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Rep. Doris Matsui

Congress Seeks Winning Design for Proposed Spectrum Auctions

in FCC/Mobile Broadband/National Broadband Plan/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2011 – The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology explored legislation Wednesday that would encourage the voluntary participation of broadcast companies and wireless providers in spectrum auctions.

“There is a looming spectrum crisis, and we must get additional spectrum into the marketplace,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)

Witnesses before the subcommittee testified if a solution is not adequately devised, increasing consumer demand for mobile broadband products potentially threatens to overcrowd spectrum to the point where it is unusable and innovation is stifled.

“Today, the United States is the world’s clear leader in wireless broadband,” said Chris Guttman-McCabe, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association during his prepared remarks. “Although the United States is home to just 4.6 percent of the world’s population and 5.8 percent of global wireless subscribers, the U.S. claims 20.4 percent of global high-speed wireless broadband (3G and 4G) subscribers.

“The growth in the demand for mobile broadband and the corresponding need for additional spectrum has been well-documented both by the government and respected private sector parties like the Yankee Group, CODA, and Kleiner Perkins,” said McCabe.

Subcommittee members and witnesses alike expressed the need to design legislation for successful spectrum auctions.  The subcommittee and the witnesses agreed that voluntary incentive auction that would benefit consumers, broadcasters, the government and the general economy.

“Authorizing the FCC to conduct incentive auctions should be the foundation of our spectrum policy efforts,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). “We should take full advantage of the FCC’s world-class expertise on auction design and give the agency the ability to work with auction experts to set up the best possible incentive auction.”

“Spectrum legislation presents a tremendous opportunity to promote wireless broadband, spur economic growth, create jobs, and generate significant revenue for the American taxpayer,” said Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), in his opening remarks.

Walden, a former radio broadcaster, while acknowledging the need for smarter spectrum policy, did not seem to agree that incentive auctions were the only answer.

“I would like to see a partnership between broadcasters and wireless companies on spectrum,” said Walden after the hearing. “Part of the reason we held this hearing was to tease out the new technologies. HDTV has only been out for two years, and the companies have put in a lot of work. Now they’re starting to explore what else you can do with that spectrum and mobile TV is certainly a piece of that.”

Witnesses from broadcast companies expressed support for a broadband solution as called for in the National Broadband Plan, but also voiced their concerns. Broadcasters wanted assurance that they would be protected in the potential legislation.

“There is only so much that the laws of physics will allow us to do without crippling our capability to serve our local communities now and in the future,” said Todd Schurz, President and CEO of Schurz Communications.

Schurz outlined four points to serve as a baseline for protecting broadcasters.  Broadcasters, he said, should not be forced to inferior spectrum bands, nor should they be subject to increased interference.  Additionally, if broadcasters are repacked they should not bear the cost and after repacking their signal footprint should not decrease.

Repacking is a means by which broadcasters are moved to different spectrum bands and compressed to free up more contiguous spectrum.

Broadcasters also hope to gain from the increased spectrum demands of consumers.

“To borrow a sports analogy, you go where the puck is going,” said Bert Ellis, President of Titan Broadcasting. “This is where the consumer is going, and we want to be able to go there as well.”

At a time when the U.S. budget deficit is the talk of the town, voluntary incentive auction legislation could provide a method to reduce the budget deficit; the U.S. Treasury would reap the majority of the money from the auctions.

“The FCC incentive auction would likely generate large revenues for the government, perhaps in the range of that generated by the 700 MHz auction [in 2008], which generated close to $19 billion,” said Duke University Dr. Michelle Connolly, an economics professor at Duke University. “More importantly for the overall U.S. economy, it will help move a scarce resource to a more valuable use to our economy and society.”

Connolly cautioned, however, that the auction rules must provide a measure of certainty to licensees and the public.

“As important as the impact of rules imposed on the spectrum being auctioned, is the impact of uncertainty. Rules that increase uncertainty for bidders will also lead to lower bids,” said Connolly.

Every party involved, however, regardless of whether they would participate in a voluntary incentive auction, expressed certainty that meeting the needs of the American consumer was central to their service or proposal.

Measure To Block Open Internet Order Passes House

in Congress/FCC/House of Representatives/Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 - In a strongly party-line vote Friday afternoon, the House passed House Joint Resolution 37, an action that would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules.

Only five Democrats voted in favor of the resolution.

During his floor speech, Rep Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said that there is currently no crisis that demands the federal government intervene.

“The FCC’s rules threaten to chill the very investment and innovation we need to ensure the Internet keeps pace with the growing demands being placed on it,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman, Fred Upton (R-MI).

Democrats countered GOP statements, saying that the FCC is not trying to regulate the Internet and that the House should be working toward achieving a solution to the budget rather than voting on the joint resolution.

As the business day came to a close on Friday, Congress had reached no deal on the nation’s budget, just hours ahead of a midnight deadline. If no compromise is reached by then, the federal government will shut down.

“The FCC’s Open Internet Order will bring clarity to the broadband and high-tech economy.  The Rules will promote competition, innovation, job creation and protect consumers.  These common sense rules should not be controversial, let alone repealed, particularly when an overwhelming number of stakeholders and economists support the FCC Order,” said Rep. Dorris Matsui (D-CA).  “H.J. Res. 37 will discourage competition, innovation and job creation.  It is critical that we continue to support a free and open Internet for all Americans.”

Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition Holds Broadband Summit

in Broadband Mapping/Broadband Stimulus/Broadband's Impact/Congress/Education/Health/House of Representatives/NTIA/Senate/States/Universal Service by

WASHINGTON March 30, 2011- The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition assembled broadband stimulus award winners and government officials for their inaugural broadband summit on Tuesday to share solutions and success in  solving digital literacy and adoption issues.

The SHLBC, formed two years ago, comprises libraries, hospitals, schools, non-profit groups and corporations that seek to further broadband availability for community anchor institutions.

New Mexico’s State Librarian, Susan Oberlander, provided one of the most descriptive presentations on the state’s digital literacy program.

“By holding the programs in the libraries we found that the programs instantly gained credibility,” Oberlander said. “People already trust the library as a source of good information.”

Oberlander went on to describe how the state contacted telecommunications providers for assistance with developing and implementing the digital literacy and training programs, but the telecommunications providers were not receptive to providing assistance.

As part of the training programs, the attendees participate in broadband usage surveys that track their interests and progress.

“Our preliminary findings are quite interesting,” said Oberlander. “We found that a large number of small businesses that come to our workshops already have broadband, but they want to expand their knowledge of computers.”

The surveys also found that cost of service and lack of a computer are the largest barriers to adoption.

Mary Ann Stiefvater, Cultural Education Specialist at New York State Library, agreed with Oberlander’s findings regarding the use of libraries as digital literacy training centers.

“People already go to the library to use computers; it becomes a natural place for them to learn more,” Stiefyater said.

Stiefyater also talked about the benefits of training the small businesses: “Libraries face the same challenges of developing a web presence as small businesses do. The libraries have learned what works and are now able to train small businesses in the best practices.”

Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), who is co-chair of the Congressional High Tech Caucus, presented the first keynote address of the summit with the announcement that she will  reintroduce legislation to expand Lifeline and Link-Up to include broadband. The Lifeline and Link-Up programs currently provide subsidies to consumers to help pay for telephone service and connection costs.

“Community anchor institutions are critical to our communities,” Matsui said. “By keeping the internet free and open while improving digital literacy programs we can bridge the digital divide.”

She also stated that she supports the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to update  the Universal Service Fund (USF) to include broadband access.

“With the current budgetary realities it’s unlikely we will see another large round of funding, but the USF is a viable alternative,” said Matthew Hussey, Advisor to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), during a panel on the Congressional perspective.

Lawrence Strickling, Administrator of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), presented the second keynote, commending the assembled group for its  tireless work.

“The grant programs are still new, but they are already producing results,” Strickling said. “During the last quarter they have already created one thousand new jobs, installed four thousand new computers and held over 150 thousand hours of training, and our middle mile projects are in talks with over 200 last mile providers to provide connections.”

Of the 233 BTOP projects, only two have been cancelled.

“We worked with these two award winners to try and salvage the projects but they declined our help so unfortunately the projects were canceled,” Strickling said. “Both projects were in the early stages and there was a minimal loss of federal funds.”

According to Strickling, the funds which are not used by the grantees will be given back to the Treasury department to help decrease the deficit.

Strickling then provided the audience with an overview of the National Broadband Map which the NTIA unveiled in February. He called the map a “first try” and promised that with each update the map’s accuracy will improve. With regard to the depth of the data, Strickling said that originally the NTIA wanted to collect address-level data, however, internet service providers told the agency that they did not keep data at that granular of a level. Instead, the NTIA settled on census-block level data, which is more precise than the zip-code level data the FCC collects.

“When we compiled the map we asked internet service providers for their advertised speeds,” Strickling said, “but with anchor institutions we were able to obtain actual speeds and many of them said they did not receive the speeds they wanted or needed. Our anchor institutions are being underserved.”

According to Strickling educational researchers have found that schools need 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for every 100 students, but most schools are not able to provide that level of speed.

When asked by the audience about how looming budget cuts will affect the NTIA’s oversight of the BTOP grantees, Strickling said that both of the continuing resolutions that Congress has passed have included funds for oversight and he does not suspect the funds to be cut in the final budget resolution.

 

High-Tech Caucus Taps Matsui for Co-Chair

in Congress by

WASHINGTON, January 27, 2011 – The Congressional High-Tech Caucus announced Wednesday that it named Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) as its new Co-Chair, joining Republican Michael McCaul (TX).

Matsui, who sits on the House subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, will replace Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), who was formerly McCaul’s Co-Chair in the caucus.  Eshoo was named ranking member of the Communications and Technology subcommittee late last week.

“I am excited to welcome Congresswoman Matsui as our House Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional High Tech Caucus,” said McCaul through a caucus statement.  “Through her extensive work on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and her leadership in the technology and clean energy fields, she is sure to bring a fresh perspective to the leadership of the High Tech Caucus.”

The High Tech Caucus is a bipartisan organization intended to bring together Members of Congress with tech industry leaders, experts and educators to improve the high tech sector.  It was formed in the beginning of the 110th Congress.

“During [Tuesday]‘s State of the Union address, the President laid out national goals to enhance American innovation and ingenuity particularly in the technology sector to move our economy and our nation forward,” said Matsui in a press release Wednesday afternoon.  “It is critical that Congress provide the necessary tools to the tech community that enables the industry to grow, innovate, and create good paying jobs.

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