Federal Communications Commission
E-rate Commits Over $450 Million for Broadband in Schools and Libraries in First Wave of Funding for 2014
A record level of early financial support for broadband in schools and libraries has been approved by the E-rate program, the Federal Communications Commission’s program for supporting communications services in these institutions.
Reflecting a dedicated effort by the FCC to get critical funding for broadband to schools and libraries as quickly as possible, the $450 million in funding commitments for broadband is six times the amount approved at this time in 2013 by USAC, the program administrator.
Including other communications services, USAC committed a total of $607 million in support in the first wave of funding for 2014.
The Federal Communications Commission plans to fine Dialing Services $2,944,000 for allegedly making numerous illegal “robocalls” to mobile phones.
These robocalls contained artificial or prerecorded voice messages on behalf of political campaigns and candidates. The Commission had previously cited Dialing Services for making more than 4.7 million robocalls to mobile phones without consumer permission during the 2012 election cycle.
Dialing Services of Roswell (NM) operates a website that offers robocalling services to third-party “clients,” including political candidates. These clients pay Dialing Services to make calls that deliver an artificial or prerecorded voice message to telephone numbers of the clients’ choosing. The company advertises that through its services, its clients can “Reach thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers with your personal message.”
I want to discuss efforts at the Federal Communications Commission that involve libraries. Specifically, I want to talk about our efforts to reboot, reinvigorate, and recharge E-Rate -- or what I like to call E-Rate 2.0. And before I finish, I want to talk about another hot topic before the FCC -- our efforts on network neutrality.
The E-Rate program, as some of you may know, is the nation’s largest educational technology program -- and it’s run by the FCC. E-Rate helps connect all of our schools and libraries to modern communications and the Internet. Our records suggest that 80 percent of schools and libraries believe their broadband connections do not meet their current needs. Eighty percent! So let’s be honest. Those needs are only going to grow.
Nationwide, in nearly two-thirds of communities, libraries are the only place people can access the Internet for free. Libraries have reported to the FCC that every year they see more and more requests to use public access computers and get online. Moreover, more and more information resources are headed to libraries in digital format, putting more pressure than ever before on bandwidth. Plus, for those who lack access to broadband at home, libraries are a lifeline. Because access to broadband is access to opportunity.
Access to broadband in libraries means access to jobs. Consider this -- 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies now require those seeking jobs to apply online. Access to broadband in libraries means access to education. Access to broadband in libraries also means access to information -- for all.
But if we want to keep up and make sure our libraries have the bandwidth necessary to support this opportunity, we need a revitalized E-Rate. We need E-Rate 2.0. There are three essential elements of E-Rate reform: Speed, Simplify, and Spending Smart.
Now I want to end by briefly talking about something else that is before the FCC -- network neutrality. I have real concerns about FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposal on network neutrality -- which is before the agency right now. His proposal has unleashed a torrent of public response.
Tens of thousands of e-mails, hundreds of calls, commentary all across the Internet. We need to respect that input and we need time for that input. So while I recognize the urgency to move ahead and develop rules with dispatch, I think the greater urgency comes in giving the American public opportunity to speak right now, before we head down this road.
For this reason, I think we should delay our consideration of his rules by a least a month. I believe that rushing headlong into a rulemaking fails to respect the public response to his proposal.
We had an “all-hands” meeting of Federal Communications Commission staff to talk about the agency’s priorities and to provide an update on the Commission’s recent activities.
But the most important message I wanted to convey to FCC staff at this meeting was “thank you.” The public servants of the FCC -- and across government at all levels -- work every day on behalf of the American people with little or no fanfare.
The week is dedicated to making sure public servants across the country get the recognition they deserve. That’s because this is Public Service Recognition Week -- an annual celebration of the men and women who serve the United States as federal, state, county and local government employees.
The E-Rate program, and our work to reform and modernize it, is important.
Until 2019, the E-Rate program will collect and distribute over $12 billion to fund information technology in our nation’s schools and libraries. That’s real money -- $3 billion more than we committed to the Connect America Fund -- and it’s a real chance for us to make a difference.
The Federal Communications Commission needs to seize this opportunity for the kids of the 21st century. We should not settle for the existing system and just tinker around the edges -- we need real reform.
We need a student-centered E-Rate program that focuses on the needs of children. We need a program that replaces today’s complexity with simplicity, one that cuts red tape and makes it easier for schools and libraries to apply. We need a program that more fairly distributes E-Rate funds and puts small, rural schools and libraries on equal footing with their larger, more urban brethren. We need a program that promotes more careful spending, with additional transparency so that parents, educators, and the FCC can see how E-Rate funding is being spent.
Whether you call these reforms a student-centered E-Rate program, the ConnectED Initiative, E- Rate modernization, or E-Rate 2.0, the goal of meaningful change is shared by all schools and libraries, by service providers and equipment vendors, by Democrats and Republicans, by Commissioners and staff. The primary question at this point is how to achieve that goal. And that’s where you come in.
It is high time we give unlicensed spectrum -- airwaves open to all under technical rules -- its due.
Because it is an essential part of the wireless ecosystem, a critical part of wireless service, and an important input into the modern economy. In fact, the economic impact of unlicensed spectrum has been estimated at $140 billion annually. By any measure that is a lot.
So I think it is time for an unlicensed spectrum game plan. It should no longer be an afterthought in our spectrum policy. It deserves attention upfront, in policy prime time.
An unlicensed game plan takes high-band, mid-band, and low-band spectrum. High-band spectrum provides the large channels necessary for high-definition video at short distances—think streaming video from your laptop to your television. Mid-band spectrum sacrifices some of that throughput, but gives you further reach. Low-band spectrum can go far and wide, and as a result is ideal for larger-scale Wi-Fi deployments and machine-to-machine communications.
To build powerful wireless communications systems, you need a playbook that includes all three.
FCC Plans $3.9 Million Fine Against Colorado Company For Deceptively Switching Customers’ Services And Illegal Billing Practices
The Federal Communications Commission announces that it plans to fine Central Telecom Long Distance $3.9 million for allegedly deceiving consumers to switch their long distance service, billing customers for unauthorized charges, and failing to clearly and plainly describe charges on customers’ bills.
Many of these actions victimized elderly and disabled consumers.
The FCC found that telemarketers for Central Telecom, a Colorado Springs (CO) company, allegedly tricked consumers into believing that the telemarketers were calling on behalf of the consumers’ existing telephone companies, then changed the consumers’ preferred carriers without their authorization.
Many consumers stated in their complaints that they had never heard of Central or did not intend to sign up for its services. In many instances, Central and its representatives appear to have exploited elderly or disabled consumers’ obvious confusion and inability to understand the sales pitch they heard and the questions they were asked.
The FCC emphasized that this conduct was “particularly egregious,” and it noted that a sizable fine was warranted in part because of the “substantial harm” that Central caused to the public. One particular complaint was filed on behalf of a deceased elderly grandmother whom Central continued to bill for months after she died and even after her telephone was disconnected.
Broadcasters and the Federal Communications Commission should have a good relationship.
Unfortunately, the relationship between broadcasters and the FCC has become strained of late.
I wanted to discuss with you four areas where I think we can make things better: recognizing broadcasting’s value, treating broadcasters fairly in the upcoming incentive auction, revitalizing AM radio, and beginning to reform our media ownership rules.
FCC Announces Carry-Forward Of Unused Schools And Libraries Universal Service Funds For Funding Year 2014
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) submitted projections of demand and administrative expenses for the federal universal service fund for the second quarter of 2014.
According to USAC’s projections, $600 million in unused funds from previous funding years is available to carry forward to increase disbursements to schools and libraries via the E-rate program, more formally known as the schools and libraries universal service program.
On April 17, 2014, USAC submitted an estimate of demand for the E-rate program for Funding Year 2014 (July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015) of $4.825 billion, which includes estimated demand for priority one services (telecommunications, telecommunications services and Internet access) of $2.630 billion.
The Wireline Competition Bureau announces that $200 million in unused funds will be carried forward to ensure funding is available for all eligible priority one funding requests received from schools and libraries in Funding Year 2014 in excess of the annual cap.
We have circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to my fellow commissioners on the topic of the Open Internet.
There are two things that are important to understand. First, this is a Notice, which asks a number of questions and seeks input on the best way to protect and promote the Open Internet. Second, all options are on the table. Our goal is to put into place real protections for consumers, innovators and entrepreneurs that until now have been only a matter of debate and litigation.
I believe this process will put us on track to quickly get to legally enforceable Open Internet rules. There has been a great deal of talk about how our following the court’s instruction to use a “commercially reasonable” test could result in a so-called “fast lane” and Internet “haves” and “have nots.” This misses the point that any new rule will assure an open pathway that is sufficiently robust to enable consumers to access the content, services and applications they demand and innovators and edge providers the ability to offer new products and services.
The focus of this proposal -- on which we are seeking comment -- is on maintaining a broadly available, fast and robust Internet as a platform for economic growth, innovation, competition, free expression, and broadband investment and deployment. We will follow the court’s blueprint for achieving this, and, I must warn you, will look skeptically on special exceptions.
If someone acts to divide the Internet between “haves” and “have-nots,” we will use every power at our disposal to stop it. I consider that to include Title II. Just because it is my strong belief that following the court’s roadmap will produce similar protections more quickly, does not mean I will hesitate to use Title II if warranted. And, in our Notice, we are asking for input as to whether this approach should be used.