Federal Communications Commission

Joint Statement Of Commissioners Ajit Pai And Michael O’Rielly On Three More TV Stations Going Dark Under The FCC’s New JSA Policy

As a result of the Federal Communications Commission’s crackdown, and after more than 58 years of providing service to Central Nebraska and Northern Kansas, KHAS in Hastings, Nebraska went dark on June 13.

That same day, KNDX in Bismarck, North Dakota and KXND in Minot, North Dakota also went off the air because of the Commission’s decision.

Before the Commission’s restriction on JSAs, agreements were in place to save these three stations: KHAS, an NBC-affiliate, was slated to be purchased by Excalibur Broadcasting; and, KNDX and KXND, FOX affiliates. These transactions, however, were blocked by the Commission’s new rules prohibiting the use of JSAs in these markets. So what has the Commission’s JSA crackdown yielded?

Gray Television’s KMOT is now serving as the NBC affiliate and FOX affiliate for Minot through its use of multicast channels, while KXND has gone out of business. And that is not all. Gray Television has also announced that three more stations -- KXJB in Fargo, North Dakota; KAQY in Monroe, Louisiana; and KJCT in Grand Junction, Colorado -- will soon go dark because of the Commission’s JSA restrictions. Their programming will be transferred to Gray stations in those markets.

As a result, Gray Television will earn a greater share of local advertising revenue in Hastings, Bismarck, Minot, Fargo, Monroe, and Grand Junction than would have been the case with the JSAs that were originally proposed. Are these the victories for competition that critics of sharing agreements were hoping to see? Or has the real goal all along just been to drive television stations off the air?

Office of Engineering and Technology Requests Comment on the Public Trial of Comsearch’s TV Bands Database System

The Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) is requesting comment on the 45-day public trial of Comsearch’s TV bands database system that was completed on April 9, 2014.

This database system is designed and intended to support the operation of low power unlicensed transmitting devices on unoccupied spectrum within the broadcast television bands (TV bands). This unoccupied spectrum is commonly known as the TV “White Spaces.” Comsearch has provided a summary report on the trial of its TV bands database system to OET.

This summary report identifies: 1) problems/concerns reported and their disposition and 2) descriptions of changes made by Comsearch to the channel availability calculator or registration systems during the trial period.

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for July 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 July 11, 2014:

  • Modernizing E-Rate to Deliver Digital Learning: The Commission will consider a Report and Order to modernize the E-Rate program and expand support for WiFi connectivity for schools and libraries. The R&O seeks to close the WiFi gap, make E-Rate dollars go farther, and deliver faster, simpler and more efficient applications and other processes.
  • Connect America Fund Rural Broadband Experiments: The Commission will consider a Report and Order establishing a budget and a methodology for selecting winning applications for the Connect America rural broadband experiments adopted by the Commission in the January Tech Transitions Order.
  • Closed Captioning of Internet Protocol-Delivered Video Clips: The Commission will consider a Second Order on Reconsideration and a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that revisits the Commission’s determinations regarding the captioning of video clips when delivered using Internet protocol, ensuring that individuals with hearing disabilities are able to enjoy the full benefits of broadband technology.

FCC Chairman Wheeler Proposes Landmark E-Rate Modernization

Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated an E-Rate Modernization proposal to his fellow Commissioners to revitalize the E-Rate program for the world of personalized learning.

During the past 18 years, E-Rate has helped transform schools’ and libraries’ access to modern communications networks. But educational connectivity has changed: whereas once it was revolutionary to connect a computer lab down the hall to the Internet, harnessing the full value of digital learning today means enabling all students to go online from their desk or from any library workspace.

Modernizing E-Rate to deliver digital learning to more kids faster
Chairman Wheeler’s proposed Order is the next major step in a comprehensive modernization of E-Rate, the first such effort since the program’s creation 18 years ago. The draft Order is focused on the largest and most urgent need -- closing the Wi-Fi gap -- while ensuring E-Rate money is spent smartly and improving program administration. It is the next step in what will be an ongoing process to modernize the E-rate program.

Building on Success
Today’s proposed order would build on the top-to-bottom administrative review of E-rate that was the first stage of Chairman Wheeler’s comprehensive, step-wise approach to modernization. This administrative review is already delivering huge dividends by allocating more funds and processing E-rate applications faster.

Bringing E-Rate into the 21st Century

  • The E-Rate program has played a vital role in connecting US schools and libraries -- but often those connections are to a few computers along the wall rather than each student having access at his or her desk.
  • New digital learning technologies are opening new opportunities for students, teachers and library patrons.
  • But too many US schools and libraries lack the infrastructure necessary to fully utilize today’s learning technologies -- particularly when it comes to Wi-Fi in the classroom.
  • E-Rate rules need to be updated to close the Wi-Fi gap.

Access to the Underserved: Keeping Up with the Times

  • As currently structured, E-Rate in past years has only been able to support Wi-Fi in 5% of schools and 1% of libraries. In 2013, no money was available for Wi-Fi. I am circulating an E-Rate Modernization Order for consideration at our July meeting that will close this Wi-Fi gap and provide more support for high-capacity wireless broadband for every school and library in America. By acting now, we can deliver digital learning benefits to 10 million students in the next funding year, compared to 4 million students under the status quo.
  • While we need to upgrade the connectivity of our schools and libraries, too many parts of rural America lack broadband connectivity altogether. This is in stark contrast to urban and suburban America, where many consumers have access to broadband at speeds in the hundreds of megabits per second. The simple fact of the matter is that the free market has failed to provide basic broadband connectivity to more than 15 million Americans. While we have already take steps to close the gap, there’s more work to be done. The proposed Order will fund a limited number of trials of alternative approaches to solving this problem using the Connect America Fund (CAF).
  • A third area where the Commission is poised to act to enhance access for the underserved is with closed captioning. Americans living with intellectual and physical disabilities stand to benefit the most from broadband-enabled technologies, but disproportionately find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. I have proposed to my colleagues that we require captioning for video clips that end up on the Internet. Those who hear with their eyes should not be disadvantaged in their ability to access video information on the Internet.

Office of Engineering And Technology Seeks Comment On Measurements Of LTE Into DTV Interference

The Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) seeks to supplement the record in the incentive auction proceeding by inviting comment on measurements of wireless Long-Term Evolution (LTE) interference into digital television (DTV) receivers conducted by OET engineers. The OET seeks comment on this matter.

Remarks of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai On E-Rate Before The Federal Communications Bar Association

As you know, the E-Rate program is part of the Universal Service Fund. It provides about two billion dollars each year for schools and libraries to connect to the Internet.

E-Rate has had its share of successes. But the program is seventeen years old and badly in need of an overhaul. Indeed, there’s a broad consensus on the need to modernize the program.

First, parents across this country understand that we can’t prepare children for the world of tomorrow in a classroom of yesterday. Second, improving educational opportunities for our nation’s kids shouldn’t be a partisan or ideological issue. My proposal has five main elements. First, we should streamline the program.

Second, we should target next-generation technologies.

Third, we should allocate E-Rate funds more fairly and predictably.

Fourth, we should increase transparency and accountability.

And fifth, we should be fiscally responsible.

“The Video Marketplace: A Modern Viewpoint”

I want to discuss the incredible vitality of today’s video marketplace and how the FCC needs to modernize its rules to reflect current realities.

Digitization and the Internet have driven a proliferation of new platforms for consumers, especially in the last decade.

To win subscribers, video providers are seeking to offer more types of content in order to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. And programming production and distribution businesses have started converging to meet the growing demand for high quality original programming.

To realize the full benefits of this dynamism, the FCC should acknowledge the fierce competition that exists and it should get rid of regulations that no longer make sense.

I will make the analogy that the FCC is poised at this pivotal moment just like the proverbial ostrich. This bird is known for being stubborn and sticking its head in the sand. Instead of speeding forward to recognize the marketplace realities, I worry the FCC is desperately clinging to existing rules that were written prior to the digital revolution, prior to Wi-Fi, and prior to the Internet.

FCC Plans $34.9 Million Fine Against Chinese Online Retailer Of Signal Jamming Devices

The Federal Communications Commission plans to issue the largest fine in its history against CTS Technology, Limited, a Chinese electronics manufacturer and online retailer, for allegedly marketing 285 models of signal jamming devices to US consumers for more than two years.

The FCC applied the maximum fine allowed to each jammer model allegedly marketed by CTS, resulting in a planned fine of $34,912,500. “All companies, whether domestic or foreign, are banned from marketing illegal jammers in the US,” said Travis LeBlanc, Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. “Signal jammers present a direct danger to public safety, potentially blocking the communications of first responders.

Operating a jammer is also illegal, and consumers who do so face significant civil and criminal penalties.” CTS operates a website that markets consumer electronics to individuals in the United States, where it allegedly misled US consumers by falsely claiming that certain signal jammers were approved by the FCC.

In addition to the planned $34,912,500 fine, the Commission is ordering CTS to cease marketing illegal signal jammers to US consumers and provide information to the FCC about any persons and entities in the United Sates that purchased its devices.

Internet Traffic Exchange: Time to Look under the Hood

It has become clear from consumer complaints to the Federal Communications Commission -- and even in some comments consumers have filed for the Open Internet Notice of Public Rulemaking -- that consumers are frustrated by recent trouble with their Internet experience for certain services and content providers.

The recent disputes between Netflix, Cogent and Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast and Verizon are an example of this issue. We need to get to the bottom of this.

The release of the Measuring Broadband America report provides even more evidence that there are problems here worth examining. This annual report measures broadband speeds in a sampling of subscribers to 14 ISPs across the country serving over 80 percent of broadband consumers.

The data in this report confirms that we need more information, and we’re taking a number of additional steps, including:

  • Releasing the full raw data set to the public so others can analyze our findings.
  • Taking steps to better understand the issues; including taking a deeper look into causes of congestion and by analyzing network impact on video service providers such as YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix and others.
  • Working to develop tools that measure and validate how these types of congestion issues affect the consumer experience. We expect to have instituted additional testing methodologies providing more information on network congestion and peering by winter 2014.

[Knapp is Chief and Johnston is Chief of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Division at FCC’s Office of Engineering & Technology]