @realDonaldTrump account’s every missive, @WhiteHouse goes mostly under the radar.
President Donald Trump is signing an Executive Order that promotes free speech on college campuses. Agencies will take appropriate steps to ensure that college and university campuses are places of free thought and debate. The Trump Administration believes that public schools should fulfill their obligation to uphold the First Amendment and private schools should comply with their stated institutional policies regarding free speech. The Trump Administration believes that schools should promote free speech and be transparent about their speech policies.
The Trump Administration will ensure students have access to information they need to make the higher education decisions that work best for them.
President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Michael J. K. Kratsios of South Carolina, to be an Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Upon appointment, designate him to be the United States Chief Technology Officer.
Stories From Abroad
Sophisticated surveillance, once the domain of world powers, is increasingly available on the private market. Smaller countries are seizing on the tools — sometimes for darker purposes.
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) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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