Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Elections and Media
Communications and Democracy
Stories from Abroad
On June 12, 2019, all five commissioners from the Federal Communications Commission testified at an oversight hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee. Recently, FCC Chairman Pai followed up on some questions raised during the hearing. His responses to written questions touch on the following topics:
- 5G, satellites, and interference in the 24GHz band
- Net neutrality
- Wireless coverage maps
- C-Band spectrum
- Retransmission backouts
- FM radio
- 6 GHz spectrum
- Universal service support for Alaska
- Defining the Digital Divide
- Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act
- Connect America Fund
- Broadband Maps
- Huawei, ZTE, national security, and rural infrastructure
The Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, International Bureau, Office of Engineering and Technology, and Office of Economics and Analytics invite interested parties to supplement the record to address issues raised by commenters in response to the FCC's July 2018 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in GN Docket No. 18-122. The FCC sought comment on several approaches, including auction-based approaches, for making some or all of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band (C-Band) available for terrestrial, flexible use. The FCC also sought comment on other issues essential to the introduction of new terrestrial wireless services in the band, including incumbent protection criteria, technical and licensing rules, and appropriate methodologies for transitioning or protecting existing Fixed Satellite Service and Fixed Service operators in the band. Now the FCC seeks additional comment on proposals from: (1) ACA Connects – America’s Communications Association (ACA Connects), the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), Charter Communications, Inc. (Charter) (collectively, ACA Connects Coalition); (2) AT&T; and (3) the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), Google, and Microsoft.
- The ACA Connects Coalition, which collectively represents both incumbent C-band earth station users and wireless providers that seek to use this spectrum to provide 5G services, recently submitted a joint proposal for repurposing a large portion of the C-band for 5G use. Their proposal consists of three key elements that would make 370 megahertz of C-band spectrum available for flexible wireless use on a nationwide basis: (i) a FCC-driven auction that would award new terrestrial licenses and assign obligations for transition costs; (ii) a plan to transition certain Fixed Satellite Service earth station operators to fiber; and (iii) a plan for satellite operators to repack remaining earth station users to the upper portion of the band.
- AT&T asserts that the C-Band Alliance’s proposed technical criteria would constrain 5G deployment, and it proposes an alternate band plan to address its concerns. AT&T recommends dividing the 3.7-4.2 GHz band into three segments: (i) a largely unrestricted mobile terrestrial 5G segment in the bottom of the band (“Unrestricted Licenses”); (ii) “Adjacent Licenses” in the middle of the band that would have to coordinate with or mitigate impact on Fixed Satellite Service; and (iii) remaining Fixed Satellite Service spectrum in the top of the band. Unrestricted Licenses could operate using full power and would not be obligated to coordinate with Fixed Satellite Service earth stations; Adjacent Licenses would operate using lower power or subject to other limitations, or would be obligated to coordinate with nearby Fixed Satellite Service earth stations.
- WISPA, Google, and Microsoft filed a study conducted by Reed Engineering, which analyzed Fixed Satellite Service and fixed wireless point-to-multipoint co-channel coexistence in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. Among other conclusions, the Reed Study suggests that exclusion zones of about 10 kilometers are sufficient to protect most Fixed Satellite Service earth stations from harmful interference caused by properly-engineered co-channel point-to-multipoint broadband systems. The propagation model used in the study relied on Fixed Satellite Service earth station characteristics that require them to point upwards towards the geostationary satellite arc. Thus, the earth stations are specifically designed to mitigate their response to signals arriving from the horizon, such as terrestrial point-to-multipoint links. Additionally, the study relied on the directional nature of fixed service antennas and clutter to assume reduced emissions at earth stations.
Thank you to OneWeb Satellites for inviting me to the opening of the world’s first facility to manufacture satellites using industrial-scale mass production techniques. I’m particularly pleased to be here this morning because the Federal Communications Commission under my leadership has been focused on promoting innovation in space. Among other things, we’ve approved many proposals for low-Earth orbit, non-geostationary satellite orbit constellations. Indeed, in June 2017, OneWeb’s constellation was the first to receive the FCC’s signoff. We’re working hard to lay the groundwork for next-generation communications infrastructure that will connect Americans no matter where they live. Low-Earth orbit satellite companies like OneWeb have a sky-high ambition: to close the digital divide around the globe. Their technology holds special promise for bringing high-speed broadband service to those in rural, Tribal, and remote areas, connecting many who have never been connected before. This meshes well with the FCC’s twin priorities of closing the digital divide and promoting innovation.
The package of penalties for Facebook’s past privacy scandals includes a record-breaking $5 billion fine and unprecedented government oversight of its business practices. But a review of the 16-month investigation — described by 10 people familiar with the matter — shows that the Federal Trade Commission stopped short of some even tougher punishments it initially had in mind. Those included fining Facebook not just $5 billion, but tens of billions of dollars, and imposing more direct liability for the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook, however, fiercely resisted the government’s demands, and in the end, the FTC, facing a formidable foe whose $55 billion in revenue in 2018 amounted to almost 200 times the budget afforded to the federal regulators, settled for less.
The experience illustrates the challenges facing a 105-year-old agency hamstrung in the kinds of penalties it can pursue by the nation’s lack of a national consumer privacy law. While some lawmakers bemoan the FTC’s inability to punish Facebook, Congress has yet to advance legislation that would give the FTC a stronger hand as it confronts some of the most profitable corporations in the global economy. Under the settlement, which has not yet been made public, Facebook is expected to submit to heightened federal scrutiny. It could be required to certify — through its executives as well as its board of directors— that it is considering privacy risks when it collects information, taps it in new ways or makes it accessible to third parties, including app developers.
Elections and Media
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg sat down to talk with a popular country music radio host in an attempt to reach voters outside the “traditional political media bubble,” according to his campaign — so why did his interview never air? Cumulus Media, parent company for the “Blair Garner Show,” cited the Federal Communications Commission “equal time rule” as rationale for the decision to withhold the interview. However, the right to equal time comes with four exceptions, one of which is a "bona fide news interview." Benton senior counselor Andrew Schwartzman said Buttigieg’s interview with Blair Garner almost certainly falls within an exemption to the rule. “This was almost certainly a bona fide news interview,” Schwartzman said. “If another candidate asked for equal opportunity, equal time, the station could say no.” He added that even if the exemption didn’t apply, it would be such a hassle for other candidates to contact each licensee of Cumulus Media within seven days to ask for equal time that they probably wouldn’t bother anyway. “In practice, here’s the bottom line — it is highly unlikely that any candidate that wished to could successfully obtain time under equal opportunity…just to request the time is a process that is complicated and probably not worth it,” he said. “And anyway, this interview is almost certainly exempt.” He continued: “This is much more likely to be about Cumulus not wanting to be seen as promoting a candidate who may not be particularly consonant with the proclivities of country station listeners since he is — how should we put this — gay.”
Communications and Democracy
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a commitment of nearly $50 million in research to better understand how technology is transforming our democracy and the way we receive and engage with information. Amidst a growing debate over technology’s role in our democracy, these investments will help ensure society is equipped to make evidence-based decisions on how to govern and manage the now-digital public square. Knight’s investment will fund new, cross-disciplinary research at 11 American universities and research institutions, including the creation of five new centers of study — each reflecting different approaches to understanding the future of democracy in a digital age. In addition, Knight has opened a new funding opportunity for policy and legal research addressing major, ongoing debates about the rules that should govern social media and technology companies.
Many Americans see declining levels of trust in the country, whether it is their confidence in the federal government and elected officials or their trust of each other, a new Pew Research Center report finds. And most believe that the interplay between the trust issues in the public and the interpersonal sphere has made it harder to solve some of the country’s problems.
Majorities believe the federal government and news media withhold important and useful information. People’s confidence in key institutions is associated with their views about the transparency of institutions. About two-thirds (69%) of Americans say the federal government intentionally withholds important information from the public that it could safely release, and 61% say the news media intentionally ignores stories that are important to the public. Those who hold those skeptical views are more likely than others to have greater concerns about the state of trust. Some 44% of Americans say “yes” to both questions – that the federal government withholds information and the news media ignores stories. More Republicans and Republican-leaning independents than Democrats and Democratic leaners believe both institutions hold back information (54% vs. 38%).
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he has presented his colleagues with two new proposals to modernize and streamline the agency’s processes. Under the first, the FCC would continue the agency’s move toward electronic filing and correspondence by fully transitioning the Universal Licensing System—the agency’s largest licensing system—from paper to electronic format. The second proposal would expedite the Commission’s hearing processes by expanding the use of written hearings (i.e. hearings conducted without live testimony). “As the communications marketplace is being transformed by the digital revolution, we must continue to modernize our own operations.” said Chairman Pai. “That’s why I’m introducing two new proposals to update and streamline our processes for the digital age. By transitioning more records and communications from paper to electronic format, we can save money and increase our efficiency. And by streamlining our hearing rules, we can resolve disputes more quickly, which will benefit the private sector as well as the Commission. I hope that my colleagues will join me in supporting these good-government initiatives.”
Constant infighting among top officials. Sudden departures of senior staffers without explanation. A leader who is disengaged and prone to falling asleep in meetings. The Commerce Department has reached its apex of dysfunction under Sec Wilbur Ross. The 81-year-old Commerce secretary, who has for months endured whispers that he is on the outs, spends much of his time at the White House to try to retain President Donald Trump’s favor, leaving his department adrift. Top Commerce officials have pushed to not have Ross called to testify at congressional oversight hearings, apparently, because they fear he isn’t up to the task.
Much of the tension inside the building has centered on Earl Comstock, who shepherded Ross’s confirmation on Capitol Hill and is one of the secretary’s top lieutenants as the department's policy director. Comstock has also been at the center of many of the spectrum battles between the Federal Communications Commission and the departments of Transportation, Education, and Commerce and NASA and NOAA. He has “literally been seeding bad intel and bad information to get other people agitated,” said one official. He also tried to scuttle a joint White House-FCC summit on 5G, the wireless technology, in April by “calling everyone he could 24 hours before the event trying to get it to be canceled,” this person said. Comstock clashed in particular with former National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief David Redl, who left his post abruptly in May.
Commissioner Geoffrey Starks announced the appointment of Alisa Valentin as his Special Advisor. “I’m excited that Alisa is joining my team. She brings a strong background of leadership on the issue of internet inequality and, as a native of South Georgia, has personal experience with the impact of the digital divide on rural Americans, particularly in communities of color. I look forward to benefiting from her insights and working with her in the days ahead.”
Valentin joins Commissioner Starks’s office from Public Knowledge, where she was a Communications Justice Policy Fellow, focusing on broadband deployment and access issues. Previously, Valentin served as a legislative fellow with the office of Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and an intern in FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s office. Valentin holds a Ph.D. from Howard University in Communications, Culture and Media Studies, as well as a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a BS in Telecommunications from the University of Florida
By this Public Notice, the Federal Communications Commission announces the topics and chairs of the six working groups that will assist the Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) VII.
- Working Group 1: Alert Originator Standard Operating Procedures
- Chair: Craig Fugate, America’s Public Television Stations
- Working Group 2: Managing Security Risk in the Transition to 5G
- Chair: Lee Thibaudeau, Nsight.
- Working Group 3: Managing Security Risk in Emerging 5G Implementations
- Chair: Farrokh Khatibi, Qualcomm
- Working Group 4: 911 Security Vulnerabilities During the IP Transition
- Chair: Mary A. Boyd, West Safety Services
- Working Group 5: Improving Broadcast Resiliency
- Chair: Pat Roberts, Florida Association of Broadcasters
- Working Group 6: SIP Security Vulnerabilities
- Chair: Danny McPherson, Verisign
Applications for working group membership must be submitted to the FCC no later than Monday, August 5, 2019.
I look at the agenda for this conference [Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Organizations (CANTO) 2019], and there are sessions on promoting 5G, artificial intelligence, and machine learning across the region. There are discussions on creating safer communities where our citizens are protected from risks ranging from natural disasters to cyberattacks. And there are workshops on how we can close the digital divide and build a digital future whose benefits extend to everyone, everywhere. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ait Pai and all of us at the FCC share these goals, and I’d like to spend my time today talking about the FCC’s efforts to advance them at home and across the region.
I want to talk for a minute about what we can do together to promote wireless deployment regionally—in particular, I want to talk about spectrum harmonization. The World Radiocommunication Conference in Egypt is only months away. As we approach this year’s WRC, the FCC has three guiding principles. First, we need to create a flexible regulatory framework that allows for continued growth of a multi-trillion-dollar global ICT industry that will benefit all of our citizens. Second, we need to enable regional and global spectrum harmonization opportunities for all services, including broadcasting, Wi-Fi, mobile technologies, and satellites, to create international economies of scale, roaming, and interoperability, lowering prices for manufacturers and consumers alike. And third, we should ensure reasonable protections for incumbent users of the spectrum, so they can continue to operate and have enough certainty to invest in new technologies and expand coverage and deployment.
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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