Federal Communications Commission

Paul de Sa Returns to FCC to Head Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his intention to appoint Paul de Sa as chief of the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis. de Sa will be returning to a leadership position he held under former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis (“OSP”) – which includes economists, technologists, and lawyers – advises the Commissioners on policy initiatives, develops strategic plans, and helps identify the agency's policy objectives. It also provides research and analysis regarding emerging communications issues. From 2012 to 2016, de Sa was the senior analyst covering US telecommunications at Bernstein Research, where he published research on topics relevant for telecom and cable investors, including fixed and mobile broadband, spectrum, corporate strategy and competition.

de Sa was OSP chief from 2009 to 2012 and prior to that was a partner in McKinsey & Company’s Washington (DC) and Seoul offices, where he worked in the telecom/media, private equity and corporate finance practices. de Sa holds an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge, a doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford, was a John F. Kennedy Memorial Scholar at MIT, and researched technology policy as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard.

de Sa will take over for Elizabeth Biley Andrion who has been serving as acting chief of OSP since January and plans to leave the Commission later this month. Jay Schwarz will continue as acting deputy chief.

How Lucky We Are To Be Alive Right Now: Revisiting the Network Compact

In the hit Broadway musical Hamilton Eliza Schuyler sings, “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” Eliza, of course, is talking about the American Revolution. We can feel the same way about the revolution we are living through. Our revolution is a network revolution.

Driven by ever-evolving technology, the networks that connect us are changing…and the patterns of commerce and culture that depend on those connections are changing as a result. This is a time of incredible opportunity and reshaping. It is a time of testing. To be a part of it is a privilege. Charlie Firestone has asked me to forecast what lies ahead for this revolution and the FCC. Today, we stand in the shadow of those Americans who lived through their own network revolution. Just as they were, we are challenged to make sense of the new network realities. That is our test at the FCC. For the past almost eight years, the FCC has sought to confront network change head-on; to harness the network revolution to encourage economic growth, while standing with those who use the network as consumers and innovators. In that regard, the history of the network experience that preceded us is not some curiosity, it is a compass. I think of the lessons of the past as a “back azimuth,” a concept familiar to navigators in which a landmark in the rear is used to inform the path forward. In the communications technology space, our back azimuth is what I call the Network Compact: the responsibilities of those who build and operate networks. There are five components of the Network Compact: access, interconnection, consumer protection, public safety, and national security.

The Incentive Auction Moves “Forward” – Here’s How to Follow Along

On Tuesday, August 16th, the Incentive Auction will enter the first stage of forward auction bidding, in which bidders will compete to win new 600 MHz Band licenses for mobile broadband use. Because this is a new auction design, we wanted to give you a preview of how the process will unfold and how the public can keep track as the auction moves through the bidding rounds. First, we will offer a mock auction on August 11th and 12th. Throughout the forward auction, the public will be able to obtain information about the results of bidding on our Public Reporting System (PRS). You can view the upcoming schedule of bidding rounds on the Dashboard of the PRS as well as track progress toward meeting the two prongs of the final stage rule that determines whether the auction will close at the current clearing target. In addition, the Forward Auction section of the PRS will provide a Product Status screen that will offer details on bidding activity for each product. Unlike the reverse auction, in which there is a limited number of possible rounds, forward auction bidding rounds for a stage can continue without limit so long as demand outpaces supply for any product. As such, we cannot predict when the forward auction will conclude. Until it does, we invite you to watch along with us as the forward auction clock phase bidding in the first-ever Incentive Auction gets underway.

FCC Signs Agreement to Streamline 5G Infrastructure Deployment

The Federal Communications Commission took another step to facilitate the deployment of infrastructure critical to ensuring American leadership on next-generation wireless service, or 5G.

Building on previous infrastructure reforms, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau signed an agreement to eliminate historic preservation review for small facility deployments across the U.S. that do not adversely impact historic sites and locations. The agreement was signed with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO). The new exclusions lay the groundwork for 5G service by reducing the cost, time, and burden associated with deployment, and by providing opportunities to make existing networks denser at low cost and with very little impact. The agreement, which amends an earlier agreement among the same parties, expands exclusions from the federal review process for DAS and small cell deployments, fulfilling a directive in the October 2014 Infrastructure Report & Order to further streamline review of these installations.

FCC Seeks Comment for 18th Video Competition Report

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking data, information, and comment on the state of competition in the delivery of video programming for the Commission’s Eighteenth Report (18th Report). The FCC seeks to update the information and metrics provided in the Seventeenth Report (17th Report) in order to report on the state of competition in the video marketplace in 2015. Using the information collected pursuant to this Notice, the FCC seeks to enhance our analysis of competitive conditions, better understand the implications for the American consumer, and provide a solid foundation for FCC policy making with respect to the delivery of video programming to consumers. The 18th Report also will satisfy the Commission’s statutory requirement to “annually report to Congress on the status of competition in the market for the delivery of video programming.”
Comments are due September 21; reply comments are due October 24.

Twelfth Broadband Progress Notice of Inquiry

On August 2, the Federal Communications launched a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) aimed at determining whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.

The FCC is seeking on the current state of advanced telecommunications capability deployment and availability. In particular, the FCC seeks comment on the appropriate criteria and benchmarks by which to measure whether fixed and mobile broadband services provide access to advanced telecommunications capability.

  • As part of this inquiry, the FCC seeks comment on whether to update our existing 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload speed benchmark for fixed advanced telecommunications capability, as well as on whether the Commission should establish a speed benchmark for mobile broadband services and, if so, what that speed benchmark should be.
  • The FCC also seeks comment on the relationship of non-speed performance metrics, including service consistency and latency, to advanced telecommunications capability, and on whether and how to adopt benchmarks for these metrics.
  • Next, the FCC seeks comment on criteria and benchmarks by which to measure advanced telecommunications capability deployment to schools and classrooms, as well as on additional factors that may affect the deployment and/or availability of advanced telecommunications capability.
  • Finally, the FCC seeks comment on the various data sources used by the Commission for the purposes of our annual Broadband Progress Report, and whether additional or alternative sources of data are available to inform the analysis under.

Interested parties have until September 6 to file comments in the proceeding – and until September 21 to reply to those comments.

FCC Adopts Sustainable, Affordable Inmate Calling Rates

The Federal Communications Commission took additional steps to ensure that inmate calling service rates are just, reasonable and fair for inmates and their families, and that jails, prisons and providers are fairly compensated for the costs of providing the service. The Order adopted by the Commission builds on its landmark inmate calling service reforms of 2013 and 2015 by responding to issues raised in the record of the proceeding since then. The FCC’s careful review showed that a modest increase in the rate caps set in 2015 is warranted. By covering the legitimate costs of jails and prisons, this adjustment will ensure continued availability and development of inmate calling services, while still resulting in significant savings for inmates and their families.

The rate caps adopted are, on average, significantly lower than the 2013 interim rate cap of 21 cents a minute that currently applies to interstate long-distance calls. The new caps will govern both in-state and interstate calling, reducing the price for most inmates of an average 15-minute call by nearly 35 percent. The FCC’s inmate calling rate cap functions as a ceiling, not a floor, and so does not prevent states where calling costs are lower from reducing rates further. The Order adjusts the FCC’s 2015 rate caps, which were blocked by a court stay pending appeal. Recognizing higher costs in small institutions, the new rates for debit/prepaid calls are as follows (2015 rate caps in parentheses):
State or federal prisons: 13 cents/minute (11 cents/minute)
Jails with 1,000 or more inmates: 19 cents/minute (14 cents/minute)
Jails with 350-999 inmates: 21 cents/minute (16 cents/minute)
Jails of up to 349 inmates: 31 cents/minute (22 cents/minute)

Rates for collect calls are slightly higher in the first year and will be phased down to these caps after a two-year transition period. Approximately 71 percent of inmates reside in state or federal prisons, and approximately 85 percent of inmates reside in institutions with populations exceeding 1,000.

FCC Makes Permanent The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

The Federal Communications Commission adopted an order to make permanent its program that provides communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind. The Commission launched the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), also known as “iCanConnect,” as a pilot program in 2012. Since then, the program has provided up to $10 million annually to support programs that distribute communications equipment, helping Americans with hearing and vision loss to connect with family and friends and become more independent. Through iCanConnect, consumers who are deaf-blind and who meet income guidelines can receive free equipment designed to make telecommunications, Internet access, and advanced communications services accessible. Installation, training, and other technical support are also available. To date, thousands of Americans with hearing and vision loss have benefitted from the pilot program. Breaking down accessibility barriers for this population has afforded Americans with combined hearing and vision loss a means to enhance social interaction, acquire information, and obtain skills and training to become gainfully employed.

The action, in the form of a Report and Order, uses the lessons learned over the past four years of the pilot program to adopt rules that will ensure a seamless transition to a permanent program that is efficient and effective. First, the rules maintain the program structure used in the pilot program, by which the Commission certifies one entity per state or territory to distribute equipment and provide related services. These certified entities may carry out these responsibilities either on their own or through collaborative arrangements. In addition, as was previously the case in the pilot program, a single entity can apply for certification to serve the residents of multiple states. The new rules also maintain existing certification criteria, which include expertise in the field of deaf-blindness, the ability to communicate effectively with individuals who are deaf-blind, adequate staffing and facilities, and experience with the distribution and use of communications equipment. Additionally, for the permanent program, the Commission will begin considering an entity’s administrative and financial management experience as a criteria for certification.

FCC Charts Course to Comprehensive Hearing Aid Compatibility for Consumers with Hearing Loss

The Federal Communications Commission took several steps to implement new rules to ensure that people with hearing loss have full access to innovative wireless devices. The action taken has several parts, all of which will modernize existing hearing aid compatibility rules while maintaining the balance between fostering accessibility and promoting innovation and investment. With this Report and Order, the Commission amends the hearing aid compatibility requirements that are generally applicable to wireless service providers and manufacturers of digital wireless handsets.

Specifically, the Commission increases the number of hearing aid compatible handsets that service providers and manufacturers are required to offer by setting two new percentage benchmarks:
66 percent of offered handset models must be compliant following a two-year transition
period for manufacturers, with additional compliance time for service providers, and
85 percent of offered handset models must be compliant following a five-year transition
period for manufacturers, with additional compliance time for service providers.

The new rules establish a more limited obligation for entities offering only four or five handsets.

Commissioner Clyburn Remarks at Launch of Mapping Broadband Health in America Platform

I am extremely pleased to be here with you as we launch the Federal Communications Commission’s newest consumer offering — the Mapping Broadband Health in America Platform. The FCC’s mapping effort is historic, because it directly addresses the serious and growing challenge, of ensuring that the transformative power of broadband in health, is available to everyone.

To use public health parlance, broadband connectivity has become a social determinant of health, along with income, education and rurality. Indeed, we believe that broadband availability is increasingly becoming a super-determinant of health. With each passing day, more people are living a greater portion of their lives “online.” The mapping tool we unveil today promises to provide a new and powerful roadmap for stakeholders, to leverage high speed connectivity to improve the health of our Nation. It will help us identify both gaps and opportunities, and empower us to construct bridges at the intersection of broadband and health precisely where they are needed.