Federal Communications Commission

Chairman Pai's Response to Rep Pallone and Rep Doyle Regarding Appointment as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission

In response to a letter from House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and House Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA), Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai pledged to:

  • Reach out to the House Commerce Committee in a bipartisan manner and answer letters from Members “to the extent I can within law and Commission rules”;
  • Do his best to hear all points of view and “approach every issue with a literal open door and a figurative open mind”; and
  • Treat FCC staff fairly.

Chairman Ajit Pai Taps Commissioner Michael O'Rielly to Lead Federal-State Partnerships

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai circulated an order appointing Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to serve as the chairman of the Federal State Joint Board on Universal Service, the Federal-State Joint Board on Jurisdictional Separations, and the Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Services.

The Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service was established in March 1996 to make recommendations to implement the universal service provisions of the Communications Act. This Joint Board is comprised of FCC Commissioners, State Utility Commissioners, and a consumer advocate representative. The Federal-State Joint Board on Jurisdictional Separations was established in June 1980 to make recommendations with respect to any amendment of the Commission’s rules governing the jurisdictional separation of common carrier property and expenses between interstate and intrastate operations. This Joint Board is comprised of FCC Commissioners and State Utility Commissioners. The Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Services was convened in 1999 as part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts to ensure that advanced services are deployed as rapidly as possible to all Americans and serves as a forum for an ongoing dialogue among the Commission, state regulators, and local and regional entities regarding the deployment of advanced telecommunications capabilities. The Joint Conference is comprised of FCC Commissioners and State Utility Commissioners.

FCC Begins Review for Possible Revision or Elimination of Rules

This document invites members of the public to comment on the Federal Communication Commission’s rules to be reviewed pursuant to section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA). The purpose of the review is to determine whether FCC rules whose ten-year anniversary dates are in the years 2011–2014 should be continued without change, amended, or rescinded in order to minimize any significant impact the rules may have on a substantial number of small entities. Upon receipt of comments from the public, the FCC will evaluate those comments and consider whether action should be taken to rescind or amend the relevant rule(s). Comments may be filed on or before May 4, 2017.

Broadband-related items:
Implementation of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996; Commission Collection of Advanced Telecommunications Capability Data
Broadband PCS
Broadband Radio Service and Educational Broadband Service
Universal Service Support for High Cost Areas
Universal Service Support for Schools and Libraries

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for February 2017 Open Meeting

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the following items are tentatively on the agenda for the February Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Thursday, February 23, 2017:

Universal Service Reform – Mobility Fund; 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. (WT Docket No. 10-208, WC Docket No. 10-90)
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. (WC Docket Nos. 10-90, 14- 58)
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. (GN Docket No. 16-142)
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. (MB Docket No. 13-249)
Small Business Exemption From Open Internet Enhanced Reporting 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. (GN Docket No. 14-28)
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. (WC Docket No. 14- 130)

Federal Broadband Infrastructure Spending: Potential Pitfalls

The good work being done by the private sector and the Federal Communications Commission has not prevented some from advocating for expending additional Federal dollars for broadband, hopefully by providing additional resources to private companies to expand their reach and enter new territories (and not funding government networks). While seemingly helpful, there are serious potential drawbacks to this action, especially if it is done in a haphazard way. Here are just a few of the major issues and problems:

Harms to Private Sector – In countless meetings over the last three years, I have heard about the harmful effects of the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus legislation, especially the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and Broadband Initiatives Program (BTOP & BIP). While supporters point to miles of fiber laid or anchor institutions connected, they fail to mention what this funding did to the competitors in the immediate and surrounding areas. When one provider received special funding, it distorted the ability of non-recipients to operate, pay off debt, raise capital, and satisfy consumer interest. In other words, artificially propping up select companies impacted the ability of others to compete, including growing their networks to unserved or underserved areas, and that doesn’t even include a critique of where grants were provided to overbuild existing providers. With areas completely unserved or in need of upgrades, it makes little sense to direct federal dollars to fund competition.
Overpaying and Over Subsidization – At its core, the FCC’s high-cost program is designed to limit any subsidy provided to broadband companies to only what is absolutely needed to promote access. The institution of reverse auctions uses market forces to get providers to compete – thereby driving down the subsidy costs – for particular areas. On the contrary, grant programs or loan subsidies do not induce any competitive pressure. This means the Federal government overpays for broadband deployment in these scenarios.
Lack of Coordination – Experience from the 2009 stimulus showed that insufficient coordination was done with the FCC by the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture as they created and operated their programs. That means that, as bureaucrats were preparing to distribute multi-billions of dollars, they had little to no understanding of the prior and future commitments made by the FCC or how their programs would fit together with the Commission’s data intensive high-cost program. In the end, the FCC was left to piece together the remnants of what was done by the other agencies in order to prevent duplication and address those areas still in need.
Bureaucrats Picking Winners & Losers – Application-based programs use highly-questionable selective criteria (e.g., points system) combined with human intervention to determine what projects to fund. This allows non-efficient factors to influence the outcome and cultivates an environment for political gamesmanship. At a time when so much focus is on reducing undue or improper involvement by DC lobbyists and politicians, shouldn’t there be equal concern that any new broadband programs aren’t monopolized by the well-connected?
Technology Discrimination – The FCC has spent the last 18 months ensuring that its program does not discriminate against any technology able to serve consumers. Unfortunately, many broadband programs are designed to be fiber first or fiber only and provide preferences to ensure other technologies do not win any funding or serve any consumers. This myopic view ignores the development of other technology capabilities and allowances for terrain. Dragging fiber to the top of every mountain may not make any sense in terms of cost, time to build, safety of installers and long term survivability against the surrounding elements. Alternatively, fixed wireless broadband or satellite may be the most appropriate solution.

FCC Chairman Pai Forms Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced the formation of a new federal advisory committee to explore ways to accelerate deployment of high-speed Internet access (or “broadband”) nationwide and to close the digital divide. The Committee will focus on developing specific recommendations on how the FCC can encourage broadband deployment across America.

“The BDAC’s mission will be to identify regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment and to make recommendations to the Commission on reducing and/or removing them,” said Chairman Pai. Issues the Committee will tackle include further reforms to the FCC’s pole attachment rules; identifying unreasonable regulatory barriers to broadband deployment; ways to encourage local governments to adopt deployment-friendly policies; and other reforms within the scope of the Commission’s authority. In particular, one of the Committee’s first tasks will be drafting a model code covering local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations. Many localities may not currently have or be able to develop policies conducive to deployment. With a model code approved by the FCC, any city could build a better regulatory environment for deployment, and any provider would have a better case for installing infrastructure. Nominees for the newly formed Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee will be drawn from a diverse set of stakeholders to address specific regulatory barriers to broadband deployment in both urban and rural areas. Representatives of consumers and community groups, the communications industry, and federal, state, local, and Tribal officials are encouraged to apply. The FCC will accept nominations until February 15, 2017. The Commission expects to hold its first meeting of the new Committee during the spring of 2017.

FCC Eliminates Two Public Inspection File Requirements

The Federal Communications Commission eliminated two public inspection file rules. These rules currently require: (1) commercial television and radio broadcast stations to retain, and make available to the public, copies of correspondence from viewers and listeners; and (2) cable operators to maintain and allow public inspection of the location of a cable system’s principal headend.

The action furthers the Commission’s progress in modernizing its public inspection file rules. The elimination of these rules will reduce regulatory burdens on commercial broadcasters and cable operators without adversely affecting the general public. Removing these requirements also will enable broadcasters and cable operators to make their entire public inspection file available online and permit them to cease maintaining local public files.

FCC Votes To Expand Broadband Deployment In New York

In its first action under Chairman Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission voted to provide up to $170 million from the Connect America Fund to expand broadband deployment in unserved rural areas of New York State. The $170 million in federal funding will be coupled with at least $200 million in state funding and private investment to jump-start broadband deployment and close the digital divide in these unserved areas more quickly.

This partnership with the state program will also result in more efficient and effective use of both state and federal funding. The Order adopted by the FCC today will authorize Connect America Phase II support in areas where applicants are selected through New York’s competitive New NY Broadband Program, subject to specified conditions to ensure broad participation and ongoing oversight. The funding that will be made available was declined by Verizon in 2015.

Remarks of Commissioner Clyburn at NAB Capital Assets Conference

Now I am as tired of highlighting this factoid as you must be of hearing it: racial and/or ethnic minorities only hold a majority of the voting interests in approximately six percent of fullpower commercial TV licenses and just over eight percent of commercial radio licenses. My office released a draft proposal in December, and in this #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan, we outline several steps designed to enhance digital inclusion and promote a more diverse media landscape.

It starts, from where I sit, with the reinstatement of the Federal Communications Commission’s Minority Tax Certificate Program. Second, working with the broadcast industry, the Commission should establish a pilot incubator program, designed expressly to increase women and minority ownership. Third, through our Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Independent Programming adopted last September, we have an opportunity to enhance the voices of independent and diverse programmers outside of the broadcast space. Fourth, and while it was not introduced in our draft plan, I continue to believe if done right, ATSC 3.0 could help to fulfill our goal of greater viewpoint diversity. Fifth, even when capital is available, securing a license for a full-power television or radio station in a major market, may not be within reach. Sixth, it is important that we focus not just on station ownership, but on the importance of diversity in front of and behind the camera.

Remarks of Chairman Ajit Pai at FCC

As I enter this new position, I want you to know that I value and respect each and every one of you. I may now have the fancy title of Chairman (although I urge you to call me Ajit), but the credit for our work primarily belongs to you...

One of the most significant things that I’ve seen during my time here is that there is a digital divide in this country—between those who can use from cutting-edge communications services and those who do not. I believe one of our core priorities going forward should be to close that divide—to do what’s necessary to help the private sector build networks, send signals, and distribute information to American consumers, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else. We must work to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.