Federal Communications Commission

Chairman Wheeler's Response to Senators Markey, Warren, Blumenthal and Reps. Eshoo and Doyle Regarding Business Data Services

On July 20, Sens Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Reps Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Michael Doyle (D-PA), wrote to federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to request that as the FCC completes its work on business data services reform that it also keeps in place an interim condition ensuring continued access to wholesale voice service.

On Sept 7, Chairman Wheeler responded by writing, "To provide greater certainty and clarity with respect to enterprise voice service, in August 2015 the Commission adopted the interim requirement that incumbent carriers seeking to discontinue legacy [time-division management] services and transition to an all-Internet Protocol environment must continue to provide commercial wholesale platform services at reasonably comparable rates, terms, and conditions. The Commission provided that this interim requirement will sunset when new business data services (BDS) rules and/or policies are effective. As you state and as the Commission recognized, BDS and wholesale voice are distinct services, but the Commission adopted this time limitation to provide a definitive point in the future at which it could reassess the efficacy and necessity of this interim requirement. The United States Telecom Association has challenged this interim requirement in court, and my staff is defending it vigorously. The Commission has an open rulemaking asking how we can best facilitate the continuation of commercial wholesale platform services used by competitive carriers for multilocation voice services. Staff is actively meeting with interested parties and reviewing submissions on this important issue."

Ending Cable Signal Leakage Rules for Fiber Builds

Are there ways to reduce burdens on small cable providers without undermining the Federal Communications Commission’s overall mission and requirements? These providers say: look into eliminating or modifying the cable signal leakage rules for those companies that have deployed fiber in a service area.

While it is easy to conclude that our rules are obsolete as they pertain to fiber networks, the harder step is actually fixing the situation. When these rules were adopted, a traditional cable system used coaxial cable to transmit radio frequency (RF) signals carrying content to residential and business consumers. If operated properly, such systems do not cause any interference to spectrum users, such as aeronautical and navigation users. However, RF can “leak” from a cable coaxial system for various reasons, including loose connections, damaged plant or cracked cables. As a way to prevent this from occurring, system operators are required under the Commission’s rules to conduct regular monitoring for signal leakage, maintain logs showing the date and location of any leak, and test annually to demonstrate that a systems cumulative signal leakage is below acceptable interference levels. I learned during my meeting with the small cable providers a while back that, to comply with the annual testing requirement, they rent a small plane and circle their territory with appropriate RF sensors to determine if there any leakage. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge expense ($5,000) but when you operate 15 small systems, it costs upwards of $100,000 adding in time and labor. And that’s money that can be used to curtail rate increases or expand the network’s reach to unserved homes.

Remarks of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, "A Digital Empowerment Agenda"

I believe everyone should have online opportunity. I know there’s virtually no limit to what Americans who are disconnected today could achieve tomorrow if they were participants in, rather than spectators of, the digital economy. Today, high-speed Internet access, or broadband, is critical to economic opportunity, job creation, and civic engagement. But there are too many parts of this country where broadband is unavailable or unaffordable. We need to close this digital divide.

1) Gigabit Opportunity Zones: For starters, we have to focus on bringing high-speed broadband to economically deprived areas. And to do that, we must recognize that deploying broadband isn’t easy. I am calling on Congress to create Gigabit Opportunity Zones. The concept is simple. Provide financial incentives for Internet service providers to deploy gigabit broadband services in low-income neighborhoods. Incentivize local governments to make it easy for Internet service providers (ISPs) to deploy these networks. And offer tax incentives for startups of all kinds in order to take advantage of these networks and create jobs in these areas.

2) Mobile Broadband for Rural America: Rural Americans deserve the same digital access as those living in more urban areas. That’s why I’m proposing a three-step plan to improve high-speed, mobile broadband throughout rural America.

3) Remove Regulatory Barriers to Broadband Deployment: There are some problems with broadband deployment throughout our nation. In particular, government at all levels too often makes the task harder than it has to be.

4) Promote Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Internet is a means to an end—the end being the countless online applications and opportunities that are transforming our lives. We all know about the innovation that happens on that broadband platform—after all, most of you are busy creating it! From ecommerce to connected health, consumers rely on Internet-based services in countless ways. How do we make sure that our policies promote Internet-based entrepreneurship?

Incentive Auction Second Stage: Same as the First? Not Exactly.

On September 13 at 10:00 AM ET bidding resumes in the Incentive Auction with the opening of Stage 2. We wanted to take a moment to preview what happens next and describe how this stage will be different from Stage 1. For Stage 2, the Auction System set the clearing target at 114 megahertz, the next-highest target that meets the Commission’s standards for setting a clearing target in a stage (explained in the Bidding Procedures Public Notice). Compared to the 126 megahertz clearing target, the 114 megahertz clearing target generally clears nine blocks of spectrum in each partial economic area (PEA) instead of 10 blocks and adds two additional channels to the TV band. Adding more channels to the TV band allows more stations to be repacked in their pre-auction band. Thus, some stations that were provisionally winning after Stage 1 will become “unfrozen” in Stage 2 and will be presented decreasing price offers during the bidding rounds. This process will result in lowering the overall costs of clearing spectrum for wireless use.

Proposed Fourth Quarter 2016 Universal Service Contribution Factor is 17.4 Percent

In this Public Notice, the Office of Managing Director (OMD) announces that the proposed universal service contribution factor for the fourth quarter of 2016 will be 0.174 or 17.4 percent. Contributions to the federal universal service support mechanisms are determined using a quarterly contribution factor calculated by the Federal Communications Commission (Commission). The Commission calculates the quarterly contribution factor based on the ratio of total projected quarterly costs of the universal service support mechanisms to contributors’ total projected collected end-user interstate and international telecommunications revenues, net of projected contributions. USAC submitted projected collected end-user telecommunications revenues for October through December 2016 based on information contained in the Fourth Quarter 2016 Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet (FCC Form 499-Q).

The amount is as follows: Total Projected Collected Interstate and International End-User Telecommunications Revenues for Fourth Quarter 2016: $14.215126 billion. To determine the quarterly contribution base, we decrease the fourth quarter 2016 estimate of projected collected interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues by the projected revenue requirement to account for circularity, and decrease the result by one percent to account for uncollectible contributions. Accordingly, the quarterly contribution base for the fourth quarter of 2016 is as follows: Adjusted Quarterly Contribution Base for Universal Service Support Mechanism Fourth Quarter 2016 Revenues - Projected Revenue Requirement - 1% ($14.218126 billion – $2.083590 billion) * 0.99 $12.013191 billion.

Modernizing the E-rate Program for Schools and Libraries

In this Order, the Wireline Competition Bureau adopts the proposals we made in the ESL Public Notice and releases the eligible services list (ESL) for funding year 2017 for the schools and libraries universal service support program (more commonly referred to as the E-rate program). We also authorize the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to open the annual application filing window no earlier than 60 days after release of this Order.

FCC Seeks USAC Board Nominations

The Federal Communications Commission seeks nominations for board member positions on the Board of Directions of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) for a three-year term:

  • Representative for incumbent local exchange carriers (Bell Operating Companies), (position currently held by Joel Lubin, Consultant, AT&T);
  • Representative for libraries that are eligible to receive discounts pursuant to section 54.501 of the Commission’s rules (position currently held by Robert Bocher, Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction);
  • Representative for state consumer advocates (position currently held by Wayne Jortner);
  • Representative for commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) providers (position currently held by Matt Gerst, Director for Regulatory Affairs, CTIA – The Wireless Association);
  • Representative for cable operators (position currently held by Jose Jimenez, Executive Director, Cox Communications, Inc.); and
  • Representative for schools that are eligible to receive discounts pursuant to section 54.501 of the Commission’s rules (position currently held by Dr. Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators).

All nominations must be filed with the Office of the Secretary by October 21, 2016.

Fact Sheet: Chairman Wheeler's Proposal to Increase Consumer Choice & Innovation in the Video Marketplace

Ninety-nine percent of pay-TV subscribers currently rent set-top boxes because there aren’t meaningful alternatives.Congress recognized the importance of a competitive marketplace and directed the Commission to adopt rules that will ensure consumers will be able to use the device they prefer for accessing programming they’ve paid for. The new rules, if adopted, simplify the Commission’s original proposal to finally provide consumers with choice in how they access pay-TV service while satisfying Congress’ mandate.

Following constructive engagement from a wide range of stakeholders, the proposed final rules will allow consumers to access their pay-TV content via free apps on a variety of devices so they no longer have to pay monthly rental fees, enable integrated search, and protect content and privacy. The Commission will vote on these simplified consumer-first, app-driven rules at its next open meeting on September 29, 2016. If adopted, the largest pay-TV providers, who serve 95% of pay-TV subscribers, will have two years to comply with the rules.

Tentative Agenda for September 2016 Open Meeting of the FCC

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the following items are tentatively on the agenda for the Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Thursday, September 29, 2016:

Improving Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The Commission will consider a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would leverage advancements in technology to improve wireless emergency alert content, delivery and testing, while seeking comment on further measures to ensure effective alerts. (PS Docket No. 15-91)

Review of Foreign Ownership Policies. The Commission will consider a Report and Order that extends to broadcast licensees the same streamlined rules and procedures that common carrier wireless licensees use to seek approval for foreign ownership, with appropriate broadcast-specific modifications. The item also establishes a framework for a publicly traded common carrier or broadcast licensee or controlling U.S. parent to ascertain its foreign ownership levels. (GN Docket No. 15-236)

Independent Programming: The Commission will consider a NPRM that proposes steps the Commission can take to promote the distribution of independent and diverse programming to consumers. (MB Docket No. 16-41)

Expanding Consumer Choice: The Commission will consider a Report and Order that modernizes the Commission’s rules to allow consumers to use a device of their choosing to access multichannel video programming instead of leasing devices from their cable or satellite providers. (MB Docket No. 16-42)

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel on SETDA Broadband Imperative and the Homework Gap

The Federal Communications Commission has taken action to address the Homework Gap, but we need to do more—and I believe that more takes place at the state and local level. We need to tap into the creative efforts to bridge the Homework Gap in communities across the country—and make sure that federal policy supports these efforts.

The State Education Technology Directors Association report calls attention to some of these local initiatives. As we wrestle with the new challenges of technology, access, and equity, local solutions deserve federal support. Cooperative policymaking between state and federal authorities is the way forward—just like it has always been the way to tackle our hardest and most intractable problems. By working together we can bridge the Homework Gap and close the cruelest part of the digital divide. And when we do we are going to be able to turn all of our students—all of our students—into not just digital consumers but digital creators. We are going to build a better education system, a stronger economy, and a brighter future.