Federal Communications Commission

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Announces Staff Changes

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the appointment of Holly Saurer as legal advisor, and the transition of Diane Cornell to a role in the FCC’s International Bureau. Starting July 13, Saurer will work primarily on international and consumer affairs issues.

Saurer served in various positions in the Media Bureau, including as associate bureau chief, senior legal advisor to the bureau chief and attorney-advisor with the bureau’s Policy Division. She has also served as an acting advisor for FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn. Prior to joining the Commission, Saurer worked at the Washington DC offices of Drinker Biddle & Reath and Miller & Van Eaton. Cornell will join the International Bureau where she will continue to advance the Commission’s international priorities, and will serve as special advisor to the Chairman. She has served as a key legal and policy advisor to the Chairman since he joined the Commission, with vital contributions made to process reform, international communications policy and consumer affairs.

Cornell has previously served as a legal advisor to three Commissioners; held leadership positions in the Wireless, International and Common Carrier Bureaus; and served as president of the Federal Communications Bar Association.

Modernizing the FCC's Geospatial Maps

Maps and geospatial analysis have become increasingly important as they allow the Federal Communications Commission to display information to the public in an interactive visual format. The FCC’s maps have become useful tools for conveying data in conjunction with Commission reports and public notices. The FCC’s maps site serves as a centralized hub for data visualizations and is one of the most highly trafficked parts of the Commission’s website.

The modernized look-and-feel of the new FCC’s maps site improves the user experience and provides better visual displays. Creating more design consistency across the maps we publish is one area we identified for improvement. To ensure uniform formats are used in all of our materials, we developed geospatial visualization design standards to maintain a consistent user experience across our maps and geospatial applications. These efforts directly align with the Commission’s goals of improving the usability and performance of our Information Technology systems while also making it easier for the public to access data. Recently, we moved the back-end infrastructure off of the existing legacy hardware and into a cloud-hosted environment. As a result of moving the maps site to a cloud-based platform, we’re able to provide several key benefits, including increased system stability and improved security.

The new cloud-based maps site expands on the existing features of the previous maps site with some significant improvements, including:

  • Enhanced display - Simplified page layout improves the usability of the site and the responsive design allows the site to adapt to various devices and screen resolutions.
  • Improved usability - New filter and search capabilities allow you to quickly find relevant content and identify related maps.
  • Greater reliability – Cloud-based platform provides greater reliability and improved security.
  • Streamlined publishing - Maps are now integrated with the FCC.gov Content Management System to maintain a common look-and-feel and support rapid deployment of visualizations.
  • Flexible inputs - Use of Open Geospatial Consortium standards enables the site to embed externally hosted content and easily adapt to new technologies.

Chairman Wheeler Responds to Letter from Lawmakers about Broadband Privacy NPRM

On May 25, seven Reps wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and the four other Commissioners to strongly urge the FCC to consider a "consistent Federal Trade Commission-type approach to protect consumer privacy that balances consumers' privacy expectations and avoids negative impacts on consumers."

On June 30, Chairman Wheeler responded by discussing the recent broadband privacy notice of proposed rulemaking. He wrote, "The Commission's NPRM proposes a path forward for broadband Internet access service towards final rules that will provide clear guidance to both internet service providers and their customers. The FTC's core privacy principles - transparency, choice, and security - are at the heart of the NPRM. And, with valuable input from concerned stakeholders like yourself, we will be able to provide consumers with protections that will consistently safeguard consumer data and bolster consumer confidence in their use of modem telecommunications networks."

Chairman Wheeler Responds to Letter from Rep Marchant Re: Lifeline Expansion

On March 30, Rep Kenny Marchant (R-TX) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler re: the March announcement to expand the Lifeline telephone subsidy to high-speed Internet access. Rep Marchant wrote, "Given the problems with fraud and cost increases involved in an earlier expansion to cell phone service, this new step risks wasting American consumers' money, and also remains legally tenuous."

On June 23, Chairman Wheeler replied by detailing the key programmatic reforms the Lifeline Order put in place, designed to "protect the integrity of the Lifeline program and build on the Commission's recent efforts to root our waste, fraud, and abuse in the program." To address Rep Marchant's concerns about the cost of the program, Chairman Wheeler detailed the budgeting mechanisms in the Order.

FCC Adds New Warning Codes To The Emergency Alert System

The Federal Communications Commission updated its rules so that Americans can receive more specific – and potentially life-saving – warnings through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) before extreme weather strikes.

The amended rules add three new “event codes” that can be used to warn the public about the storm surges and extreme winds that may accompany hurricanes and other severe weather events. The FCC has now added three additional codes – to signify an “Extreme Wind Warning,” “Storm Surge Watch,” and “Storm Surge Warning” – so that communities can receive more specific and relevant alerts during hurricanes or other severe weather. The updated rules require EAS equipment manufacturers to integrate the codes into new equipment and will also enable EAS participants to update their existing equipment in advance of next year’s (2017) Atlantic hurricane season.

Snapshot of Process Reform Ideas

In my two and a half years as a Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, I have tried to make productive suggestions to improve the internal workings of the Commission. These efforts have never been an attempt to undermine the authority of the Chairman or the ability of the Commission majority, whoever they may be on a particular issue, to get items completed in a timely manner. Instead, this entire effort is about improving the efficiency of the Commission and increasing fairness and transparency with regard to a process that is questionable in some instances and downright objectionable in others.

The chart below outlines the 24 reform proposals that I have suggested, to date, in various blogs and Congressional testimony. Those proposals that have been adopted in whole or in part – all three of them – are in yellow. In all fairness, item number 17, pertaining to improving the circulation process, was only proposed a few weeks ago. To the extent that the public or practitioners before the Commission have additional suggestions to improve the Commission’s workings, I would be pleased to review and consider supporting them. I plan to continue to call out for the need to improve the functionality of this Commission to ensure every sound idea is given due consideration, and will add to this list as the process issues pile up.

First Meeting of the World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee

The first meeting of the World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee will be held on August 2, 2016; at 11:00 am in the Federal Communications Commission Meeting Room. A draft agenda of the meeting is attached. The Advisory Committee’s objective is to provide the FCC with advice, technical support and recommended proposals for the WRC-19. At its initial meeting, the Advisory Committee will consider formation of its Informal Working Groups (IWGs), assignment of WRC-19 agenda items to the IWGs, scheduling and other organizational matters. This meeting is open to the public.

FCC Confirms Agenda for July 2016 Meeting

The Federal Communications Commission will hold an Open Meeting on the subjects listed below on Thursday, July 14, 2016:
Spectrum Frontiers: The Commission will consider a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would make spectrum in bands above 24 GHz available for flexible use wireless services, including for next-generation, or 5G, networks and technologies.
Advancing Technology Transitions: The Commission will consider a Declaratory Ruling, Second Report and Order, and Order on Reconsideration that adopts a framework to guide transitions to next-generation communications technologies while protecting the interests of consumers and competition.

FCC Commissioner Pai Sends Letters to State Commissioners

Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai sent letters to commissioners at Public Utility Commissions of Oregon, Texas, and California as well as the Vermont Public Service Department. The states each run their own Lifeline accountability databases. Commissioner Pai said he is seeking their aid in “combating the waste, fraud, and abuse that has riddled the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline program since wireless resellers began participating in this program.” He asks several questions about how the states run their databases. He asks for a reply by August 2, 2016.

FCC Seeks Comment On The Accessibility Of Communications Technologies

This Public Notice seeks comment on tentative findings for the 2014 Biennial Report to Congress on the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).

Public comment will assist the Federal Communications Commission in assessing the following: (1) the level of compliance with the CVAA’s mandates requiring telecommunications and advanced communications services and equipment to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; (2) the effect of related recordkeeping and enforcement obligations; and (3) the extent to which accessibility barriers still exist with respect to new communications technologies.

The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will submit the final Report to Congress by October 8, 2014. Interested parties may file comments on or before September 11, 2014.