Federal Communications Commission

FCC Chairman Wheeler's Response to Rep. Guthrie and Rep. Matsui Regarding AWS-3 Auction

On March 25, Reps Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler encouraging the Commission to create a band plan that encourages a robust bidding process that maximizes revenue in the upcoming AWS-3 auction.

On April 15, Chairman Wheeler wrote back noting that the FCC unanimously adopted the AWS-3 Report and Order. The Order adopts allocation, service, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum, including 50 megahertz of paired spectrum at 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz. The upcoming auction will expand the workhorse A WS-1 commercial wireless band, which today is available for mobile broadband use.

The Commission adopted a band plan that will promote competition by offering licenses comprised of different geographic license areas and block sizes. This band plan will serve the spectrum needs of a variety of applicants, and promote auction participation and robust competition.

The Commission's action set the stage for an auction of the AWS-3 spectrum licenses later this year.

While adopting the A WS-3 Report and Order is a big step toward making this spectrum available for commercial use, additional details must be resolved before this auction can take place. We will address these challenges so that all parties have certainty about their rights and obligations in A WS-3, and to ensure that the auction is robustly competitive and successful.

E-Labeling Deserves Serious Consideration

To keep pace with technological advancements, I believe it is time for the Federal Communications Commission to consider modernizing our labeling requirements.

Electronic labeling, or e-labeling, could replace the current system of etched labels containing FCC certification information on the outside body of each electronic device. Instead, this information could be provided through software on device screens.

There are numerous potential benefits to e-labeling. Specifically, e-labels can provide more information to consumers than is conveyed today. Beyond the required FCC certification information, details can be added by manufacturers regarding device warranties, recycling, and trade-in opportunities. In addition, e-labels can be updated remotely to address any inaccuracies, such as typographical errors. Another advantage of e-labeling is cost savings. As devices have become smaller and more aesthetically appealing, etching the labels requires more design time and expensive equipment. E-labeling could dramatically reduce or eliminate these costs without sacrificing consumer information.

Along with the proposed benefits, there may be some perceived drawbacks to e-labeling that can be addressed. E-labeling should never be allowed in any way to short-circuit or undermine the FCC's certification process. The FCC should take every opportunity to ensure that its rules and procedures take advantage of modern technology and are as user-friendly as possible.

That is why I hope that the Commission will, in the near future, turn its attention to the possibility of permitting e-labeling through a means that will expedite its use. Doing so would not only be good government, it would stand to benefit equipment manufacturers, and more importantly, consumers.

Ensuring A Fair And Competitive Incentive Auction

Next year the FCC will conduct the first-ever “Incentive Auction,” which will harness market forces to reallocate valuable low-band (below 1 GHz) spectrum from television broadcasters who voluntarily choose to relinquish their channels in exchange for incentive payments, to wireless providers who will bid against each other to buy those frequencies to provide mobile broadband services.

Two national carriers control the vast majority of that low-band spectrum. This disparity makes it difficult for rural consumers to have access to the competition and choice that would be available if more wireless competitors also had access to low-band spectrum. It also creates challenges for consumers in urban environments who sometimes have difficulty using their mobile phones at home or in their offices.

To address this problem, and to prevent one or two wireless providers from being able to run the table at the auction, I have proposed a market based reserve for the auction. Any party desiring to bid on any license area will be free to do so. When the Incentive Auction commences, all bidders will be bidding and competing against each other for all blocks of spectrum.

We expect a fulsome bidding process. There will be no “reserved” spectrum during this initial stage of the auction. When the auction reaches a “trigger” point that the Commission will set in advance of the auction -- largely based on meeting a price threshold -- wireless providers with a dominant low-band position in a license area will be constrained from bidding on a few “reserved” spectrum blocks.

The exact amount of “reserved” spectrum available will depend on how much spectrum non-dominant providers are actively bidding for at the trigger point, but in no instance will the reserve exceed 30 megahertz. Those “reserve-eligible” bidders who are still actively bidding at the trigger point will then begin bidding for reserved spectrum against only other eligible bidders, and not against bidders who already hold a dominant low-band position in that license area.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai: FCC picking ‘winners and losers’ for spectrum auctions

Right now, I worry that the greatest obstacle in our way might be the [Federal Communications Commission] itself.

In order for the incentive auctions to succeed, we must have robust competition among wireless carriers for licenses in the forward auction. Or, as a friend of mine might put it, “competition, competition, competition.”

But unfortunately, the plan reportedly on the table appears to go in the opposite direction. It restricts competition. Certain companies selected by the government will be shielded from competing against other companies. Instead of good, old-fashioned competition, the chosen few would have spectrum set aside especially for them.

My position on the forward auction is simple: The FCC should not limit carriers’ ability to participate. We should not pick winners and losers. The inevitable effect of a policy that limits participation will be less spectrum for mobile broadband, less funding for national priorities, a higher budget deficit, and an increased chance of a failed auction.

FCC Proposes to Make 150 MHz of Spectrum Available for Broadband

The Federal Communications Commission took steps to provide more spectrum for general consumer use, carrier-grade small cell deployments, fixed wireless broadband services, and other innovative uses, through the creation of a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service.

The FCC proposed rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service in a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that advances the Commission’s efforts to meet the growing demand for spectrum by proposing to make 150 megahertz available in the 3.5 GHz Band. The FNPRM proposes innovative spectrum sharing techniques to unlock the value of the spectrum between 3550 MHz and 3650 MHz, and seeks comment on extending the proposed service to 3700 MHz.

Specifically, the FNPRM proposes a three-tiered access and sharing model comprised of federal and non-federal incumbents, priority access licensees, and general authorized access users. Together, the proposals seek to promote flexibility and innovation by leveraging advancements in technology to facilitate sharing between different users and uses, including incumbent government uses.

Federal and non-federal incumbents would be protected from harmful interference from Citizens Broadband Radio Service users. Targeted priority access licenses would be made available for a variety of uses, including mobile broadband.

General authorized access use would be permitted in a reserved amount of spectrum and on an opportunistic basis for a variety of consumer or business-oriented purposes, including advanced home wireless networking. Access and operation within the 3.5 GHz band would be managed by a spectrum access system, a dynamic database or databases that incorporates technical and functional requirements necessary to manage access and operations across the three tiers. In addition, the FNPRM seeks comment on technical, auction, and allocation rules.

FCC Takes Major Strides Toward Further Expansion Of Rural Broadband

The Federal Communications Commission took significant steps toward implementing the next phase of its program for expanding robust broadband in rural America, the Connect America Fund.

Phase I of the Connect America Fund has already invested over $438 million to deploy broadband service to 1.6 million previously unserved Americans. Phase I also invested $300 million to expand advanced mobile wireless service and nearly $50 million for better mobile voice and broadband on Tribal lands.

Phase II the Connect America Fund will result in a nearly 70% increase in annual support for broadband and voice service in areas served by the nation’s largest traditional local providers -- known as “price cap” carriers.

The effort will expand broadband access to an additional 5 million Americans who are currently unable to benefit from the opportunities of 21st century communications. Over five years, Phase II of the Connect America Fund will provide nearly $9 billion to expand broadband in rural areas.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai Statement on Phone Rates

The data released by the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau show why the agency shouldn’t increase rural Americans’ phone bills.

The FCC’s so-called “rate floor” is supposed to ensure that urban and rural rates are “comparable.” But even though the Bureau’s data reveal that the local phone rate in Washington, DC is $14.10, the FCC is on the precipice of raising rates for rural Americans from $14.00 to $20.46. As a result, rural Americans will have to pay 45 percent more for local phone service than those living in our nation’s capital.

On top of all that, this rate increase will not save the government any money. This issue is another example of why so many in our nation’s heartland feel so alienated from Washington, DC. Too often, there is one set of rules for those inside the Beltway and another set of rules for everyone else. I hope the Commission will reconsider this ill-conceived policy and not raise rural Americans’ phone bills to no end.

Getting the Incentive Auction Right

The Incentive Auction is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand the benefits of mobile wireless coverage and competition to consumers across the Nation -- particularly consumers in rural areas -- offering more choices of wireless providers, lower prices, and higher quality mobile services.

Getting the Incentive Auction right will revolutionize how spectrum is allocated. By marrying the economics of demand (think wireless providers) with the economics of current spectrum holders (think television broadcasters), the Incentive Auction will allow market forces to determine the highest and best use of spectrum.

In developing such an auction, we must also be guided by the rules of physics. Not all spectrum frequencies are created equal. Spectrum below 1 GHz – such as the Incentive Auction spectrum – has physical properties that increase the reach of mobile networks over long distances. As part of the Incentive Auction process, we will also make available on a nationwide basis spectrum for unlicensed use (think Wi-Fi).

With the increased use of Wi-Fi, this spectrum has also become congested. Opening up more spectrum for unlicensed use provides economic value to businesses and consumers alike. Whether television broadcasters participate in the Incentive Auction will be purely voluntary, but participation in the Incentive Auction does not mean they have to leave the TV business. New channel-sharing technologies offer broadcasters a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an infusion of cash to expand their business model and explore new innovations, while continuing to provide their traditional services to consumers.

We will ensure that broadcasters have all of the information they need to make informed business decisions about whether and how to participate. On April 17, I provided my fellow Commissioners a draft Report and Order that will determine many significant issues and policy decisions related to the Incentive Auction. The Commission will also make additional decisions to implement details pertaining to the Incentive Auction in the coming months.

Technology Transitions and Public Safety Workshop and Online Forum

The Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is hosting a workshop April 17, 2014, on the impact of technology transition on public safety.

Representatives from public safety agencies, service providers, technology vendors, and other stakeholders will participate in roundtable discussions to explore the impact of the retirement of switched telecommunications service (PSTN, TDM), the anticipated interdependencies and new failure modalities for IP transport, copper to fiber transition and copper to wireless transition.

The workshop will identify areas of risk associated with the planned IP Transition and determine risk factors for key public safety, emergency response, and national security functions.

Remarks of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai Before The University Of Pennsylvania Law School South Asian Law Students Association

I’m a big believer in the benefits of diversity. And one of its most important forms is intellectual diversity.

When it comes to issues of the day, South Asian-Americans, just like other minority communities in our country, don’t speak with one voice. There are South Asian-American liberals, conservatives, and moderates. There are South Asian-American Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. This is how it should be.

Like the subcontinent itself, South Asian-Americans are diverse in every way. Our particular upbringing and heritage influences the way many of us see the world. I’ll never be able to dance bhangra properly; some of you might not savor idlis, sambar, and bisibelebath as much as I do. More broadly speaking, my view is that as a society, we should get away from the notion that if you have a certain skin color, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, you should think a certain way. And if you don’t think that way, you are somehow betraying your roots or identity.

Each of us is unique. And each of us has the right, and I’d argue the obligation, to make up our own mind. We should embrace the diversity within our community and insist that those outside of our community recognize it as well.