Federal Communications Commission

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]

FCC Strengthens Wireless Emergency Alerts As A Public Safety Tool

The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to update and strengthen Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), a system that delivers critical warnings and information to Americans on their wireless phones. The updated rules are intended to promote the wider use and effectiveness of this lifesaving service, especially for state and local authorities to convey important information to their communities.

Since its launch in 2012, WEA has informed the public about severe weather, missing children, and other emergencies through alerts to their wireless phones. Now that stakeholders have four years’ experience with the service, and in light of its real-world use and technological advancements since the FCC adopted technical and procedural requirements for WEA in 2008, the agency has updated its rules. In a Report and Order adopted Sept 29, the FCC took action to improve WEA message content, help ensure that the messages reach only those people for whom an alert is relevant, and establish a WEA testing program that will improve the effectiveness of the system for public safety officials and the public.

The updated rules will:

  • Increase the maximum length of WEA messages (from 90 to 360 characters) for 4G LTE and future networks;
  • Require participating wireless providers to support inclusion of embedded phone numbers and URLs in all WEA alerts, including WEA AMBER alerts, which will enable the public to click to see a photo or to call authorities;
  • Require participating wireless providers to deliver the alerts to more granular geographic areas;
  • Create a new class of alerts (“Public Safety Messages”) to convey essential, recommended actions that can save lives or property (e.g. emergency shelter locations or a boil water order);
  • Require participating wireless providers to support transmission of Spanish-language alerts; and
  • Make it easier for state and local authorities to test WEA, train personnel, and raise public awareness about the service. Commissioner O’Rielly dissenting in part.

FCC Proposes Rules To Increase Availability Of Diverse And Independent Progamming To Consumers

The Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to foster consumer choice and access to diverse programming on television.

The proposed rules may prohibit the use of certain clauses in pay TV programming distribution contracts that impede carriage of independent and diverse programming. Specifically, the proposed rules would prevent pay TV providers from including so-called “unconditional” most favored nation (MFN) and “unreasonable” alternative distribution method (ADM) clauses in their contracts with independent programmers. An “unconditional” MFN clause entitles a pay TV provider to receive favorable contract terms that a programmer has given to another programming distributor, without requiring the pay TV provider to assume any corresponding obligations from the other distribution agreement. An ADM clause generally prohibits or limits a programmer from putting its programming on alternative video distribution platforms, such as online platforms. The FCC seeks comment on the specific kinds of ADM clauses that it should prohibit as unreasonable.

The proposed rules are a result of the input received from an inquiry the FCC opened into the state of diversity in the video programming market. The FCC held two workshops on the issue to examine the state of the video marketplace, challenges faced by distributors of video programming, and marketplace obstacles that affect the provision of independent and diverse programming to consumers.

Chairman Wheeler, Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel approving. Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly dissenting.

FCC Streamlines Foreign Ownership Rules and Procedures for Broadcast and Common Carrier Licenses

The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to extend 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 FCC also reformed the methodology for publicly traded broadcast and common carrier licensees and controlling U.S. parents to assess compliance with the statutory foreign ownership limits.

The Communications Act establishes a 25 percent benchmark for foreign investment in U.S.-organized entities that control a U.S. broadcast, common carrier, or aeronautical fixed or en route radio licensee. Licensees must obtain FCC approval before foreign ownership exceeds 25 percent. The substantive review by the FCC of proposed, aggregate foreign ownership above 25 percent will stay in place. As a result, the rules modernize the foreign ownership filing and review processes so they are better adapted to the current business environment.

The FCC adopted the rules on a 5-0 vote.

FCC Announces Reauthorization of its Intergovernmental Advisory Committee and Solicits Nominations for Membership on the Committee

The Federal Communications Commission announces the reauthorization of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (“IAC”) and solicits nominations for membership on the IAC.

The current term of the IAC expired on July 14, 2016. The term of operations for the reauthorized IAC will be limited to two years, with an option for reauthorization at the end of the two-year period, and will commence with its first meeting. Nominations for membership are due by December 5, 2016.

The mission of the IAC is to provide advice to the FCC on the many telecommunications issues affecting local, state and Tribal governments that are within the jurisdiction of the FCC. These issues can range from major FCC policy priorities such as broadband adoption and deployment, especially in unserved and underserved rural areas and Tribal lands, strengthening public safety communications infrastructure and emergency response capabilities, streamlining facilities siting, while respecting public rights-of-way, monitoring the transition from “legacy” telecommunications services to emerging wireline networks and wireless networks, and ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of the universal service programs.

FCC’s 19th Mobile Wireless Competition Report

This Nineteenth Mobile Wireless Competition Report analyzes competition across the entire mobile wireless marketplace, including key market segments such as spectrum and infrastructure. It provides an analysis of the overall competitive dynamics of the industry, describing the various operating entities and their relative positions using indices such as market share, subscribership (totals, additions, and churn), as well as various financial indicators. The Report then presents a broad overview of industry trends and developments in the mobile marketplace that have taken place since the Eighteenth Report. The Report then turns to an analysis of key inputs necessary for provision of mobile service, such as spectrum and network infrastructure.

Spectrum, in particular, is a critical input that wireless service providers need for the provision of mobile wireless services, and this Report examines the distribution of spectrum in the various bands. Next, the Report analyzes recent developments in the ways service providers compete for and attract subscribers through pricing innovations, such as the decreased reliance on traditional handset subsidies and term contracts. The Report then analyzes competitive rivalry in non-price factors, such as coverage, service quality, and speed. Finally, the Report considers developments in the downstream mobile wireless ecosystem as well as issues such as consumer access to information and intermodal developments.

Seattle's Best

After spending the past three days in Seattle meeting with the heads of both world-leading companies and start-ups, I’m more bullish than ever about America’s future. If there were a central theme to the trip it was unlocking the potential of the next-generation of wireless technology – 5G. At the annual meeting of the Competitive Carriers Association, I spoke with network operators – large and small – about the development and deployment of fiber-fast wireless connectivity. The convention floor was filled with displays of how high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency networks could drive economic growth, especially in rural America. In a separate visit to T-Mobile’s headquarters, I saw a demonstration of technology under development, including 5G technologies, and heard about the work they are pursuing to bring next-generation products to market.

Industry Makes Progress on Unlicensed LTE Coexistence

The Office of Engineering and Technology and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau have been closely monitoring industry efforts to ensure that new versions of LTE technology can co-exist with Wi-Fi and other unlicensed devices operating at 5 GHz. The Commission’s rules for unlicensed devices are designed to prevent harmful interference to authorized radio services through limits on transmitter power and spurious emissions. Industry has developed standards such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee within the framework of these rules, generally with the intention of ensuring cooperative sharing of the spectrum by unlicensed devices while recognizing that such devices are not protected from interference.

Remarks by Karen Peltz-Strauss on Accessibility and Inclusion, 2016 Trumpeter Awards

What does inclusion actually mean for people with disabilities? Communication services can open doors to education, information, jobs, commerce, entertainment, and government services. Being able to connect can break down not only physical, but attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities, promoting greater self-determination and integration into society. But this can only happen if these technologies are designed to be accessible. Now, clearly, technological advances have improved our lives – and dramatically so. But staying ahead of the technological curve becomes a challenge when new innovations for the general public don’t consider the needs of people with disabilities.

From the 1980s until my tenure at the Federal Communications Commission, I was fortunate to be part of a nationwide movement to end discrimination against people with disabilities, an effort that has been compared to the civil rights movements of the 60s and 70s. Our reward was a string of federal laws that require closed captioning, video description, access to mobile and video devices, and a host of other disability protections. Under Chairman Wheeler’s strong leadership, the FCC has implemented these mandates by, for example, adopting rules for high quality captions, text-to-911 access, hearing aid compatibility, and the distribution of free communications devices to low income people who are both deaf and blind. A debt of thanks is owed to the Chairman, the Commissioners, and the incredible teams of FCC employees who have been so dedicated in their commitment to developing these safeguards.

FCC Reaches $450,000 Settlement with AT&T for Unauthorized Wireless Operations

The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau has reached a $450,000 settlement with AT&T to resolve an investigation into whether AT&T operated fixed wireless stations without authorization or without filing required license modification notices. The investigation revealed that AT&T operated numerous common carrier fixed point-to-point microwave stations throughout the United States in ways that differed from the stations’ licenses for periods ranging from three and a half years to over four years.

The Enforcement Bureau began its investigation of AT&T in 2012. In August 2014, during the course of the investigation, AT&T reported to the Commission that it had discovered numerous inconsistencies between the licensed parameters and the constructed facilities of a large number of fixed microwave licenses that it acquired from 2009 through 2012. AT&T did not timely review the acquired licenses, which resulted in the unauthorized operation of many of the stations by its subsidiaries New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC and AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico, Inc. As a result, the Enforcement Bureau investigated the licensing history of approximately 250 AT&T stations to determine the extent of the unauthorized operations. In January 2015, the Commission adopted a Notice of Apparently Liability for Forfeiture to AT&T alleging violations that the company admitted to in today’s settlement. As part of today’s settlement agreement, AT&T has agreed to implement a compliance plan through which it will conduct timely reviews of wireless fixed microwave stations acquired in future transactions to ensure that the stations are operating in accordance with their licensed parameters, file periodic progress reports on its compliance efforts, and correct any noncompliance discovered during the review process within 60 days of its discovery.