Federal Communications Commission

Lifeline Disclosure

In a letter dated April 15, 2016, to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) asked that the FCC address concerns raised by him regarding the potential violation of 47 C.F.R. § 19.735-203, pertaining to disclosure of "nonpublic information. . . directly or indirectly, to any person outside the Commission," as a complaint requiring an investigation pursuant to 47 C.F.R. § 19.73 5-107(b). Specifically, Chairman Thune expressed concern that information regarding the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order, 31 FCC Rcd 3962 (2016), specifically news of an agreement among FCC Commissioners O'Rielly, Pai and Clyburn to vote for a hard cap on Lifeline spending set at $2 billion (the "deal" or "compromise"), appeared in the news media publications Politico and Broadcasting & Cable prior to the FCC's vote on the Lifeline Order.

Based on Investigators' review of phone records, email messages and interviews, Gigi Sohn, Counselor to the FCC Chairman, provided some of the information revealed in the Politico story that appeared at approximately 10:49 am on March 31, 2016. In an interview, Sohn revealed that Shannon Gilson, FCC Communications Director, requested that Sohn call Politico reporter Margaret McGill and inform McGill that the FCC meeting was delayed from 10:30 until 12:00 and that there was a compromise on Lifeline, including the fact that there would be an annual cap on the amount of money available in the Lifeline program. Sohn was instructed not to tell McGill the amount of the agreed-upon cap. In an interview, Gilson explained that throughout the morning of March 31st, the FCC Office of Media Relations had been inundated with calls from the press and that it was clear many reporters and stakeholders were already aware a deal was being crafted by Commissioner Clyburn and the Republican commissioners. Thus, because she felt it would be beneficial to get the story out accurately, Gilson sought and received authorization from Chairman Wheeler and Ruth Milkman, Wheeler’s Chief of Staff, to provide the press with high level details. Gilson exercised her discretion in choosing both Politico and McGill as the appropriate recipients of this information, and instructed Sohn to make the call. We have been unable to determine with certainty who provided McGill with the information on the amount of the agreed upon cap.

We found no evidence that the information was provided to the press in an attempt to unduly influence the outcome of the vote.

Chairman Wheeler's Proposal to Give Broadband Consumers Increased Choice Over Their Personal Information

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has circulated to his fellow Commissioners a proposed Order to give consumers the tools they need to choose how their Internet service provider (ISP) uses and shares their personal data.

Building on widely accepted privacy principles, the rules would require that ISPs provide their customers with meaningful choice and keep customer data secure while giving ISPs the flexibility they need to continue to innovate. The rules, if adopted, would not prohibit ISPs from using or sharing their customers’ information – they would simply require ISPs to put their customers in the driver’s seat when it comes to those decisions. The approach Chairman Wheeler is recommending reflects extensive public comments received in response to the comprehensive proposal adopted by the Commission in March, including input from the Federal Trade Commission. Here's an outline of Chairman Wheeler's proposal:

  • Focus is on providing consumers choice over how to protect their privacy and their children's privacy online.
  • ISPs must tell customers about the collection, use, and sharing of their information.
  • Prohibits "Take-it-or-leave-it" offers, meaning that an ISP can't refuse to serve customers who don't consent to the use and sharing of their information for commercial purposes.

The full Commission will vote on the proposed Order at the FCC’s October 27 Open Meeting.

Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities: Barriers to and Solutions for Accessible Information and Communication Technologies

This White Paper discusses the need for access to information and communications technologies by people with cognitive disabilities, and what that access entails. It highlights the importance of ICT, and the particular benefits that these technologies can afford individuals with cognitive disabilities. The part that follows identifies the following three reasons that people with cognitive disabilities have not adopted ICT at the same rate as Americans without disabilities: (1) the failure of many technologies to be accessible to people with cognitive disabilities; (2) the lack of effective outreach to people with cognitive disabilities about the availability of accessible features and practical uses of those features, which has led to misconceptions about ICT’s relevance to this population; and (3) the tendency of people with cognitive disabilities to have lower incomes and therefore be less able to afford certain technology.

With this White Paper, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau recommends several solutions and adaptive tools to address each of these barriers to access and adoption. The paper concludes by clarifying the legal bases underlying the rights to ICT access by people with cognitive disabilities.

Remarks of Chairman Wheeler at Coleman Institute conference on Cognitive Disabilities and Technology

I’d like to use my remarks to bring you up to speed on what we’re doing at the Federal Communications Commission to address the challenges of Americans with cognitive disabilities.

We are at a time when digital technology – Internet Protocol, or “IP” technology – offers the greatest opportunity in history to use technology to attack challenges that have affected individuals since the beginning of time – including the 30 million Americans with cognitive disabilities. We are at an historical juncture. If we don’t do everything possible to harness this marvelous new technology revolution to attack the challenges of individuals with disabilities, then shame on us. One of the most important things that needs to happen is that accessibility needs to be baked into the development of mainstream consumer electronics and services. I said it before, but it bears repeating, access to the wonders of technology must be a forethought, not an afterthought. The FCC’s Disability Rights Office has also taken an in-depth look at communications technologies for people with cognitive disabilities, noting accessibility barriers and delineating steps we can take to ensure that our policies eliminate them. Today, I am proud to announce the release of the Commission’s very first White Paper on cognitive disabilities which discusses these issues and presents solutions for accessible information and communication technologies. The paper identifies three primary barriers. First, the lack of accessibility; and second, economic barriers, resulting from the lower incomes that are prevalent in this population. But – and I’m sure this is no surprise to you – we found something else that appears to be preventing the full utilization of emerging communications technologies. That is the lack of outreach to people with cognitive disabilities and their support networks about both their rights to accessible technologies and the availability of some communications technologies that can already improve their daily lives in significant ways...So here’s the bottom line. This is our time to make a difference.

Set Top Box Endgame

Since the set top box deliberations presumably will continue in coming weeks, it seems appropriate and necessary to outline the problem areas I see preventing a conclusion:

Federal Communications Commission Control of the Model License and API: Some have proposed replacing provisions in earlier versions that provided explicit FCC review and approval roles with active FCC monitoring and threats of future action if progress is deemed unsatisfactory.
The Myth of Universal Search: One of the benefits of the item touted by proponents is that it will enable a competitive market in so-called “universal” or “integrated” search apps.
Questionable Feasibility: A key component of this item is a requirement that every multichannel video programming distributor with over 400,000 subscribers develop and support a native app for every widely deployed operating system.
Opening the Door to the App Tax: Today, many of the widely deployed platforms usually receive an upfront fee or cut of revenues from software developers to have their apps made available on these very popular platforms.
Competition from Pirated Content: Programmers and MVPDs have registered valid concerns that the third party integrated search engines contemplated by the item would result in pirated content being displayed in search results alongside legitimate MVPD content.
Substantively, the only way to fix the item is to address the key problems and flaws identified above. Only by doing so would a true app-centric approach be workable for most of the affected companies. More importantly, it’s the only way to get a resolution that would benefit consumers by eliminating the set top box altogether for those interested.

Lifeline Receives OMB Blessing, Effective Dates

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved, for a period of three years, the information collection requirements associated with certain of the provision of the rules adopted as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Order on Reconsideration, and Further Report and Order (Lifeline Third Reform Order).

  • The rule amendments to 47 CFR 54.202(a)(6), (d), and (e), and 54.205(c) published at 81 FR 33025, May 24, 2016, will become effective October 3, 2016.
  • The rule amendments to 47 CFR 54.101, 54.401(a)(2), (b), (c), (f), 54.403(a), 54.405(e)(1), (e)(3) through (e)(5), 54.407(a), (c)(2), (d), 54.408, 54.409(a)(2), 54.410(b) through (e), (g) through (h), 54.411, 54.416(a)(3), 54.420(b), and 54.422(b)(3) will become effective December 2, 2016.
  • The rule amendments to 47 CFR 54.410(f) will become effective January 1, 2017.
  • The rule amendments to 47 CFR 54.400(l) are applicable October 3, 2016.
  • The rule amendments to 47 CFR 54.400(f), (j), and (m) through (o) are applicable December 2, 2016.

Mobility Fund II: Improving the Data We Use to Identify & Close Mobile Coverage Gaps

The Universal Service Fund/ Intercarrier Compensation Transformation Order set the course for the comprehensive modernization of universal service for the 21st century. In so doing, the Federal Communications Commission set an ambitious goal of universal broadband and advanced mobile coverage. As part of the Connect America Fund, the FCC created the Mobility Fund, a universal service support mechanism dedicated exclusively to mobile services.

Phase I of the Mobility Fund provided one-time support to accelerate our nation's ongoing efforts to close gaps in mobile wireless service. In order for the Mobility Fund to improve coverage in these areas for current-generation or better mobile voice and broadband services, the FCC needs detailed coverage data both to identify areas that lack mobile voice and broadband service and to avoid spending limited resources on support in areas where an unsubsidized provider is already offering service. Today, we are excited to announce improved analysis of coverage data, giving the FCC the ability to take the next steps toward closing the coverage gap in rural America through Mobility Fund Phase II. This is due, in large part, to our access to more reliable data from provider-filed Forms 477. Twice a year, mobile broadband and voice providers must submit shapefiles showing their network coverage areas and certify the accuracy of their submissions. These shapefiles depict the areas where providers have reported that consumers should expect the minimum speeds associated with 4G LTE or other network technologies. There is no better mobile coverage data available today.

This new and improved data is a major step forward over the data analyzed in the Mobility Fund Phase I auction, called the “centroid method.”

FCC Provides Guidance Regarding Designation as a Lifeline Broadband Provider and Lifeline Broadband Minimum Service Standards

In this Public Notice, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau provides guidance to entities seeking designation as Lifeline Broadband Providers for the purpose of receiving reimbursement through the Lifeline program for qualifying broadband Internet access service (BIAS) provided to eligible low-income consumers.

The Bureau also provides additional guidance regarding the implementation of the FCC’s minimum service standards for Lifeline-supported BIAS, which is applicable to Lifeline Broadband Providers (LBPs) and also other eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) seeking Lifeline reimbursement for BIAS provided to qualifying low-income consumers. LBPs will be designated by the Wireline Competition Bureau, and may qualify for a streamlined designation process, designed to encourage broader provider participation and competition in the program while protecting consumers and the integrity of the Universal Service Fund (Fund). All petitions for LBP designation must be sent to the Bureau.

FCC Releases Data on Mobile Broadband Deployment as of December 31, 2015 Collected Through FCC Form 477

The Federal Communications Commission released data on mobile broadband deployment as of December 31, 2015. These data were collected through FCC Form 477 and are available on the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Data – FCC Form 477. This marks the FCC’s second release of mobile broadband deployment data collected through Form 477. On November 10, 2015, the FCC released mobile broadband deployment data as of December 31, 2014. Coverage area maps showing mobile broadband network deployment for each combination of provider and network technology are also available for download. These data are available in shapefiles, a file format used to store, depict, and analyze geospatial data.

FCC Seeks Comment on Post-Incentive Auction Transition Scheduling Plan

The Federal Communications Commission delegated authority to its Media Bureau to establish construction deadlines within the 39-month post-auction transition period for television stations that are assigned to new channels in the incentive auction repacking process. Pursuant to the FCC’s direction, the Bureau, in consultation with the Incentive Auction Task Force (IATF), the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB), and the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET), is developing a plan for a “phased” transition schedule. This Public Notice invites comment on the proposed plan.

Comments are due Oct 31; reply comments are due Nov 15.

[MB Docket No. 16-306 GN Docket No. 12-268]