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Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Genachowski Fills Senior Counsel Positions

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By Ryan Womack, Reporter-Researcher, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2009 – Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachwoski announced on Wednesday new senior staff appointments FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities and Office of General Counsel as well as Media, Enforcement, and Wireline Competition Bureaus.

The OCBO Director will be Thomas Reed, Of Counsel at K&L Gates LLP. Mr Reed’s practice has specialized in regulatory issues affecting women and minority-owned businesses, and was also Legal Counsel to the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

A second K&L Gates attorney, Carolyn Williams, will join Reed as Senior Deputy Directory of OCBO.

Leadership Council on Civil Rights vice president Mark Lloyd will join the commission as Chief Diversity Officer, and also will hold the title of Associate General Counsel.

William Lake, most recently in the spotlight as head of the FCC’s DTV Task Force, will be Chief at the Media Bureau, assisted by Deputy Chiefs Robert Ratcliffe and Kris Monteith. Ratcliffe was previously Deputy Chief at the Enforcement Bureau, where he was head of media enforcement. Monteith previously served as Chief of the Enforcement Bureau and Deputy Bureau Chief for Outreach and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

Genachowski also announced he would appoint Suzanne Tetreault, current acting deputy chief Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, to be chief of the Enforcement Bureau.

And Genachowski reached out to Massachusetts to appoint Sharon Gillett, director of the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative, as the new head of the Wireline Competition Burueau.

“This extraordinarily talented senior staff has extensive experience in the private sector, the academy, and the public sector, including here at the FCC and in state government,” said Chairman Genachowski. “With their help, the agency will pursue policies that advance a vibrant media sector, unleash innovation and job creation, protect consumers, and promote competition.”

Convergence, Innovation Push Boundaries of Network Neutrality Debate, Experts Agree

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ARLINGTON, Va., June 19, 2009 – Representatives of network operators, internet companies and consumer advocates said they are prepared for a network neutrality policy to emerge from the Obama administration, but during a panel at Pike and Fischer’s Broadband Policy Summit  they remained very much divided over the best approach to solving problems of network management while protecting consumers.

Convergence of content providers and network owners into “one overall internet ecosystem” raises questions that weren’t present at the outset of previous network neutrality debates, said Phoenix Center President Lawrence Spiwak. While such arguments were once limited to whether backbone providers could charge popular website operators like Google or Amazon for preferential treatment, the debate has broadened to include network management, mobile handset exclusivity and mobile open access as “part of the net neutrality pie,” he said. But Spiwak cautioned that any policy should be designed with the primary goal of preventing anticompetitive behavior, regardless of scope.

AT&T Senior Vice President James Cicconi said the most pressing issue surrounding network neutrality is how business models can adapt to deal with spikes in internet use. Cicconi cited a Cisco study which predicts overall online traffic will grow from 9 to 56 exabytes per month by 2015. This rapid expansion is primarily driven by cloud computing and online video applications, and is moving “faster than anyone predicted,” he said.

Maintaining a quality user experience — with the consistency users expect — will require a careful balancing of needs between many different service and application providers, he said.

Network management problems could be sidestepped entirely by expanding the bandwidth available on long-haul and last-mile broadband pipes, Amazon.com vice president Paul Misner said. Discrimination only occurs when there is a scarcity of bandwidth — and the market would not tolerate discrimination if it could be avoided. “When there is sufficient capacity, discrimination isn’t possible.

Combining the industry’s massive investment in capacity with government build-out efforts like the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program will not be enough to keep pace with demand, panelists agreed. And while price caps and tiered pricing systems so far have been met with resistance, a metered pricing scheme is probably inevitable:  “The economically efficient solution is to charge who is clogging the system,” Meisner said.

Cicconi took issue with consumer advocates who dismiss metering or caps as un-American, responding that protecting the majority of consumers is the goal of network management. “In any sort of limited capacity system, you’ve got to find a way to balance and make it fair to consumers.”

The need for a new “fifth principle” in the Federal Communications Commission’s Internet Policy Statement was also a subject of disagreement. And the enforcability of the statement remains at issue while Comcast’s lawsuit against the FCC remains pending.  But any management regime needs “clarity and certainty” Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Vice Preside Mark Lloyd said. Without a clear set of rules, the industry will not be able to move forward and innovate, he said.

Congress, FCC See DTV Transition Progress; Low Power Broadcasters Say Left Behind

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WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 – The transition to digital television since the passage of the DTV Delay Act has been a “major accomplishment,” Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Thursday at a hearing on the state of the DTV transition.

Boucher, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Technology, Communications and the Internet, said that while he was pleased at seeing “clear results” and positive progress, “much remains to be done,” Boucher said.

Ranking member Cliff Stearns, R-Fal., agreed that “the glass is 95 percent full,” on the country’s readiness. But he lamented the amount of money set aside for coupons, and suggested significant savings could be had by confining the program to households without cable or satellite television.

“Shepherding the transition” has been “priority number 1” since taking over the FCC, Acting Chairman Michael Copps said.

Even before his elevation from the position of commissioner, Copps said he believed “it was clear the country was not ready…for the February 17 cutoff.” Besides “rampant consumer confusion,” Copps said a major problem had been a lack of coordination between public and private stakeholders .

Copps thanked Congress for the Delay Act, but was careful to warn members that “we are nowhere out of the woods yet.” The transition may not be “seamless,” he said. “But there is time to make a real difference.”

The FCC, Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and private sector actors are focusing “day and night” on education and outreach, he said. Starting in April, public service announcements will begin to mention antenna and converter box rescanning issues, as well as publicizing walk-in help centers.

Cable and broadcast television providers have “really stepped up to the plate” in helping build a unified DTV help call center, said Copps.

In addition, the FCC is working with AmeriCorps and other groups to put “boots on the ground” to help people get set up who might not otherwise be able to install equipment.

Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro said the education program had been one of the most effective consumer campaigns he has ever seen. “I bet more people know about the transition…than could identify the Vice-President of the United States,” he said.

“This great nation of ours can ill afford to delay the transition again,” Shapiro said in a statement released after the hearing. “To do so would put at risk the many benefits that will accrue from the switch to digital: phenomenal amount of beachfront-quality spectrum for new licensed and unlicensed services, including sorely needed improvement to Internet access; better communications platforms for law enforcement and public safety; and almost $20 billion in auction revenues for the U.S. Treasury.”

But Copps lamented that his calls for increased awareness of the analog “cliff” effect had gone ignored for the past two years.

However, the FCC has recently launched an online “map” that allows consumers to determine if they will be able to receive a signal post-transition. When Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., asked Copps if urban landscapes would pose reception problems post-transition, Copps said that there was “no question” in his mind that such problems exist. “We’ll have to deal with them…and we would be remiss if we did not study them further.”

The DTV coupon backlog is clear as of five days ago, said Acting Assistant Commerce Secretary Anna Gomez, currently the top-ranking official at the NTIA.

Mark Lloyd, vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights said many consumers have found the FCC’s new online map very useful.

But Lloyd noted his group has found DTV reception to be inconsistent not only within the same community, but within the same apartment building. Most important to a smooth transition, he said, is “the importance of being able to go in the homes” of populations in need and help them with rescanning, and other issues.

Idaho Public Television general manager Peter Morrill said his organization has identified six areas, primarily located in rugged terrain that will be affected by the “cliff effect.”

Morrill acknowledged the FCC’s efforts to address this need for digital television “fill-in” service, but said many stations lack the financial means to license and build these systems in time for the June 12, 2009 shutdown.

“Legislative encouragement and additional funding can help us ensure the smoothest transition possible,” said Morrill. But Weiner suggested a change in education was necessary to enable consumers to understand the importance of finding a solution. — “bad service means no service, in this case.”

Robert Prather, CEO of Gray Television summed up how to solve the cliff issue: “it all comes down to funding.”

Boucher was also troubled by numbers from CEA and NTIA that “did not match up” with regard to supply and demand for converter boxes. But Wal-Mart senior vice president Gary Severnson said there was close coordination between manufacturers, retailers, and NTIA to coordinate supply, and that he had “no concern” about a shortage. His biggest fear was that he would be left with a surplus of boxes post-transition.

Shapiro said the data flow from NTIA was very good, and at least four manufacturers were producing more than enough boxes to meet demand. But in the event of a shortage, Shapiro suggested that as a “safety valve,” coupons could be used to subsidize consumer access basic cable or allow them receive stripped-down DTV sets.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill, voiced some concerned over the possibility of an additional delay upon the wireless and electronics industry. He introduced into the record a letter from Qualcomm, a manufacturer of wireless broadband equipment to highlight the impact on the company that further delay would bring. Boucher said Shimkus’ fears were unfounded, as both he and Chairman Henry Waxman were in complete agreement: “We’re not going to postpone this transition again – we need to get it right.”

Also read into the record was a letter from Community Broadcasters Association president Kyle Reeves expressing anger over Congress’ failure to include Class A and Low Power television stations in the transition. Despite having its entire industry threatened by the transition, CBA was explicitly denied the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing, a spokesman for the association said.

If something is not done about the Low Power and Class A station problem, Reeves predicted a disaster: “Diversity of voices and career opportunities will suffer a real setback,” he said, citing a CBA-commissioned survey showing 43 percent of Class A and Low Power TV stations have significant minority ownership. Most are small businesses, and 62 percent are owner-operated, the survey said.

And 34 percent of CBA member stations broadcast in foreign languages, the survey noted. Without some kind of action, “a critical source of emergency information for foreign language speakers will be lost,” Reeves warned. “Foreign language speakers will end up watching imported cable and satellite channels that carry only foreign-produced programming, pay no taxes, employ no U.S. citizens, and provide no local content and no American perspective.”

The CBA testified before the subcommittee under then-chairman Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who told its president “Help is on the way.” But the CBA has not yet seen any real help, Reeves said.

Reeves suggested the FCC take an “active hand” in promoting a DTV transition for LPTV stations after [the FCC] “spent over a decade on full power TV, including devoting enormous resources to finding channels so that as many stations as possible could operate parallel analog and digital stations for several years.” Congress could fund a program to transition all stations to digital, or allow them to “leapfrog” broadcasting and move onto broadband, mobile television, or other emerging technologies.

In the alternative, Congress could allow LPTV stations to auction their spectrum and share in the proceeds for a “soft landing” as they shut down, Reeves said. “If that opportunity were offered, some would take it today, sadly perhaps; but it would be a lot better than losing everything: hopes, dreams, and investments.”

But in the current economy, Reeves suggested there was no valid reason to ignore his industry any longer: “The combined impacts of the decline of over-the-air viewing, the digital transition, and the recession have created the perfect storm. There is no more time to think about it.”

Definition of Broadband Could Pit Rural Versus Urban, Market Forces Against Public Interest

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News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 4, Session 1

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 – Experts and citizens split words at the NTIA/RUS Thursday morning public roundtable seeking to define broadband – an essential element to determine what projects receive federal funding under stimulus spending.

Thursday was the fourth of six days of public hearings by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service on how to spend $7.2 billion in broadband funds.

The discussion will continue in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.

Mark Lloyd, vice president of strategic initiatives at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said the definition of broadband should be centered around speeds and how broadband can serve as a means of communication. He said the debate has its source in the legal frameworks adopted by Congress in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“New definitions must focus on hard speeds,” said Lloyd. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We cannot manage what we cannot measure.”

Stagg Newman, principal of Piggah Communication Consulting, said definitions should center around understanding what the service is, acceptable network infrastructure, and a series of metrics by which to measure both.

“A backbone network from central and surrounding areas is needed across the nation. Infrastructure is also needed for emergency responders, and a satellite back-up for geographical cover,” he said.

Newman added: “Let us consider trade-offs to affordability. I know that is controversial but let us put it out there.”

Fred Campbell, president and CEO of Wireless Communication Association, said that “the definition should be viewed as a gating mechanism, not a measure of evaluating grant eligibility.”

Dave Malfura, president and CEO of ETC Group, LLC., said broadband should be defined as “a service which allows users to access the world’s resources and its inhabitants without Encumbrances.”

The components must be defined at granular level too, he said. Speed, he said, is a moveable target, and market forces will keep changing it.

“By supporting at a minimum level as laid down in law, we would fulfill the Hippocratic Oath, ‘Do no harm,’ first,” he said.

Tom DeReggi, vice president and legislative committee director for the Wireless Internet Providers’ Association (and founder of Rapid DSL & Wireless internet service provider), said the speeds will be determined by market forces and the environments of operation.

“We could do so much more if we were empowered and none of us left to do anything alone,” he said.

DeReggi continued: “We’ll need technology that does not require permits in order for us to implement and engineer. We’ll need to stand by people who have vested interests in helping their communities and nurture relationships with stakeholders.”

Daniel Mitchell, vice president for the legal and industry division of the National Telecommunications Corporation, said the crisis of definition was both “elusive and evolving.”

“The definition must meet existing and emerging needs. Unserved ought to mean no service at all, and underserved to mean anything below standards set up by the Federal Communications Commission,” he said.

Chris Vein, chief information officer of San Francisco, said the underserved people need video, voice and data. Broadband speeds, he said, might need to be symmetrical.

“We need fiber-optics and high speed wireless. Let us go for the greatest speed possible. Let us pursue public-private partnerships. And let us not forget that communities vary across the country and even within cities,” he said.

Leroy Watson, legislative director for the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, said the crisis of definition won’t be wished away, and that both short and long-term goals must be determined.

“There will be various technical issues to be ironed out. Active and passive applications on the web should be supported, including interactions with third-party players,” he said.

The United States, he added, is a large continent and broadband is just be one of the many steps required to meet the needs of neglected peoples and areas in the country’s 200 year history.

During the public comment phase, the audience expressed concern over the tension between market forces and the public interest, about eligibility guidelines, and about the viability of relying on market forces in view of recent economic setbacks.

They also raised issues about the broadband stimulus funds pitting rural and urban areas, about broadband reliability, redundancy and security in the context of public safety.

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