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Statement from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Regarding DC Circuit Decision to Uphold FCC’s Open Internet Rules

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2016 – Today, the DC Circuit upheld the FCC’s Open Internet rules. The following statement can be attributed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

 “Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth.  After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future.”

 To learn more about the FCC’s Open Internet rules, visit www.fcc.gov/openinternet.

At Urging of Competify Coalition of Telecom Competitors, FCC Launches Inquiry of Broadband Business Services

in FCC/IP Transition by

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2015 – The Federal Communications Commission on Friday announced that it had launched an investigation into the broadband pricing plans of local exchange carriers AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier and Verizon Communications for so-called “special access services” of business data.

A coalition of competitive carriers and non-profit organizations dubbed Competify has been urging the inquiry, and praised Friday’s order by the agency’s Wireline Communications Bureau.

“The incumbents use inherently anticompetitive lock-up plans – which only an entity with immense market power could impose – to charge businesses and anchor institutions excessive access rates that harm competition, restrain the deployment of competitive facilities, and impede the transition to next-generation services,” according to a statement released by the group.














Among the companies supporting the campaign include BT, Level 3, Sprint and  XO Communications, together with a range of non-profit organizations.

The US Telecommunications Association struck back. Said association president Walter McCormick: “At the very time the commission is expressing concern over the growing dominance of cable in the overall broadband marketplace, and acknowledging that burdensome legacy regulation of telecom companies is misdirecting investment and hindering competition, it launches an old-fashioned ‘tarriff’  investigation of the only competitors in the marketplace who are required to operate under last century’s antiquated rules.”

Specifically, according to the order launching the investigation, the inquiry concerns “only a subset of specialized telecommunications services that continue to operate under tariffs,” namely time-division multiplexed (TDM) business data services such as DS1 and DS3 channel terminations under dedicated copper-based circuits.

“While competitors continue to expand their market presence by building IP [internet protocol]-based facilities or extending purchased TDM based facilities to additional buildings, preliminary results from the Commission’s data collection show that incumbent LECs remain the sole facilities-based provider of TDM-based special access services to a majority of business locations that demand or are likely to demand business data services nationwide.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., applauded the FCC’s investigation “that major telecom companies in the U.S. have been stifling competition in the $40 billion a year market for special access.”

“For too long, companies that utilize special access service have alleged that these services are only offered with unreasonable conditions attached, aimed at driving competitors out of this space,” wrote the representatives.

Other articles on the inquiry and Comptetify:

The Hill: http://thehill.com/policy/technology/257227-four-companies-at-center-of-fcc-probe-into-special-access-market

Multichannel News: http://www.multichannel.com/news/fcc/competify-launches-broadband-competition-campaign/394429

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Pell Center Report Emphasizes Continuing Role in Broadband for State Entities

in Broadband Data/Broadband Mapping/Education/FCC/Health/Minority/NTIA/Public Safety by

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2015 – State broadband entities and commissions continue to plan an important role in fostering economic development and digital learning, according to a recent report from the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy.

The report, “State-Level Broadband Policy: A Compendium of Resources and Approaches,” catalogs some of the important capabilities and tools of the federal technology program dubbed the State Broadband Initiative of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

But the report, by Pell Center Adjunct Fellow Angela Siefer, also advances the discussion about state-level broadband resources by highlighting more recently discussed tools, including eRate funding, telecommunications modernization legislation, and ways to promote local infrastructure partnerships.

Angela Siefer

Angela Siefer

Broadband “is not a matter of why or whether, it’s a question of how,” said Pell Center Executive Director Jill Ludes, speaking about Siefer’s report. “She’s written a thoughtful study that helps state-level policy makers think through their broadband policy choices while pointing to real examples from progress made.”

After briefing highlighted the important benefits of broadband — such as its positive impact on economic development, civic engagement, education, healthcare and public safety — the report focuses on “elements of good broadband policy.”

The first of these is a “dedicated office at the state level.” Whether as an independent agency or within another department, such entities can be “staffed with individuals who understand broadband issues [and] can be a powerful tool for creating connections and sharing information among state agencies, broadband service providers, and other stakeholders.”

Such entities were established by the State Broadband Initiative under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Although the federal mandate for data-collection by these agencies has ended, many states are continuing with these efforts through state funding.

The report also discusses the role of state broadband commissions, which are generally composed of a diverse membership and meet quarterly or bimonthly; of state-level legislation to modernize telecom statutes; and the role of directly funding broadband projects, or of leveraging existing infrastructure projects funded under the recovery act.

Equally significantly, the last quarter of the report highlights the important of broadband adoption and digital literacy training efforts, and the role that state projects and funding can play in continuing to support these efforts.

Information on the report is available here; and the PDF is available for download here.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Former Architect of National Broadband Plan Says That Every City Needs a Broadband Plan

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Gigabit Networks/National Broadband Plan by

September 14, 2015 – Every city should create a city-wide broadband plan of its own, said the former director of the National Broadband Plan, in wide-ranging speech touting four strategies useful for different types of city broadband plans.

Speaking on Friday at the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Officers annual conference in San Diego, Blair Levin of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and the group Gig-U, said that every city should tackle four key strategies: (1) Getting fiber deeper into neighborhoods; (2) Using community WiFi; (3) Getting everyone online; and (4) Promoting innovative civic applications for broadband.

Blair Levin

Blair Levin, Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and Gig-U

Levin, the former architect of the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband plan, crafted from 2009 to 2010, said that the United States was about the 20th country to adopt such a plan for the deployment of high-speed internet. Nearly 150 countries have one now.

“With cities, we’re where we were with countries in 2010. Several dozen have them,” Levin said. “But now, such a plan is becoming table stakes for any city that wants its residents to be part of the 21st Century Information Economy.”

In his remarks, Levin addressed the pivotal role that Google Fiber has played in spurring the development of Gigabit Networks. Indeed, on Thursday, Google announced upcoming fiber-optic deployments in three new cities: Irvine, Calif., Louisville, Kentucky; and San Diego.

He categories the types of cities, and they relative trajectories towards Gigabit Networks, as follows:

“The first set of communities is those that either have or are likely to see Google Fiber enter. For these, the starting strategy is pretty simple. Accelerate to the extent possible, Google’s entry.” Whether or not Google comes, such cities will be well-situated for others, as well.

Indeed, just days before Levin spoke, Gigi Sohn, counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, encouraged cities not to wait for Google or other telecom providers: “Rather than wait for incumbent ISPs to build the network your cities want and need, you can take control of your own broadband futures,” she said.

Levin’s “second set of communities are those that don’t fit the Google algorithm but are large, dense communities. These would include New York, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These communities may not be able to attract Google and the competitive responses that always follow. But they have the scale, the staff and the demographics to create an attractive next generation investment case.”

“The third set of communities are those smaller communities that may not attract a Google or have the scale to attract what L.A. has done, they still can attract private capital to accelerate next generation deployments.”

Increasingly, there are a range of companies and players seek to fill these too-small-for-Google cities with an arrange of approaches — including public-private collaborations that will build Gigabit Networks.

For Levin, “there is a fourth set of communities that are largely rural. They will not have any Gigabit Network unless the government funds it.”

Whether you are in or representing any one of the four classes of communities about which Levin spoke, he urged cities to adopt the four tools, particularly getting fiber deeper into the communities.

He did note that “there are lots of trade-offs. As our Gig.U handbook discusses, communities have to understand the trade-offs between, for example risk v. control, scale v. quick decision making, ROI for private capital v. universal coverage, among others.

“Each community should understand and make the trade-offs that best serve their residents,” Levin said.

He also addressed the importance of using civic resources for building WiFi deployments off such fiber networks, making concerted efforts to ameliorate the digital divide, and helping spur innovative application for civic usage.

The full speech is available here at Benton.org web site.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

FCC Workshop on eRate Funding Shows New Flexibility for School and Library Fiber Builds

in FCC/Fiber/Gigabit Networks/Universal Service by

June 18, 2015 – Recent changes to the eligibility rules for the Federal Communication Commission’s eRate program open the door for new fiber connections for schools and libraries using agency funds.

Among the rule changes were the suspension of the requirement that applicants seek funding for large up front construction costs over several years, the equalization in the treatment for schools and libraries seeking support for “dark fiber” services, and allowing institutions to build high-speed broadband themselves when more cost-effective.

What’s more, these were only among the significant changes to the eRate program in December 2014.

Because they closely followed other significant changes in July 2014, it has taken some time for the broadband industry to fully recognize their significance. Moreover, the eRate is only the most recent of the four major components of the agency’s Universal Service Fund to receive an overhaul.

The eRate changes came last year in two traunches. in July, the agency updated its rules to allow great use of technologies allowing schools and libraries to close the so-called “Wi-Fi” gap.

Then in December, the agency a addressed the “Connectivity Gap” by granting schools and libraries significantly greater flexibility in purchasing Gigabit-level bandwidth to meet their growing needs. Additionally, the December order lifted the annual cap on spending eRate funds to $3.9 billion, from the current $2.4 billion.

Although the additional $1.5 billion in funds availability has been well-known, It has taken some time for the industry to recognize the scope of the rule changes for the construction of fiber-based services.

“Last year was a big year for the eRate,” said Lisa Hone, associate bureau chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau at the FCC at a May 20 workshop at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The $3.9 billion means that in the 2015 funding year, the eRate is able to fully meet demand, for the first time since 2010.”

The May 20 “Public Workshop On E-Rate Funded Fiber Build Projects” drilled into details regarding the significance of the new fiber rules for eRate.

In a dialogue at the workshop between Jon Wilkins, managing director of the FCC, and Joe Freddoso, former CEO of MCNC, the non-profit fiber-optic network in North Carolina, Wilkins defined the following terms:

  • Lit fiber or lit services are the traditional, conventional, high-speed service, received from an incumbent service provider. The school or library is buying the service at a recurring, monthly charge, but may also need to pay a one-time construction charge.
  • Dark fiber are the physical fiber strands, built and owned by the service provider, but to which the school or library buys dedicated access, for some period of time, to operate for a period of time. This is often done through a legal mechanism known as an Indefeasible Right of Use (IRU).
  • Self-provisioning is when the school or library takes full responsibility for itself to build, to operate, and to maintain the broadband network. While this can be a bigger undertaking, if the school needs to undertake this activity, eRate now supports it, too.

Before the December changes, if a school or library undertook construction of more than $500,000, it had to be spread over three years, said Wilkins. Now, it can all be done in one year.

As with many government funding activities, schools or libraries must come up with some portion of the funds — known as a match — to access eRate funds. Before the December changes, said Wilkins, the match had to be paid in the first year. Now, that up-front cost can be spread among four years.

These are the among the changes that can incentivize schools and libraries to obtain funding for fiber-optic services besides those lit services that are offered through a traditional incumbent. By enabling construction costs to be funded up front, Wilkins said, “eRate provides a much more open ability to select dark fiber or self-provisioning a network.”

Washington Telecom Insiders Focusing on New ‘Broadband Moment’ Through Significant Policy Tweaks

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA by

June 8, 2015 – Some are calling it a second “broadband moment.”

More than six years after  the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was responsible for more than $7 billion in federal funds being spent on broadband infrastructure, internet adoption and telecommunications mapping, there’s a new level of interest in re-vising the National Broadband Plan, as laid out by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010.

Among the indicators:

  • There is widespread interest in municipalities and region tackling less-than-adequate broadband infrastructure, either through municipal construction, or through public-private partnerships.
  • The FCC’s recent changes to eRate eligibility rules open the door for “community anchor institutions” to build their own fiber connections, and to tap into newly-replenished FCC funds when they do so.
  • The FCC has also just launched an effort to revamp its Lifeline fund, which is the fourth major Universal Service Fund category to receive an overhaul in the past decade.
  • While lacking in substantial funds, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration continues to stake out a role in federal broadband policy. Jointly with the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service, NTIA has issues a “Request for Comment” for a wide-ranging public inquiry about expanding broadband deployment and adoption through the recently-established Broadband Advisory Council.

Each of these issues – municipal broadband, eRate changes, Lifeline reform, and the Broadband Advisory Council – will be covered this month in greater detail here in BroadbandBreakfast.com.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a report on “Intended Outcomes and Effectiveness of Efforts to Address Adoption Barriers are Unclear.” In it, the agency highlighted strong progress in bringing broadband to U.S. households, to 83 percent in 2013 from 72 percent in 2011.

At the same time, the agency noted that “adoption has increased, but a significant percentage of the population has still not adopted broadband, and non-adoption rates remain higher among populations such as low-income households and older Americans.”

GAO recommended that NTIA include an outcome-based goal and measure for its broadband adoption work in its performance plan and yet NTIA stated that such metrics are not appropriate for its efforts because these efforts are advisory.

This coming week, many broadband advocacy groups are focused on the Wednesday deadline for comments to Broadband Advisory Council through the NTIA-RUS request. The agency is seeking replies to more than 30 questions, which are grouped around the themes of:

  1. Overaching Questions
  2. Addressing Regulatory Barriers to Broadband Deployment, Competition and Adoption
  3. Promoting Public and Private Investment in Broadband
  4. Promoting Broadband Adoption
  5. Issues Related to State, Local and Tribal Governments
  6. Issues Related to Vulnerable Communities and Communities With Limited or No Broadband
  7. Issues Specific to Rural Areas
  8. Measuring Broadband Availability, Adoption, and Speeds

Comments are due by Wednesday, June 10. The NTIA conducted a webinar on May 20, and posted the presentation and transcript from the event.

Schools, Health and Libraries Conference a Vital Connection for Public Broadband

in Education/FCC/Health/Minority/NTIA/Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2015 – More than five years after the unveiling of the National Broadband Plan, policy-makers and on-the-ground-advocates seeking to build better broadband networks will convene here this week at the annual conference of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

The conference, “Enhancing Broadband Through Innovation, Investment and Inclusion,” has become the regular Washington gathering point for those engaged in public broadband initiatives.

Among the keynote and plenary sessions at this year’s conference include addresses by Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, former Virginia Gov. and Sen. George Allen, plus Mayor Jill Boudreau of Mount Vernon, Washington.

Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition Conference

Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition Conference

Mount Vernon is building a Gigabit Network in its community, and she’ll be joined by Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities, the new non-profit coalition seeking to encourage municipalities to enhance next-generation broadband connectivity through advanced networks.

With so national and municipal developments advancing municipal and public-private networks – together with fast-moving developments at the FCC concerning the eRate and the White House’s ConnectED initiative – SHLB has become an important destination for those entities often called “community anchor institutions.”

These schools, hospital and health clinic, libraries and public computing centers serve as an important resource to ensure greater connectivity to, and knowledge of, our digital economy.

A pre-conference session on Wednesday include a two moderated discussion of the Healthcare Connect Fund, led by Jeff Mitchell of Lukas, Nace, Gutierrez & Sachs; and Bill England of e-Copernicus.

Additionally, the FCC, the Commerce Department’s National  Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the newly-formed National Digital Inclusion Alliance will be hosting related events on Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday’s agenda includes addresses by Allen, Quinn, and an address on “Healthcare’s Invisible Strength” by David Hotchkiss of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Panel sessions will address developments in the eRate, wireless policy, ConnectED, Net Neutrality, municipal broadband, plus broadband research and planning.

Friday features a keynote by Clyburn, plus additional sessions on broadband adoption and digital inclusion. The closing plenary will feature Ray Timothy, CEO of the Utah Education and Telehealth Network and Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the Washington, DC, public library.

Created in 2009 to address the shortage of broadband for anchor institutions, the SHLB Coalition aims to organize these entities together with commercial companies and non-profit broadband providers to improve broadband connectivity for anchor institutions and their communities in all regions of the country. John Windhausen is the coalition’s executive director.

“Anchor institution personnel can train people about broadband services and technologies, thereby stimulating broadband usage and demand,” reads the SHLB Coalition mission and vision. “Furthermore, high-capacity ‘middle mile’ broadband networks serving community anchor institutions can be used as ‘jumping off points’ to serve surrounding residential and business consumers. Several studies show that building high-capacity broadband to community anchor institutions has a multiplier effect that generates tremendous economic growth for the community and the nation.”

Registration and agenda for the SHLB conference. The event is taking place at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Pokes Finger in Eye of Telecom Incumbents at Broadband Communities in Austin

in FCC/Gigabit Networks by
Chairman Tom Wheeler at the Broadband Communities Summit.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler at the Broadband Communities Summit.

AUSTIN, April 14, 2015 – The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission came to Broadband Communities Summit here to metaphorically poke his finger in the eye of the biggest incumbent communications companies.

He cited this city as Exhibit A for his mantra of “competition, competition, competition.”

And one day after the first of multiple legal challenges to the agency’s network neutrality rules, Wheeler delivered a full-throated defense of those regulations.

Wheeler also offered — to repeated applause from the crowd — a vigorous defense of municipalities’ and communities’ right to offer broadband internet services.

Speaking of the reason for gathering in Austin, Wheeler said: “I know it’s not an accident that you’re meeting in Austin, the city that proves competition works. Back in 2013, Google Fiber announced it was coming to town.  Not to be outdone, AT&T initiated upgrades to its network, so it can offer gigabit service for $70/month. As if most of you weren’t jealous already, a regional carrier, Grande upgraded its network and is offering Gigabit broadband in Austin for $65 a month.”

Wheeler continued: “You see a similar competitive response across the country. Google Fiber has designated Atlanta as one of the next markets it will enter. Just weeks ago, Comcast announced plans to offer two-gigabits-per-second broadband in Atlanta, leapfrogging Google’s speeds even though the competition is only hypothetical at this point.”

He also defended the agency’s decision, on February 26, to preempt restrictions in Tennessee and North Carolina. That order, taken by a 3-2 vote of the FCC, came the same day as the even-more-controversial 3-2 decision mandating a new public utility regulatory framework governing net neutrality.

Laying out the big-picture importance of broadband, Wheeler said that ultra-high-speed broadband networks are the “indispensable infrastructure of our 21st century economy and democracy,” and that such capacity has “revolutionized the way businesses operate and people community.”

As regards public policy, Wheeler described “three simple keys to the broadband future: Broadband networks must be fast. Broadband networks must be fair. Broadband networks must be open.”

He segued into a discussion of the FCC’s decision to use Title II of the Communications Act, describing it as a “light-touch regulatory approach” which he said was modeled after the framework put in place for the mobile wireless industry.

He said that his regulations on the cable, telco and wireless communications providers had been defended by tech giants including Google and eBay, and by startups Etsy and Vimeo. They’ve “praised the rules, saying strong net neutrality protections will preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression.”

On the subject of broadband expansion by communities, either by municipalities directly or by public-private partnerships, Wheeler was speaking to a strongly supportive crowd.

He said that many Americans are going from one choice to none at all. “In 2015, just under 75 percent of U.S. homes can chose from only one or fewer wired providers. And, of course, that ‘or fewer’ reference means that about 20 percent have NO access at that speed. That reality is simply unacceptable. Where there is no choice, the market cannot work.”

And that’s one key reason why the agency should be supportive of all measures to build better broadband, including fiber and Gigabit Networks by cities.

“No matter what the commission does to remove barriers to broadband investment, there will be communities that are underserved, or even unserved, by the private market,” he said. But “when commercial providers don’t step up to serve a community’s needs, we should embrace the great American tradition of citizens stepping up to take action collectively.”

In the specific cases of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, where the agency acted to override state restrictions on municipally-owned broadband providers, Wheeler said: “In Chattanooga, large companies like Amazon and Volkswagen have invested in new facilities, citing the city’s world-leading network as a reason why. And Chattanooga is emerging as an incubator for tech start-ups. In Wilson, the area’s top employers all rely on the community broadband network, new companies have located in Wilson because of its network, and residents and businesses in five surrounding counties are all pleading for access to this Gigabit-speed connectivity.”

Nearing the conclusion of his remarks, he said:

My position on this matter was shaped by a few irrefutable broadband truths:

  • You can’t say you’re for broadband – but endorse limits on who can offer it,
  • You can’t follow Congress’ explicit instruction to “remove barriers” to infrastructure investment – but endorse barriers to infrastructure investment,
  • And you can’t say you’re for competition – but deny local elected officials the right to offer competitive choices.

It is also important to recognize that the Commission’s recent ruling is responding to two specific petitions from two cities. It is enforceable only in those two states.

Having said that, this issue extends beyond these two states. I hope it highlights and discourages the efforts of incumbents to block consumer choice and competition.

And, as examples of positive trends in supporting community broadband networks, he cited efforts in the state of Connecticut; Bozeman, Montana; and Grand Junction, Colorado. In Grand Junction, “residents voted overwhelmingly last week to approve the city’s right to provide Internet access and local leaders are now exploring plans for a new community broadband network.”

Wheeler’s remarks were the first remarks by an agency chairman in the recent history of the Broadband Communities Conference, an annual gathering of fiber-optic enthusiasts, public policy officials, and the operators of broadband in multiple-dwelling units.

Wheeler opened his remarks by lauding Broadband Communities CEO Scott DeGarmo and his team “for hosting this conference and to all of you who work to spread the gospel about the importance of high-speed connectivity.”


Jonathan Chambers of the FCC Says Results of Rural Broadband Experiment Teach Incumbents a Lesson

in Broadband Data/Broadband Mapping/FCC/NTIA/Rural Utilities Service/Universal Service by

AUSTIN, April 14, 2015 – The official from the Federal Communications Commission responsible for the agency’s unique “rural broadband experiment” on Monday said the experiment was less about learning than about teaching the rural telecom industry that it can do better.

Speaking on panel at the Broadband Communities Summit here, Jonathan Chambers, chief of the Office of Strategic Planning at the FCC, said: “I wanted to teach certain people in Washington that we could do better than 4 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 1 Mbps up [in broadband speeds.]”

Jonathan Chambers, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning, FCC

Jonathan Chambers, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning, FCC














“I wanted to teach that there was an interest in deployment of broadband to [rural residents'] homes, and in their home communities,” Chambers continued.

Less that $100 million over a 10 year period is being made available through this rural broadband experiment. That $10 million a year, Chambers said, is two-tenth of one percent of the amount — $4.5 billion — that is annually made available to traditional rural telecom companies.

Chambers said he wanted to teach Washington that changes to the entrenched system of universal service could be done, and that significantly better broadband could be made widely available throughout rural America “because there are models that work differently in different places.”

In essence, Chambers said, the innovation of the rural broadband experiment was to explore the question: “What would happen if we made [funds] available to [entities] other than phone companies in rural America?”

In Chamber’s view, the response was impressive.

In an FCC blog post last December, Chambers wrote:

We received bids from telephone and electric co-ops, from mobile operators, from wireless internet service providers, from cable companies, from communities, and from a satellite provider. We received bids from start-ups and from companies that have been around for over 100 years. We received bids to provide broadband via copper, fiber, licensed and unlicensed spectrum. We received bids from national operators, but mostly the bids came from companies that were locally based, with more than an occasional effort to try new strategies to get broadband to unserved communities.

We received 575 bids from 181 different entities to cover homes and small businesses in over 75,000 census blocks in rural areas in every state in the country. The total amount requested far exceeded the budget, nearly nine times as much as was available to fund in the auction. And it appears that the auction succeeded in drawing bidders who believe they can provide service very economically. For example, when we compared the bids to the amount of support calculated by the FCC’s cost model, the total requested in the auction in the aggregate is less than half the model-based support for those census blocks. And the total from the group of lowest bidders is just ten percent of the model-based support for those particular blocks.

This incredible outpouring of interest was attributable to communities’ greater buy-in when they were able to have a stake — separate and apart from a rural telecom company — in their broadband future.

“There are places where a community will put stuff up, and we didn’t have to follow the model we have followed for years,” Chambers said.

He also noted with pleasure that the FCC had upped its definition of broadband to 25 Mbps, which he called “the basis for the rural broadband” experiment.

In noting that the bids obtained under the rural experiment were half as much as the agency pays for traditional “high-cost” universal service support, Chambers said Monday that most of the proposals were “fiber to the home, which would deliver far greater speeds, less latency, and more reliable service than the FCC has sought in past years.”

The panel on which Chambers spoke, “Federal Loans, Grants and Universal Service Fund Support,” was a last minute addition to the program. Also on the program was Sandeep Taxali, senior policy analyst at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and Laurel Leverrier, operations branch chief policy for the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service.

Both Taxali and Leverrier spoke about their agency’s broadband programs, including the Broadband Advisory Council of federal government entities recently announced by President Obama.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Kirton McConkie, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, which enhances clients’ ability to construct and operate high-speed broadband networks in public-private partnerships. You can find him on LinkedINGoogle+ and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com  and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors. Clark brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband: job creation, telemedicine, online learning, public safety, energy, transportation and eGovernment. 

AT&T Settles with FCC for $25 Million in Landmark Privacy and Data Breach Agreement

in Cybersecurity/Expert Opinion/FCC/Privacy by

Cattanach_Robert (640x427)Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced a $25 million settlement with AT&T for data breaches including  the releasing of thousands of customer records, including names, phone numbers and some Social Security numbers.

BroadbandBreakfast.com welcomes commentaries and opinions on this and other subjects from a multitude of viewpoints.

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2015 – The FCC’s settlement with AT&T sets another benchmark for data breach enforcement, with several important developments.

First, it demonstrates the continuing encroachment of the FCC into areas once thought to be the exclusive domain of the FTC.  This is a classic data breach enforcement action that typically would have been prosecuted by the FTC until most recently.

Second, it “ups the ante” for such breaches, with a fine two and a half times the previous largest penalty imposed.

Third, it calls into question the integrity of call centers outside of the U.S.  The fact that an initial breach was discovered in Mexico, followed by subsequent discoveries in Columbia and the Philippines, suggests AT&T may have a more serious systemic vulnerability rather than a one-off hack.

Forth, and most importantly, it once again calls the question of which agency has enforcement priority: the FCC or the FTC?  Will the FTC accept a subsidiary role in enforcement maters where telcos are involved?  One could surmise that the FTC could assert a claim against AT&T under Section 5.  Given the increasingly frosty relationship between the FTC and FCC on enforcement of incidents triggering dual jurisdiction, its difficult to imagine that there was any significant coordination between the two agencies.  This raises a number of potential issues, not the least of which might be potential double jeopardy.

Robert Cattanach is a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney. He has previously worked as a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice and was also special counsel to the Secretary of the Navy. Today he practices in the areas of regulatory litigation, including cybersecurity, privacy and telecommunications, civil and criminal enforcement proceedings and international Regulatory Compliance.

Editor’s Note: BroadbandBreakfast.com accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@broadbandcensus.com. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of BroadbandBreakfast.com and Breakfast Media LLC.

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