Federal Communications Commission

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda For June Open Meeting

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the following items will be on the tentative agenda for the next open meeting scheduled for June 13, 2014.
Technology Transitions Presentation: The Commission will hear a presentation with an update on the efforts to transition circuit-switched networks to Internet Protocol (IP) networks. The presentation will include a status report on the voluntary experiments proposed by AT&T designed to assess how the transition to IP networks affects users.
Expanding Community Access to Radio: The Commission will hear a presentation with an update on the continuing efforts to launch new and diverse voices to the American public via increased access to Low Power FM radio stations

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Memorial Day weekend also marks the 200th year anniversary of the first official telegraphic message sent over a long distance.

On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse famously telegraphed, “What hath God wrought!” from Washington, DC, to Baltimore, the first official telegraphic message sent over of a long distance. Coincidentally, 18 years later to the day, Abraham Lincoln would send nine telegraph messages to Union generals, becoming the first President to regularly use electronic communications. Eighty years ago, Congress passed a law largely to deal with the network revolution Morse unleashed -- the Communications Act of 1934, which established the FCC.

Fast forward to today, and the Commission is grappling with the transition to the next network revolution -- the digital revolution that is being fueled by ubiquitous high-speed connectivity and increasingly powerful computing devices. June’s open Commission meeting will be highlighted by an update on our efforts to facilitate the transition from the circuit-switched networks of Alexander Graham Bell to a world with fiber, cable and wireless Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

Soon, the Commission will receive a status report on proposed experiments and how best to deploy next-generation networks, while preserving enduring values like universal access, competition and consumer protection. The Commission will also hear a presentation on progress made in processing Low Power FM applications from the October 2013 window.

Remarks of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai at PCIA's 2014 Wireless Infrastructure Show

The mobile experience itself will change in a big way. Consumers will use the airwaves almost as seamlessly as they breathe the air. Speeds and capacities are going to have to increase significantly to meet these demands.

That’s where infrastructure comes in. Carriers are upgrading their networks to support the latest 4G technologies. They’re looking to add capacity by densifying their networks and deploying a variety of small-scale technologies, including microcells, picocells, and distributed antenna systems (or DAS).

What’s holding us back? As you know all too well, regulations can make it tough to deploy infrastructure -- tougher than being a boy named Sue. Byzantine state and local rules often make it impossible to make even minor modifications to wireless facilities. In some cases, municipalities are applying a one-size-fits-all review process. That’s why one of my priorities since I joined the FCC has been removing barriers to infrastructure investment.

So where can we start? First, I propose we make it easier to deploy small cells and DAS. We should modernize our rules and exempt DAS from our environmental processing requirements, except for those involving RF emissions. Given their size and appearance, I believe that DAS meet this standard.

Second, I propose to make clear that local moratoriums on the approval of new wireless infrastructure violate section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act. At a minimum, the FCC should make it clear that a moratorium is not a loophole that localities can sneak through to avoid the limits of section 332(c)(7).

Third, I call on the FCC to build on its wireless facilities “shot clock”3 to further reduce delays and ease the construction of new networks. The FCC needs to bring down the gavel if a local government does not act on a wireless facilities application by the end of our shot clock deadlines. Similarly, we should clarify that our shot clock does apply to DAS.

In my view, the law is clear: Denial of eligible requests is not an option. Establishing a deemed-grant remedy with a relatively short fuse -- say, 30 days -- should be effective at keeping everyone on track.

How Older Americans Can Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Stay Connected

Why are many older Americans still hesitant to buy mobile phones, tablets or other devices, access the Internet or become broadband adopters?

According to recent studies, many seniors say they shy away from using new devices because they are not sure how to use them or have trouble seeing the display, using the touch screens, hearing the prompts or learning the appropriate commands. Some are afraid to ask for help or simply don’t know where to get the help they need.

A recent Pew study shows 77 percent of seniors are willing to learn how to use tablets and smartphones, but indicated they would need some assistance. To raise awareness of the benefits of broadband-enabled communications technology and to help facilitate its use, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau is hosting a special event May 22, 2014, in recognition of Older Americans Month. Presentations and demonstrations will show older Americans, their families and caregivers how they can Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Stay Connected.

The FCC event will highlight new programs, phone apps, government websites, and discuss how to harness these new resources to maximize access and facilitate healthy, connected living from home. The program will feature consumer information about: staying safe online, text alerts, communicating during emergencies, technologies for people with disabilities, aging in place, telemedicine, digital literacy, and remote access to loved ones and health care providers.

[Coho is in the FCC’s Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division]

FCC Cites California Online Retailer for Importing And Marketing Illegal Smartphones

The Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau has cited Panasystem, a California-based online electronics retailer, for importing and marketing counterfeit smartphones marked with unauthorized or invalid labels falsely indicating that the devices were certified by the FCC.

“We will not tolerate the importation and marketing of counterfeit devices,” said Travis LeBlanc, Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. “The trafficking of these devices not only robs the intellectual property of legitimate manufacturers, it harms consumers by failing to provide them with safe and certified smartphones that comply with the FCC’s equipment authorization process.”

The FCC investigation identified the smartphones imported by Panasystem as counterfeit Samsung models “Galaxy S Duos” and “Galaxy Ace.” Although these devices were labeled with seemingly-valid Samsung FCC Identifiers, the investigation showed that Samsung neither manufactured the devices nor authorized the FCC Identifier labels.

The investigation also revealed that another set of smartphones imported by Panasystem contained counterfeit BlackBerry model 9790 devices. These smartphones were labeled with invalid FCC Identifiers, which rendered them illegal for sale in the United States.

Sprint To Pay $7.5 Million For Unwanted Marketing Calls And Texts

Sprint will pay $7.5 million to resolve a Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau investigation of the mobile wireless company’s failure to honor consumer requests to opt out of phone and text marketing communications. This represents the largest Do-Not-Call settlement that the FCC has ever reached.

In addition to the $7.5 million payment, Sprint will implement a two-year plan to ensure compliance with FCC requirements designed to protect consumer privacy and prevent consumers from receiving unwanted telemarketing calls. This follows a 2011 settlement with Sprint arising from complaints that Sprint made telemarketing calls to consumers who had requested to be placed on the company’s Do-Not-Call list. In its consent decree with the Enforcement Bureau, Sprint has agreed to:

  • Make a payment of $7.5 million to the U.S. Treasury;
  • Develop and put into action a robust compliance plan designed, among other things, to help ensure future compliance with the FCC’s rules requiring companies to maintain internal Do-Not-Call lists and honor consumers’ requests;
  • Develop operating procedures and policies specifically designed to ensure that Sprint’s operations comply with all company-specific Do-Not-Call rules;
  • Designate a senior corporate manager as a Compliance Officer to ensure that Sprint complies with the terms and conditions of the compliance plan and the consent decree;
  • Implement a training program to ensure that Sprint employees and contractors are properly trained how to record consumers’ Do-Not-Call requests so that the company removes their names and numbers from marketing lists;
  • Report to the FCC any noncompliance with respect to consumers’ Do-Not-Call requests; and
  • File with the FCC an initial compliance report within 90 days and annual reports for two years.

FCC Announces Inquiry Into Washington State 911 Outage

On April 9-10, 2014, an extensive 911 outage occurred, centered in Washington State, but also affecting large areas of Oregon and portions of California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Press reports and preliminary data submitted to the Federal Communications Commission’s Network Outage Reporting System (NORS) indicate that in Washington alone, over 4,500 911 calls to public safety answering points (“PSAPs” or 911 call centers) did not get through during a six-hour period beginning just before midnight on April 9, 2014.1

Given the large area impacted by this outage, the interdependent communications infrastructure spread across multiple states and providers, and the critical importance of dependable and resilient 911 service throughout the United States, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is examining the causes, effects, and implications of this outage.

To ensure that the Commission receives all relevant information to permit a thorough and accurate analysis, the Bureau has opened a public docket and invites interested parties to provide information concerning the causes, effects, and implications of the outage.

Workshop On The Future Of Broadband Regulation At FCC

The Institute for Information Policy (IIP) of Pennsylvania State University and the Federal Communications Commission are co-sponsoring a by-invitation workshop on the Future of Broadband Regulation, to be held at FCC headquarters on May 29-30, 2014.

IIP organized the workshop and selected (via a public Call for Papers) the academic and government experts who will present research “work-in-progress” to their fellow participants for discussion and critique. Revised and completed papers may be submitted for publication to the Journal of Information Policy.

The workshop will open with a public plenary session in the FCC Meeting Room from 8:45-10:00 AM on May 29. Senior FCC management and other representatives will review some of the policy challenges that the transition to a ubiquitous IP-based broadband network poses.

The workshop will afford FCC staff an opportunity to learn about current academic research and to highlight for the academics issues and questions that might be suitable for further research. The workshop paper presentations will be made in a small-group format.

FCC Announces Kim Hart As Press Secretary To Chairman Tom Wheeler

The Federal Communications Commission announced the appointment of Kim Hart as Press Secretary to Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Hart will serve as Commission Spokeswoman in FCC’s Office of Media Relations, led by Communications Director Shannon Gilson.

Kim Hart previously served as Director of Corporate Communications at Neustar, a Virginia-based information services and analytics company. Before joining Neustar in 2012, Kim was Politico’s Senior Technology Reporter, focusing on policy issues affecting the technology and telecommunications industries.

At Politico, she helped launch the Morning Tech daily newsletter and Politico Pro, the publication’s subscription news service. Previously, she launched and wrote the Hillicon Valley blog for The Hill and covered technology as a business reporter and columnist The Washington Post.

She studied journalism and public relations at the University of Florida and received a master’s degree in public affairs journalism from the University of Maryland. She has taught journalism classes at Georgetown University and George Washington University.

FCC Confirms May 15 Meeting Agenda; Allows Network Neutrality Debate to Continue

The Federal Communications Commission confirmed the agenda for its May 15 open meeting.

The FCC will consider:

  • A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing the DC Circuit Court of Appeals’ remand of portions of the Commission’s 2010 Open Internet Order and proposing enforceable rules to protect and promote the open Internet. The Federal Communications Commission also determined that strict enforcement of the Sunshine Period prohibition on comment would place an unnecessarily restrictive burden on the public, who should have full opportunity to express their views. Therefore, the Commission is waiving the Sunshine Period prohibition until 11:59 pm on May 14, 2014 with respect to this proceeding.
  • A Report and Order that provides a limited expansion to the class of wireless microphone users eligible for a license.
  • A Report and Order that adopts key policies and rules for the broadcast television spectrum incentive auction, laying the groundwork for an unprecedented, market-driven process for repurposing spectrum for mobile broadband use, and promoting competition and innovation.
  • A Report and Order that modifies the Commission’s policies and adopts rules regarding the aggregation of spectrum for mobile wireless services through initial licensing and secondary market transactions to preserve and promote competition.