Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission leadership recently indicated that we will issue final rules for a new mobile-only universal service subsidy program by the end of 2016. While I remain greatly skeptical about the timing and value of doing so, given our experiences and the changes that have occurred over the past five years, it seems reasonable that if we are going to have this fund it must be structured and operated far better than today’s wireless universal service fund (USF) spending. We owe it to those Americans that could benefit from a functionally-sound program and, more importantly, to those consumers and businesses that pay for our universal service programs.
Since it appears that the purpose and structure of the program are still up for discussion and debate, I am putting forth some key elements that will guide my review of any reform. Without addressing most, if not all, of these points, it is hard to see how a unanimous, bipartisan vote can be achieved:
- Prohibit Overlap & Target Support – It makes no sense to subsidize a wireless carrier in an area that has another unsubsidized competitor.
- Subsidize Only One Carrier – Assuming we can get funding targeted to where it is needed, we should not fund multiple carriers to serve the same area.
- Phase Out Current Support – Some existing recipients of funds under the current wireless program argue that without continued subsidies, they may have to turn off certain unprofitable towers. This has been labelled the “Rusty Tower” problem. Much of this territory, however, is already covered by multiple 4G carriers.
- Populations, Not Roads – In determining areas that remain unserved, the Commission has traditionally targeted population areas. This makes complete sense as we are trying to serve where people actually live, work and function. The alternative discussed of funding road areas leads to huge outlays for tiny portions of mainly unused roads and represents an inefficient use of funds. In the end, this may mean that not every single square inch of America receives wireless signals.
- Providers Must Offer Broadband – Currently, wireless carriers receiving existing support under the old program have few real service obligations. This is no longer tolerable. Every USF program that has been reformed recently has installed requirements for subsidy recipients to offer broadband of certain capabilities. Wireless carriers under a Mobility Fund Phase II should be no different.
- Finish Remote Areas Fund (RAF) – I would prefer to address the RAF in conjunction with creating the Mobility Fund Phase II. If that isn’t in the cards, the Commission needs to at least consider interaction between RAF and Mobility Fund Phase II when adopting Mobility Fund Phase II rules.
The Federal Communications Commission released an Order giving final approval to a recommendation that Telcordia Technologies serve as the nation’s next Local Number Portability Administrator, or LNPA. The LNPA oversees the critical system that allows consumers and businesses to keep their phone numbers when they switch providers, promoting choice and competition. Acting on the recommendation of its numbering advisory committee, the North American Numbering Council, the Commission found that Telcordia can meet the strict conditions set by the FCC to ensure reliability, security, and competitive neutrality of the numbering system.
Specifically, the FCC found that:
The LNPA contract contains terms and conditions to ensure that effective public safety services and law enforcement and national security operations are supported.
The terms and conditions of the LNPA contract ensure that the Government’s interests are protected by a rigorous audit program that monitors for and ensures compliance, backstopped by robust enforcement tools, throughout the term of the contract.
Telcordia has submitted a Code of Conduct and Voting Trust Agreement ensuring that Telcordia will be an impartial LNPA.
Telcordia has effectively engaged in post-selection risk reduction activities to address the evolving cybersecurity threat environment.
In regard to the Federal Communications Commission’s expectations that carriers respond to consumers’ blocking requests, I have sent letters to the CEOs of major wireless and wireline phone companies calling on them to offer call-blocking services to their customers now – at no cost to you. Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive. I have also sent letters to intermediary carriers that connect robocallers to the consumer's phone company, reminding them of their responsibility to help facilitate the offering of blocking technologies.
I am also calling on the carriers and standards groups to accelerate the development and deployment of technical standards that would prevent spoofing of caller ID and thus make blocking technologies more effective, as was done in the battle against spam years ago. All of these companies have been asked to respond within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues. Here’s the bottom line: Robocalls are currently the number one complaint the FCC receives from consumers. Whenever and wherever Congress and the courts give us the authority, the Commission will push hard for strong, pro-consumer limits to robocalls and other unwanted calls.
On August 2, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect2Health Task Force (C2H) will unveil a new mapping tool in support of its efforts to further chart the broadband future of healthcare. The Mapping Broadband Health in America tool enables more efficient, data-driven decision making at the intersection of broadband and health and promotes stakeholder collaboration. By allowing users to ask and answer questions about broadband and health at the county and census block levels, the tool provides valuable data and insights to drive broadband health policies and connected health solutions for this critical space. Recognizing that technology innovations in clinical practice and care delivery are fundamentally changing the face of health care, C2H has been exploring and analyzing the intersection of broadband, advanced technology, and health.
This mapping tool builds on the group’s work and reflects the overarching vision of the Task Force for leveraging broadband in health: “Everyone connected to the people, services, and information they need to get well and stay healthy.”
Chairman Wheeler Appoints Chair and Vice Chair to World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee
As part of its preparations for the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) next World Radiocommunication Conference scheduled to convene in 2019, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the appointment of Thomas C. Power as Chair and Christopher J. Murphy as Vice Chair of the FCC’s Advisory Committee for the World Radiocommunication Conference for 2019 (WRC-19). The Committee will be tasked with providing advice, technical support, and recommended proposals on matters relating to the WRC-19.
Thomas C. Power is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of CTIA. Before joining CTIA, Power served as the US Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Telecommunications in the White House Office of Science and Technology Office. Previously, Power served as Chief of Staff for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, US Department of Commerce and as Senior Legal Adviser to FCC Chairman William Kennard, where he advised the chairman on broadband, common carrier and mass media matters. Christopher J. Murphy is Associate General Counsel, Regulatory Affairs, at ViaSat, Inc., a US-based broadband services and technology provider. Before joining ViaSat, Murphy was Vice President, Government Affairs at Inmarsat. Prior to working in the private sector, Murphy worked for a decade at the FCC’s International Bureau, on broadcast and mobile satellite licensing issues, as well as on domestic and international spectrum and broadband policies.
With this inaugural Tribal Radio Summit, we are leveraging the expertise of the Federal Communications Commission and those among you who have been through the process. We are providing a forum to share insights about what it takes to start and run a radio station. The ultimate goal, is that each of you will be empowered by taking the information and tools you receive during this Summit, utilize them and join the ranks of local broadcasters in augmenting the diversity of voices accessible to your communities.
We also should be both cognizant and mindful that broadcast and broadband are intersecting in today’s communications marketplace - and each can and sometimes does drive the other. Vertical real-estate for a broadcast facility can be leveraged to deploy other wireless services including broadband. Existing fiber loops can be harnessed to provide broadcast relays between studios and towers. And existing tower assets for wireless services can do double duty to house a broadcast transmitter. Each Tribe is different and therefore each has to determine the path that is best, based on its particular circumstances and community needs. I encourage you to enlist the FCC, through the Office of Native Affairs and Policy, as a resource in doing so. The Tribal Priority is just one example of an FCC platform aimed at implementing our Tribal Policy Statement. Not just today and tomorrow, but going forward, our experts, our tools, and our resources are designed to collaborate with you on new radio services and to facilitate increased use of the Priority
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the departure of Jon Sallet as the FCC General Counsel and his intention to appoint Howard Symons as the next General Counsel. Sallet will become the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Litigation in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. In his new position as FCC General Counsel, Symons will lead the office that serves as the principal legal advisory office to the Commission as a whole.
Prior to joining the Commission, Sallet was been a partner in three law firms, served as chief policy counsel for MCI Telecommunications (later MCI WorldCom), and served as Director of the Office of Policy & Strategic Planning for the Department of Commerce. He was a law clerk to the Honorable Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and the Honorable Edward A. Tamm of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Symons has been working in telecommunications in both the public and private sectors for more than 30 years. Before his appointment to the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force in January 2014, he was the chair of the communications practice at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. and served as senior counsel to the Subcommittee on Telecommunications in the US House of Representatives. He graduated from Yale University and earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.
This Public Notice is to announce that Commissioner Mignon Clyburn of the Federal Communications Commission will conclude her #ConnectingCommunities tour on October 19, 2016, with a Policy Forum in the Washington (DC) area. Policy Forum Topics include:
Bridging the Affordability Gap
What is 5G?
Combating Inequality in the Communications Sector
Health Care: An Unfinished Chapter of the National Broadband Plan
The Future of Viewpoint Diversity
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler sent letters to 25 Members of Congress on July 11, 2016, responding to their letter expressing concerns with the decision to limit the role of states in preventing waste, fraud and abuse within the Lifeline program.
The Members asserted it could be more efficient and cost effective to allow states to continue serving as the primary verifiers of applicant eligibility and the FCC should focus on working with the states to ensure they have the information needed to perform checks of eligibility. Chairman Wheeler said the Lifeline Order will allow states to continue to play an important role, and said states maintain their authority to designate Lifeline voice and high-cost ETCs within the state.
Federal Communications Commission Tom Chairman Wheeler sent letters to 20 US House members from New York on July 11, 2016, in response to their May 18, 2016 letter, which supported the adoption of Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II auction rules that would ensure CAF funds originally allocated to New York are not diverted to other regions.
Chairman Wheeler said among the issues on which the FCC sought comment in the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are ways the FCC can structure the CAF II auction to ensure an equitable distribution of funds to states like New York, where the price cap carrier declined to accept significant amounts of USF support.