Federal Communications Commission
"Mapping Broadband Health in America" Provides Data-Driven Tool for Developing Broadband Health Policies and Solutions
The Federal Communications Commission’s Connect2Health Task Force launched the Mapping Broadband Health in America tool, a web-based mapping tool that will enable and inform more efficient, data-driven decision making at the intersection of broadband and health. By allowing users to ask and answer questions about broadband and health at the county and census block levels, the tool provides critical data that can help drive broadband health policies and connected health solutions for this critical space.
The mapping tool is an interactive experience, showing various aspects of connectivity and health for every state and county in the United States. Users can generate customized maps that display broadband access, adoption and speed data alongside various health measures (e.g., obesity, diabetes, disabilities and physician access) in urban and rural areas. These maps can be used by both public and private sectors and local communities to identify not only gaps, but also opportunities. Examples of some of the initial findings:
- The picture of health is vastly different in connected communities vs. digitally isolated communities.
- There is a significant gap between rural and urban counties.
Thank you very much for your letters regarding the waste, fraud, and abuse that has riddled the Universal Service Fund's Lifeline program since wireless resellers began participating in this program in earnest in 2009. My inquiry concerns the ability of unscrupulous wireless resellers to avoid the safeguards of the National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD) altogether.
A wireless reseller may seek federal funds for subscribers who aren't subject to federal safeguards at all. Theses "subscribers" might be actual customers whose Lifeline eligibility has not been verified through the NLAD. Or they might be phantom customers who do not even exist. In either case, the reseller can get away with receiving federal funds unless they're caught after the fact. If American taxpayers are to have faith in the Universal Service Fund, they must know that the Lifeline program only supports actual, eligible subscribers, not phantoms. To that end, I request that you provide my office with the following information.
The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau has reached a $200,000 settlement with TP-Link, resolving an investigation into certain Wi-Fi routers that were not in full compliance with Commission rules pertaining to power levels. As part of the settlement, TP-Link has agreed to adopt robust compliance measures to ensure that its existing and future Wi-Fi routers are in compliance. TP-Link has also agreed to work with the open-source community and Wi-Fi chipset manufacturers to enable consumers to install third-party firmware on their Wi-Fi routers.
In its investigation, the Enforcement Bureau found that TP-Link marketed several Wi-Fi router models in the US that included a user setting that violated Section 15.15(b) of the Commission’s rules by enabling the routers to operate at power levels that exceed their approved parameters on certain restricted Wi-Fi channels. To resolve the matter, TP-Link has taken measures to halt the sale of noncompliant units and ensure that new units are in compliance. TP-Link cooperated with the Bureau’s investigation and, as part of the consent decree, has agreed to pay a $200,000 fine and implement a compliance program to ensure future compliance with the Commission’s rules and regulations.
The Federal Communications Commission announced that Sinclair Broadcast Group will pay $9,495,000 to resolve a number of Media Bureau investigations, including the Bureau’s investigation of allegations that Sinclair violated its obligation to negotiate for retransmission consent in good faith. The Commission’s retransmission consent rules, as mandated by Congress, forbid a broadcaster to negotiate jointly for one of its stations and for another station in the same market that it does not control.
In its investigation, the Media Bureau found that, over the course of seven months, Sinclair negotiated retransmission consent on behalf of dozens stations that it did not control at the same time that it was negotiating for its own stations in the same markets. In addition to agreeing to pay $9,495,000, Sinclair has agreed to implement a compliance plan aimed at ensuring no similar violations in the future. This action is the first of its kind to enforce the Commission’s long-standing retransmission consent rules. The settlement also resolves a number of other issues that had been pending for Sinclair-owned stations, and the Bureau has agreed to grant all pending Sinclair renewal applications as part of the settlement terms.
Industry groups have filed petitions asking for an en banc rehearing of the DC Circuit Court’s decision to uphold the FCC’s Open Internet rules. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “It comes as no surprise that the big dogs have challenged the three-judge panel’s decision. We are confident that the full court will agree with the panel’s affirmation of the FCC’s clear authority to enact its strong Open Internet rules, the reasoned decision-making upon which they are based, and the adequacy of the record from which they were developed.”
The Federal Communications Commission will hold an Open Meeting on the subjects listed below on Thursday, August 4, 2016:
Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Section 105, Relay Services for DeafBlind Individuals (CG Docket No. 10-210): The Commission will consider a Report and Order that would convert the National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program from a pilot to a permanent program.
Improvements to Benchmarks and Related Requirements Governing Hearing AidCompatible Mobile Handsets (WT Docket No. 15- 285): The Commission will consider a Report and Order that would implement changes to the scope of the wireless hearing aid compatibility rules.
Rates for Interstate Inmate Calling Services (WC Docket No. 12-375): The Commission will consider an Order on Reconsideration, responding to a petition filed by Michael S. Hamden, that would ensure that the rates for Inmate Calling Services (ICS) are just, reasonable, and fair and explicitly account for facilities’ ICS-related costs.
The Federal Communications Commission plans to fine AT&T $106,425 for charging two Florida school districts some of the highest telecommunications rates in the state, in apparent violation of federal law and the FCC’s “lowest corresponding price” rule. The lowest corresponding price rule helps ensure that schools and libraries that participate in the FCC’s E-rate Program get the best rates available by prohibiting E-rate service providers from charging them more than the lowest price paid by other similarly situated customers for similar telecommunications services. The Commission alleges that AT&T charged the school districts prices for telephone service that were magnitudes higher than many other customers in Florida. One or both school districts paid the highest price in all of Florida for one service, while other customers paid much less. In addition to the fine, the FCC plans to order AT&T to repay $63,760 it apparently improperly received from the Universal Service Fund as a subsidy for these services.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai dissented from the decision and released a statement saying, “I agree with my colleagues that AT&T may have violated that rule in Florida. But the Enforcement Bureau’s handling of the investigation has fatally compromised our ability to impose a lawful forfeiture upon the carrier. Here’s the problem: We have issued this Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) too late.”
I am pleased that [Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler] has initiated our statutory responsibility under section 11 to review our telecommunications regulations, and I hope my colleagues will vote quickly on this rather clean procedural step to get the process started. My staff and I have been at a loss as to why the Commission has failed to conduct this important task since 2012, despite the requirement that it occur biennially.
Given that the Commission has already missed one opportunity to minimize our burdens for telecommunications carriers, it will be particularly important to seize this moment to really scrub off the cobwebs. To expedite the overall process, I’ve asked that we shorten our internal review from four months to two. It shouldn’t take individual Bureaus and Offices more than eight weeks to thoroughly examine rules under their purview and recommend candidates for elimination. With a little cooperation, this could be the most significant execution of section 11 to date.
CTIA and its members understand that smartphone theft remains a serious problem and that anti-theft tools only work if adopted widely. Today, I applaud the wireless industry’s steps to make anti-theft tools accessible and available for consumers. By fulfilling the Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment, they make a meaningful difference for consumer safety.
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.