Communication at a distance, especially the electronic transmission of signals via the telephone
On Friday, May 31, the Federal Communications Commission launched a proceeding to seek comment on establishing an overall cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF). USF programs provide subsidies that make telecommunications and broadband services more available and affordable for millions of Americans. The NPRM asks a lot of questions over how to cap the programs. But a crucial one we ask: Does this NPRM actually move the U.S. closer to closing the digital divide?
The Benton Foundation unequivocally opposes any proposals from the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the FCC to shirk its responsibilities to meet its Congressionally-mandated mission. The FCC is supposed to ensure:
On March 12, 2019, I was honored to appear before the Senate Communications Subcommittee to testify on “The Impact of Broadband Investments in Rural America.” I provided my personal views, bringing the perspective of a former government official with 22 years of experience at the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration, with the last decade focused on the FCC’s Connect America Fund. My five-minute opening statement follows:
[Editorial] The Benton Foundation has joined literally hundreds of organizations that are asking the Federal Communications Commission to ensure Lifeline voice and broadband service for low-income households, with minimal disruption to the people who depend on the program for a consistent connection to the world via their telephone or internet connection. We're asking that the FCC:
The Federal Communications Commission took steps to transform its Lifeline program. A Fourth Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Memorandum Opinion and Order changes FCC rules to:
[Commentary] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is setting a record pace for deregulating the communications industries. Believe it or not, things are about to get worse in Nov. Starting with the FCC’s open meeting on Nov 16, the agency is poised to approve or propose no fewer than four decisions that will deregulate consolidated industries, remove consumer protections, and widen the digital divide:
Rep Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is asking the Federal Communications Commission to step in and stop the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) from charging providers for high-speed internet infrastructure.
TDS Telecom, a Madison (WI)-based communications company, was awarded $2.032 million in funding for broadband expansion projects in two Wisconsin communities. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin selected 83 projects from 242 applications utilizing $100 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to bring faster internet speeds to unserved and underserved areas in the state. TDS was awarded a grant of $943,333 for a project in Potosi in southwest Wisconsin and a second grant of $1,088,791 in Necedah.
The 3.45 GHz auction, which started October 5, completed 23 rounds on October 14, with bids tallying more than $4 billion. Demand started out high at the beginning of the month, but Auction 110 observers saw a large drop in demand on October 8. Actions over the past week suggest the auction is at risk of closing. If demand reaches supply before the minimum price of $14.8 billion is reached, the auction will fail, warn analysts at New Street Research. If things go south in a hurry, the outcome could be known by October 20.
The pandemic accelerated the momentum for getting every American access to affordable, reliable broadband. It also elevated the role that states and localities should play in bridging the digital divide—the gap between those with access to high-speed internet and those without it—including by building partnerships with internet service providers (ISPs) to get communities online. But telecommunications law is complex and can occasionally present legal and regulatory challenges to broadband expansion projects.