Thursday, August 9, 2018
Headlines Daily Digest
Stories from Abroad
In its recent Declaratory Ruling, the Federal Communications Commission declared that, with rare exceptions, moratoria on the acceptance, processing, or approval of applications or permits for telecommunications services or facilities violate Section 253 of the Communications Act. AT&T urges the FCC to further use its authority to interpret Sections 253 and 332(c)(7) to clarify the types of municipal regulations that “have the effect of prohibiting” the provision of wireless service, primarily as they affect small cell deployments.
Unreasonable municipal regulations on small cell placement continue to act as barriers to entry, reduce competition, and materially impede a provider’s ability to deploy wireless services. FCC action is needed now to remove those barriers. Carriers are scaling up their small cell deployments in rights-of-way (“ROW”), including on municipal vertical structures, to add capacity in high demand areas. Those small cell sites will serve as the foundation of initial 5G networks, allowing for quick overlay and activation of 5G equipment as soon it becomes available. But, this foundation is threatened, promising to harm 5G deployment. Many municipalities continue to impose unreasonable barriers that would delay or discourage carriers from upgrading networks with more capacity and from building this 5G infrastructure. As with municipal moratoria, only FCC action will remove these deployment barriers.
- Unreasonably high municipal fees are a substantial barrier to the provision of service
- Non-fee restrictions can similarly impede broadband deployment
- Municipal contractors are bound by Section 253 to the same extent as the municipality
- Macrocell coverage gap concepts are inapposite to small cell deployments
In the Kansas City region, Austin (TX), and Provo (UT), Google Fiber did something almost too good to be true. It handed out free internet (for up to seven years) to anyone willing to pay a one-time installation fee of $300. Sure, the gratis package was one-200th the speed of Google Fiber’s drool-inducing gigabit plan. But free is free. By the time Google Fiber put out its shingle in Atlanta, it had dropped the on-the-house option in favor of a $50 (and much faster) monthly plan. But the company still planned to offer limited low- or no-cost service to certain residents. At least that’s how Terrence Moore, College Park’s city manager, said he understands it — although he admits Google Fiber has offered few details. “I think when Google Fiber made those offers of having free monthly service, they probably were sincere,” said Georgia State University economist Bruce Seaman. He said Google Fiber’s speedy service alone wouldn’t completely bridge Atlanta’s digital divide, no matter how many homes it wired. And despite missteps, Seaman said no one should be quick to single Google Fiber out. “It’s hard to uniquely criticize Google Fiber when, of course, it is the broader issue for all providers.”
A growing body of research suggests that medication abortum could be offered without any in-person interaction at all. It’s a possibility that is already the subject of a contentious political debate—one that is likely to intensify with a Supreme Court more hostile toward abortum rights following the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Planned Parenthood affiliates in 10 states offer telemedicine abortum. Telehealth services are also offered at a Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Illinois and in Maine, at Maine Family Planning. The Iowa program was interrupted after the state passed a law banning telemedicine abortum in 2013, but reinstated in 2015 when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional, and Idaho was forced to repeal two laws banning the services in order to settle a lawsuit with Planned Parenthood in 2017. But despite these successful legal challenges, 19 states currently ban telemedicine abortum. Both Oklahoma and Arkansas have tried to ban medication abortum altogether, including remote practices—Oklahoma’s law was overturned, and a federal judge placed the Arkansas law on hold pending trial.
Tribune Media will withdraw from its $3.9 billion merger with Sinclair Broadcast Group, saying it would sue Sinclair for “breach of contract” over its failed negotiations with regulators over the deal. “In light of the FCC’s unanimous decision, referring the issue of Sinclair’s conduct for a hearing before an administrative law judge, our merger cannot be completed within an acceptable time frame, if ever,” said Peter Kern, Tribune’s chief executive officer. “This uncertainty and delay would be detrimental to our company and our shareholders. Accordingly, we have exercised our right to terminate the Merger Agreement, and, by way of our lawsuit, intend to hold Sinclair accountable." Tribune filed the lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court, seeking compensation for all losses incurred as a result of Sinclair’s material breaches of the Merger Agreement.
Tribune said said that Sinclair had engaged in “unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations” with the government. Tribune said that Sinclair “refused to sell stations in the markets as required to obtain approval, and proposed aggressive divestment structures and related-party sales that were either rejected outright or posed a high risk of rejection and delay—all in derogation of Sinclair’s contractual obligations.”
Tribune Media operates 42 TV stations and WGN radio, and reaches more than 43 percent of the nation including major markets like New York, Chicago and Miami. Sinclair currently operates 171 TV stations in 81 markets, mostly in the South and Midwest.
Democratic lawmakers weren’t happy with the Federal Communications Commission inspector general concluded that the agency "misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses to Congressional inquiries" regarding an outage of the FCC’s online commenting system. The watchdog at one point referred its probe to federal prosecutors (though they declined to launch a criminal case) after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, relying on information supplied by the agency’s then-chief information officer, relayed to lawmakers the now-debunked claim that cyberattacks prompted the site to crash as Chairman Pai sought input on his plan to roll back net neutrality rules. “This is unacceptable behavior from a federal agency, and unbecoming behavior from its leadership,” tweeted Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), the ranking member of the Telecommunications Subcommittee. “This report shows that the American people were deceived by the FCC and Chairman Pai as they went about doing the bidding of Big Cable,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The findings are likely to turn up the heat on Chairman Pai and the agency when all four commissioners testify before the Senate Commerce Committee for an FCC oversight hearing Aug 16. “This investigation proves that it wasn’t an attack that shut down the FCC’s website, but millions of Americans speaking out to protect the free and open internet,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the telecom subcommittee. “This report raises more questions about the FCC’s crusade to end net neutrality. I look forward to hearing from Chairman Pai when he testifies before the Senate next week.”
President Donald Trump has two nominees to join the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for the remainder of six-year terms expiring January 29, 2020:
- Former Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc (who in August was named an arbitrator of the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework).
- Lawyer Aditya Bamzai, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. The nominations come after Abigail Slater, White House special assistant to the president, met with Capitol Hill staffers to discuss vacancies on PCLOB, as well as the still-unfilled Privacy Shield ombudsperson role.
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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