Federal Communications Commission

FCC Expands Area Where FM Translators Rebroadcasting AM Radio Stations Can Be Located

The Federal Communications Commission expanded the site locations where FM translators can rebroadcast AM radio stations.

The amended rule provides greater flexibility for an AM station to place a rebroadcasting FM translator in a location where it will better serve its AM station’s listeners. AM radio stations that want to improve their service area with a clearer signal can do so by using an FM translator, which receives the AM signal and re-broadcasts it on an FM frequency. This is particularly useful for the many AM stations forced to reduce their power at night, since the FM translator can operate at the same power 24 hours a day. At issue is a current FCC rule that may make finding a location for these translators unnecessarily challenging. Under the old rule, an AM station could place a rebroadcasting FM translator either within its daytime service contour or within a 25-mile radius of its transmitter, whichever distance was less. The new rule allows the rebroadcasting FM translator to be located anywhere within the AM station’s daytime service contour or anywhere within a 25-mile radius of the transmitter, even if the contour extends farther than 25 miles from the transmitter.

FCC Reduces Or Eliminates Burden Of Unnecessary Accounting Requirements For Carriers

Taking further steps to minimize unnecessary burdens on carriers, the Federal Communications Commission streamlined various accounting requirements for all carriers and eliminated certain accounting requirements for large carriers. Specifically, the FCC eliminated the requirement that large carriers keep a separate set of regulatory accounting books in addition to their financial accounting books. Additionally, the Commission reduced the extent of FCC-specific accounts that must be maintained by all carriers. Reducing the cost and burden of these FCC rules will allow carriers to allocate scarce resources toward expanding modern networks that bring economic opportunity, job creation and civic engagement to all Americans.

Deletion of Consent Agenda From February 23, 2017 Open Meeting

The Federal Communications Commission deleted from the list of items scheduled for consideration at its Feb 23 meeting. The FCC was to consider a Memorandum Opinion and Order concerning an Application for Review filed by Delta Radio Network regarding the dismissal of a modification application.
The FCC adopted the Consent Agenda.

A Modified Delegated Authority Proposal

I have made the case previously that the Commission delegates way too many substantive decisions to Bureau staff, usurping the role and obligations of duly appointed and confirmed Commissioners. Consider that in 2016 I only voted on 167 items, but almost nine times as many were decided on delegated authority. The heart of my revised delegated authority proposal is an attempt to achieve balance between the need to allow Commissioners to have greater say in the workings of the Commission and preventing process abuses and unnecessary delays.

Here are its main components:
Advanced Warning: Consistent with my previous recommendation, except for the most routine matters, Commissioners should be provided no less than 48 hours to review an item that is to be decided by Bureau staff under delegated authority.
Request by Two or More Commissioners: On any given matter, it is possible that any one Commissioner could be troubled by the substance or process of an item.
Time Constraint: A concern was raised that having two Commissioners as the proper threshold may not necessarily provide a sufficient barrier to excessive or needless delays.
Automatic Approval if Delayed: Under my proposal, in those instances (if ever) when a requesting office does not vote by the deadline, the item would be – at the Chairman’s prerogative – either released as approved by the full Commission (assuming the other offices voted to approve) or sent back to the Bureau for immediate issuance on delegated authority.

Disability Advisory Committee Announcement Of Date, Time And Agenda Of Next Meeting

The first meeting of the Federal Communications Commission's Disability Advisory Committee’s second term will take place on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm Eastern Time, at the FCC’s headquarters.

At its March 21st meeting, DAC members will discuss (i) the roles and responsibilities of the Committee and its members; (ii) issues that the Committee will address; (iii) meeting schedules, (iv) issues to be assigned to each subcommittee; and (iv) any other topics relevant to the DAC’s work. The meeting will be led by the new DAC co-chairs: Lise Hamlin, Director of Public Policy of the Hearing Loss Association of America, and Sam Joehl, Principal Technical Consultant of the SSB BART Group. In addition, initial subcommittee meetings may be held following the meeting of the full DAC.

Chairman Pai's Response to Sen Franken Regarding Open Internet

On Jan 30, Sen Al Franken (D-MN) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to "protect freedom of speech by maintaining and enforcing the Open Internet Order." On Feb 8, Chairman Pai responded by writing, "We share the same goals of promoting a free and open Internet and protecting fully Americans' rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I look forward to working with you to ensure that the FCC's regulatory framework preserves each of these values."

FCC To Hold Open Commission Meeting February 23, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission will hold an Open Meeting on the subjects listed below on Thursday, February 23, 2017:

Connect America Fund: The Commission will consider a Report and Order adopting rules to provide ongoing support targeted to preserve and advance high-speed mobile broadband and voice service in high-cost areas that the marketplace does not otherwise serve.
Connect America Fund; ETC Annual Reports and Certifications: The Commission will consider a Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration that (1) resolves a number of issues raised in the Phase II Auction Order FNPRM, including the adoption of weights to compare bids among service performance and latency tiers, and (2) considers several petitions for reconsideration for decisions made in the Phase II Auction Order.
Authorizing Permissive Use of the “Next Generation” Broadcast Television Standard: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes to let television broadcasters use the “Next Generation” broadcast television transmission standard associated with recent work of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC 3.0) on a voluntary, market-driven basis.
Revitalization of the AM Radio Service: The Commission will consider a Second Report and Order that would relax the siting rule for an FM fill-in translator rebroadcasting an AM broadcast station.
Small Business Exemption From Open Internet Enhanced Transparency Requirements: The Commission will consider an Order granting a five-year waiver to broadband Internet access service providers with 250,000 or fewer broadband connections from the enhanced reporting requirements adopted in the 2015 Title II Order.
Comprehensive Review of the Part 32 Uniform System of Accounts: The Commission will consider a Report and Order that would streamline and eliminate outdated accounting rules no longer needed to fulfill the Commission’s statutory or regulatory duties

FCC Chairman Pai: Activate Those FM Chips!

As of last fall, only about 44 percent of the top-selling smartphones in the United States have activated FM chips. By comparison, in Mexico that number is about 80 percent. It seems odd that every day we hear about a new smartphone app that lets you do something innovative, yet these modern-day mobile miracles don’t enable a key function offered by a 1982 Sony Walkman.

You could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone. The former head of our Federal Emergency Management Administration has spoken out in support of this proposal. The FCC has an expert advisory panel on public safety issues that has also advocated enabling FM radio chips on smartphones. It pointed out that, “[h]aving access to terrestrial FM radio broadcasts, as opposed to streaming audio services, may enable smartphone users to receive broadcast-based EAS alerts and other vital information in emergency situations—particularly when the wireless network is down or overloaded.” Moreover, most consumers would love to access some of their favorite content over-the-air, while using one-sixth of the battery life and less data. As more and more Americans use activated FM chips in their smartphones, consumer demand for smartphones with activated FM chips should continue to increase. I’ll keep speaking out about the benefits of activating FM chips.

Having said that, as a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don’t believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it’s best to sort this issue out in the marketplace. For despite the low numbers, we are seeing progress; in the last two years, the percentage of top-selling smartphones in the United States that have activated FM chips has risen from less than 25% to 44%.

FCC Settles Investigation Of Relay Service Providers

The Federal Communications Commission announced a $9.1 million settlement with two companies which provide telecommunications services to consumers with hearing and speech disabilities. In addition to a monetary penalty for improper billing, the settlement with telecommunications relay service (TRS) providers Purple Communications and CSDVRS repays the TRS Fund and establishes a 5-year compliance plan to ensure that services going forward incorporate the required checks. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Mike O’Rielly unanimously approved the action.

FCC Releases 2017 Urban Rate Survey

The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced the 2017 rate floor for incumbent eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) and reasonable comparability benchmarks for fixed voice and broadband services. In addition, it announced the posting of the fixed voice and broadband services data collected in the most recent urban rate survey, and explanatory notes regarding the data, on the Commission’s website. The Bureau also announced the required minimum usage allowance for ETCs subject to public interest obligations for fixed broadband.