Friday, July 26, 2019
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The Federal Communications Commission's 2016 Lifeline Order established minimum service standards for certain Lifeline-supported services and either established annual increases in those standards in the FCC’s rules or directed the Wireline Competition Bureau to update the minimum service standards pursuant to calculations set out in the Order and the FCC’s rules. Accordingly, the Bureau announces the newly calculated minimum service standards for fixed and mobile broadband. These standards will take effect on December 1, 2019. The Bureau also announces that the budget for federal universal service support for the Lifeline program for calendar year 2020 will be $ 2,385,292,106. Beginning December 1, 2019, Lifeline minimum service standard for:
- Fixed broadband speed will be 20 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream; the data usage will be 1024 GB per month.
- Mobile broadband data usage will increase to 8.75 GB per month; the mobile broadband speed remains 3G.
- Mobile voice service will remain unchanged, at 1,000 minutes per month.
The Federal Communications Commission's Office of Economics and Analytics, in consultation with the Wireline Competition Bureau, launched the urban rate survey for 2020. The information collected in this survey will be used to develop voice and broadband reasonable comparability benchmarks that will be in place in 2020. The FCC will be collecting the rates offered by a random sample of providers of fixed services identified using December 2018 FCC Form 477 data. The FCC will collect separate samples for fixed voice and fixed broadband services with up to 500 urban Census tracts in each. Because some providers serve many urban Census tracts, these providers may receive surveys for multiple Census tracts. Notifications that a provider is required to complete a survey will be sent via email to each selected provider’s FCC Form 477 contact person and certifying official on Thursday, July 25, 2019. The survey consists of an online reporting form which will be accessible only to the selected providers. The email notification will provide detailed information on how to access and complete the survey online report form and how to obtain technical assistance. Completed surveys will be due on Monday, August 26, 2019.
I worked with a fairly small group of early-stage internet policy wonks and helped create many of the basic rules that still govern the internet today. We missed a lot — a lot that turns out to have been important.
- The internet as a major domain for war — Although the internet had its origins as an American war-fighting tool, no one imagined that it would evolve into a principal theater for warfare among national militaries and violent non-governmental groups.
- The evolution of a small number of internet giants — Most of the Americans involved in early internet policy-making (there were no non-Americans) expected a huge growth of web-based services appealing to discreet market niches. Few, if any, foresaw the emergence of enormous, internet-based businesses that would globally aggregate the common interests of billions of people.
- The disappearance of Online Service Providers (OSPs) — Sometimes called “walled gardens,” OSPs had the benefit of being tightly-controlled by their operators and thus able to offer security and content controls that were difficult or impossible on the open internet. Because OSPs were controlled by their operators, they offered an alternative policy environment, which today does not much exist.
- The use of the internet to create billions of individual market profiles — The ability to create comprehensive digital profiles of hundreds of millions of consumers needed the convergence of the internet and advanced computer processing, which emerged around the end of the 1990s and can be found everywhere today. This has changed everything.
- No one foresaw the near disappearance of travel agents, bicycle messenger services, book stores, CDs, classified advertising, postal letters, and much more.
But as much as we missed, through luck or prescience, we got a lot right.
[Roger Cochetti provides consulting and advisory services in Washington, D.C. He directed internet public policy for IBM from 1994 through 2000 and later served as Senior Vice-President & Chief Policy Officer for VeriSign and Group Policy Director for CompTIA. He served on the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy during the Bush and Obama administrations.]
Corporate choices made by AT&T and Verizon, and Frontier Communications’ dire financial condition created the growing divide between relatively modern telecommunications infrastructure in affluent urban and suburban communities and the decaying infrastructure in poor and rural ones. The result is “deteriorating service quality”, “persistent disinvestment”, an “investment focus on higher-income communities” and an “increased focus on areas most heavily impacted by competition.” When addressing service quality going forward, the California Public Utilities Commission should:
- Expand the financial penalties for carriers that fail to meet the minimum GO 133-C/D service quality standards.
- In an effectively competitive market, persistently poor service quality would drive customers to take their business elsewhere. Where competition is not present, fines imposed due to an ILEC’s failure to meet service quality standards should be high enough so as to have the same financial consequences as poor service quality under competitive market conditions.
- The GO 133-C/D maximum Customer Trouble Report Rates of 6%, 8% or 10% (depending upon wire center size) of switched access lines per month are far too generous, and failure rates as high as these can hardly constitute acceptable service quality. The carriers have had little difficulty in meeting these standards, and they should be revised downward.
- Unless carriers can offer technically valid explanations as to how and why smaller wire centers experience the poorest service quality, the minimum GO 133-C/D standards should be applied uniformly for all wire centers.
- The GO 133-D fines should vary based upon the extent of a carrier's failure to meet any service quality standard, rising in magnitude as the extent of the shortfall increases.
- Retain its requirement that Uniform Regulatory Framework carriers maintain their Part 32 Uniform System of Accounts ("USOA") regulatory accounting records and submit annual ARMIS-type financial reports. The requirement should be expanded to also include wire center level accounting data. Carriers should be required to submit these to the Communications Division on a semi-annual basis.
- Establish a process to proactively examine the alternatives that would be available to maintain adequate service to Frontier California customers in the event that the parent company no longer has the financial resources to provide safe and reliable services in California.
Georgia recently finalized a plan to spend the public’s money on subsidies for high-speed internet lines, laying the foundation for broadband expansion in rural areas. Representatives for some internet providers criticized the state’s subsidy rules as being overly burdensome. They also worried that government funding might not go to areas where it’s most needed. In addition, the government will require internet providers to match state money with their own, a hefty private investment. State lawmakers will consider appropriating money for subsidies during the 2020 legislative session. It would likely cost more than $3 billion in public and private investment to wire areas without high-speed internet across the state. Legislators have yet to decide how much to spend or where the money would come from.
Apparently, the Justice Department is pushing state officials to support a planned settlement that would allow T-Mobile US and Sprint to merge by selling assets to Dish Network. The discussions come in response to some of the state attorneys general who have already filed a federal antitrust suit seeking to block the more than $26 billion merger. The talks include attorneys general from states that refrained from joining the lawsuit. A spokesman for New York’s attorney general said the Justice Department hadn’t contacted his office nor shared any details of a potential merger settlement.
Dish has been a potential wireless entrant for some time, having scooped up a significant amount of spectrum in recent years — spectrum it is under pressure to use soon or risk losing. And, back in 2013, Dish lost out in a bidding war with SoftBank for control of Sprint. But if a combined T-Mobile/Sprint sells wireless assets to Dish, many experts doubt that Dish alone will be a significant rival to AT&T, Verizon and the new T-Mobile. It's not so much a question of "Can Dish compete?" but rather whether it has the stomach to do so, says New Street Research. If Dish builds a low-cost network, the firm argues, such a network can probably get customers. But whether Dish has the interest or skill to really build a network is far from certain. Even if Dish does build a network, wireless consultant Chetan Sharma predicted that it won't want to be in the business for the long haul. Instead, Dish would look to run it for a few years and ideally sell it back to one of the big three operators.
Apple and Intel have signed an agreement for Apple to acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. Approximately 2,200 Intel employees will join Apple, along with intellectual property, equipment and leases. The transaction, valued at $1 billion, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary conditions, including works council and other relevant consultations in certain jurisdictions. Combining the acquired patents for current and future wireless technology with Apple’s existing portfolio, Apple will hold over 17,000 wireless technology patents, ranging from protocols for cellular standards to modem architecture and modem operation. Intel will retain the ability to develop modems for non-smartphone applications, such as PCs, internet-of-things devices and autonomous vehicles.
On July 24, 2019 the Federal Trade Commission, together with the Department of Justice, announced a record-breaking $5 billion penalty for Facebook, alleging the company had repeatedly misled its users about the way advertisers and app developers could obtain their personal data. What did Facebook do wrong? What are the components of the settlement? What does it all mean for Big Tech? Let's dive in.
A group of state attorneys general met with US Attorney General William Barr to discuss antitrust concerns related to major tech companies, as the Justice Department launches a review of whether online platforms are reducing competition. New York, Texas, Arizona, and Louisiana, sent representatives to the Justice Department for the meeting with senior officials.
"Our bipartisan coalition of eight state attorneys general was pleased with the opportunity to meet with US Attorney General Barr to talk about the real concerns consumers across the country have with big tech companies stifling competition on the internet," participating states said in a joint statement. "It was a productive meeting and we're considering a range of possible antitrust actions against such companies." New York Attorney General Tish James said of the state AGs, “We have concerns about the size of these tech companies and will hold them accountable for anticompetitive practices that endanger privacy and consumer data.”
The Democratic anger over Facebook is the most potent sign yet of the peril Silicon Valley faces if the party regains full power in Washington: Investigations could become more intrusive, and the online industry could face punishments that have never realistically been on the table — including a ban on the kind of behavior-based advertising that supplies Facebook's fortune. Such repercussions could go even beyond the backlash that tech is experiencing under the Trump administration. A future Democratic administration would not bring a return to the tech-friendly days of the Obama era.
The Federal Communications Commission seeks nominations to fill three Tribal vacancies on the Native Nations Communications Task Force. Members appointed by the FCC Chairman to fill the vacancies will serve through the end of the Task Force’s current three-year term, which runs through October 2021. The Task Force’s mission is to make recommendations to the FCC on communications-related issues that affect Tribal interests. The Task Force is intended to provide an effective means for Tribal thought leaders to exchange ideas and develop recommendations to the FCC on, among other things, the availability of communications facilities and services – including, but not limited to, broadband—on Tribal lands, which will in turn enhance the FCC’s ability to carry out its statutory responsibilities to ensure the availability of communication by wire and radio and encourage broadband deployment to all Americans. Since its establishment in March 2011, the Task Force has been composed of senior FCC staff and elected or appointed leaders from federally recognized Tribal governments or governmental entities, or their designated employees, and has helped the FCC fulfill its commitment to increasing broadband deployment and adoption on Tribal lands.
The issues to be considered by the Task Force may include but are not limited to: (i) executing the FCC’s Tribal Consultation policy; (ii) identifying barriers to broadband deployment that are unique to Tribal lands; and (iii) ensuring Tribal concerns are considered in all FCC proceedings related to broadband and other FCC undertakings that affect Tribal interests regarding communications services and facilities.
Nominations for membership must be received by the FCC no later than August 26, 2019.
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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