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Industry Reactions to Tom Wheeler’s Nomination to Be FCC Chairman: CCIA, NCTA, CTIA, NTCA, CEA and MPAA

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WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 - The following are reactions from President Barack Obama’s Announcement that Tom Wheeler would be Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from several of the leading major telecommunications, media and technology industry trade groups.

Ed Black, President and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association: 

“President Obama has nominated the right leader for the right job at the right time.

“I have known and respected Tom Wheeler for many years, and believe his exceptional understanding of much of the industry, combined with his demonstrated commitment to protecting the public interest, makes him uniquely qualified to lead this important agency facing many complicated and critical decisions.

“Tom’s knowledge of the telecom, cable and Internet industries and his experience representing the wireless and cable industries when they were the newest disruptive innovators makes him an excellent choice. A frequent impediment to US innovation is that incumbents too often protect their legacy business models rather than allowing the market to evolve in ways that help consumers. Wheeler’s career backing start ups and promoting disruptive innovators in the wireless and cable industries is an important perspective to have in a Chairman.

“The choice of Wheeler reinforces our belief that President Obama understands the Internet’s role as both a communications tool and as a key for growing the digital economy. We need an FCC Chairman to chart the right course that will boost Internet openness, promote robust competition, innovation and affordable high speed Internet access.”

Michael Powell, President and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association:

“We congratulate Tom Wheeler on his nomination as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. With his significant experience in both the private and public sector, Tom is an exceptional choice to lead the Commission during a time when the telecommunications marketplace is experiencing significant innovation and incredible change. We welcome the pending appointment of Mignon Clyburn as interim chairman as she is a distinguished and able public servant. We will continue working closely with the entire Commission as they tackle important issues facing America’s dynamic media, technology and telecommunications landscape.”

Steve Largent, President and CEO of CTIA – The Wireless Association:

“On behalf of the wireless industry, we congratulate Tom on today’s announcement. Tom has a deep understanding of communications issues, a passion for hard work and creative thinking, a diverse background that spans the realm of the Internet world and a keen understanding of how mobile wireless broadband can drive our economy and innovation. His leadership of the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council, combined with his private sector experience means he will hit the ground running. We look forward to working with Tom, once he completes the Senate confirmation process, on the breadth of spectrum and other wireless telecom matters which are pending at the Commission and critical to the maintenance of our position as global leader in mobile communications.”

Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association:

“NTCA congratulates Mr. Wheeler upon his nomination to serve as the next chairman of the FCC. Small rural carriers have worked diligently to deliver on the President’s vision of universal broadband access, and we know that Mr. Wheeler appreciates the need for a stable, well-defined regulatory climate to facilitate investment in and upgrade of broadband-capable, IP-enabled networks. This is particularly important in the hard-to-serve areas in which NTCA members operate, and we look forward to working with Mr. Wheeler to fulfill the promise of high-quality, affordable and sustainable broadband access for all Americans.”

Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association:

“President Obama has made an excellent choice in nominating Tom Wheeler. As the former president of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and the former CEO of CTIA – The Wireless Association, he understands the impact of government actions on innovation and competitiveness.

“As the chairman of the U.S. State Department Advisory Committee on International Communications Policy and Information Policy, Wheeler helped develop the unprecedented unified position of the U.S. government, Congress and industry opposing the International Telecommunication Union’s effort to encourage countries to wall off their citizens’ Internet access. Wheeler also helped coordinate the U.S. response to the Haiti disaster which quickly restored basic telecommunications service to Haiti and put into place a strategy for future responses to areas hit by a telecommunications breakdown.

“The FCC plays a vital role in the lives of all Americans. CEA and its 2,000 technology industry member companies look forward to working with Wheelerand his colleagues to help the FCC advance technology innovation through spectrum reallocation and other groundbreaking issues. Wheeler is experienced, qualified and certain to make a difference as FCC chairman.”

Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America:

“I’d like to congratulate Tom Wheeler on his nomination today by President Obama to be FCC Chairman. Tom has demonstrated strong leadership skills at a time of major change in the telecommunications, cable, and wireless industries.  I look forward to working with Tom, an entrepreneur and experienced policy expert,  to ensure the smooth delivery of American content over a variety of devices and networks, both here and abroad.”font

Telecom Industry Players Pleased with D.C. Circuit Court Ruling for Comcast

in FCC/National Broadband Plan/Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2010 – Players in the telecommunications industry were elated last Tuesday as the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit invalidated the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to regulate broadband service under the principles promulgated in the Commission’s Internet Policy Statement.

The ruling, which Comcast sought following the FCC’s imposition of sanctions on the cable provider when activists revealed the company was blocking subscribers’ use of BitTorrent file sharing services, after Comcast had denied engaging in any such behavior.

Comcast responded by challenging the agency’s authority to regulate broadband services in the first place, alleging the Commission’s “ancillary jurisdiction” did not allow it to extend its’ authority around cable modem service.

Industry groups representing both the cable and wireless broadband industry expressed relief at the Court’s ruling. Steve Largent, president and CEO of wireless association CTIA said in a statement that the Court’s “unanimous and very thorough opinion” clarifies that the FCC has no authority to regulate broadband.

Instead, the Commission should focus on implementing its’ national broadband plan by “spurring investment, innovation, and job growth, and to turn away from calls to impose restrictive regulations on the Internet ecosystem.” Largent added that “it is time to turn away from murky regulatory debates and focus on connecting all Americans and leading the world in broadband.”

Cable industry groups were similarly elated, as National Cable and Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow said the Court correctly ruled “a specific order by the previous FCC was wrong.” But nothing would change about the cable industry’s “longstanding commitment to provide consumers the best broadband experience,” McSlarrow said.

McSlarrow made clear he was not adverse to working towards a solution to network management issues in the future. “We continue to embrace a free and open Internet as the right policy and will continue to work with the Commission and other policymakers and stakeholders to find a sound way of preserving that goal,” he said.

Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said that the company was “gratified by the court’s devision to vacate the previous FCC’s order.” “We will continue to work constructively with this FCC as it determines how best to increase broadband adoption and preserve an open and vibrant Internet,” Fitzmaurice said.

Near-Universal Chorus of Agreement Greets National Broadband Plan; Parties Seek Their Good in Blueprint

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

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2010 – An executive summary of the Federal Communications Commission’s forthcoming National Broadband Plan drew near-unanimous praise from stakeholders on the eve of the full plan’s release, with industry groups, public interest advocates and lawmakers all weighing in positively as they became aware of the agency’s intentions.

While acknowledging there would be “points of disagreement” with the final plan, National Cable and Telecommunications Association CEO Kyle McSlarrow said the Commission report “makes a significant contribution to the dialogue” on a broadband strategy for the U.S.

“Chairman Genachowski and his staff working on the Omnibus Broadband Initiative should be commended for their efforts to draft a broadband ‘blueprint’ that surveys the technology landscape, that identifies industry progress to date and remaining policy challenges, and that suggests new ideas and reforms to advance our common goal of promoting investment, innovation, and broadband networks that are second to none,” McSlarrow said.

Representatives of the wireless broadband industry were equally supportive of the FCC’s approach to spectrum allocation in the report as their wireline comrades were with the report as a while.

“CTIA and our member companies are extremely pleased that spectrum is recognized as being pivotal to the National Broadband Plan,” said CTIA President Steve Largent. “We appreciate the FCC’s and the broadband team’s focus on making 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband within 10 years, of which 300 MHz should be made available for mobile use within five years.”

Equally pleased with the FCC’s report were a wide array of public interest advocates, some who have long pushed for a sweeping broadband plan. Public Knowledge co-founder Gigi Sohn called the plan “a balanced, comprehensive and forward-looking plan that should serve the country well.” The U.S. has long been in need of such a plan, Sohn said.

In particular, Sohn praised the Commission’s intent to review competition rules for wholesale broadband – as well as the proposed approach to a next-generation spectrum policy. “The spectrum policies proposed by the Commission, including greater use of unlicensed spectrum, also will help to drive innovation and consumer choice,” she said. “We commend the commission for starting down that path in a way that will benefit all Americans.”

Media Access Project CEO Andrew Schwartzman said the FCC “gets an A+ for delivering a vision that could bring low-cost, world-class high-speed Internet access to all communities, fostering competition and consumer choice in broadband services.”

But Schwartzman warned that “the real test begins now” and a “final grade” will depend on the FCC’s execution of proceedings to transform the plan into reality.

Lawmakers in both houses of Congress reacted positively to the FCC’s announcement as well. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said “Chairman Genachowski and the FCC are to be commended for producing this comprehensive and forward-looking report that touches on so many aspects of American society.”

The FCC’s plan will be “critically important” as Congress examines how to apply the “transformative power of broadband” to American society, Waxman said, adding the House Communications Subcommittee will hold its first hearing on the plan on March 25, 2010, and has invited all five FCC Commissioners to testify.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V. said he welcomed the FCC’s plan, and expressed relief that the FCC’s plan would keep the U.S. from becoming a “broadband backwater.”

“Broadband can remake our communications networks in our new century,” said Rockefeller. “But more than that, it can make a difference in people’s lives—change education, improve health care, shore up business and employment opportunities, and foster a new and more democratic dialogue.”

Spectrum Bills Move Quickly Through House Subcommittee

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WASHINGTON, January 21, 2010 – The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet approved by voice vote legislation to inventory and help reallocate the nation’s wireless spectrum. The panel marked up and unanimously approved H.R. 3125, the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act, and H.R. 3019, the Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act of 2009.

Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., expressed gratitude for the bipartisan process by which the bills had been drafted and introduced, and noted the growing importance of wireless spectrum to the nation’s economic health and recovery.

“As more and more Americans use data-intensive smartphones and as services like mobile video emerge, the demand for spectrum to support these applications and devices will grow dramatically,” he said. “Additional spectrum for commercial wireless services will be needed and it will be needed soon. ”

The only amendment to either bill was a substitute amendment to H.R. 3125 authored by Boucher. Among the changes in the amendment, which was adopted by voice vote, were provisions strengthening protections for spectrum users who fear disclosure of their usage information could harm national security. The bill previously would have only allowed Federal agencies to object to disclosure of their spectrum use.

Boucher’s amendment also added language that would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Federal Communications Commission to update and maintain the national spectrum inventory on a regular basis, including making note of spectrum auctions and any manner of frequency license transfers or reassignments.

The Subcommittee also reported out favorably the Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act of 2009. The bill, which was not amended, would hasten the process by which spectrum users clear bands when directed so new licensees could take possession of spectrum that had previously been won at auction.

The bill seeks to address delays by Federal agencies in clearing bands of spectrum purchased by T-Mobile to build out the carrier’s 3G network. The carrier has reported numerous delays by Federal agencies which cite national security concerns in refusing to release the spectrum.

Steve Largent, president of CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents the nation’s mobile industry, was pleased by the Subcommittee’s quick action on the bill. But Largent expressed concern at the prospect of spectrum not being available to consumers, calling it “our industry’s backbone,” and warned of dire consequences in delaying further. “[R]apidly growing consumer demand for mobile broadband services means that we are facing a brewing spectrum crisis,” he said. “These bills begin the process of helping free up additional spectrum for mobile broadband services.”

Largent called on the full committee to take action and move the bill quickly: “We hope that the inventory and relocation improvement processes will precede and follow, respectively, a process to reallocate significant spectrum for advanced wireless services so that America’s wireless industry can continue to be the world’s leader.”

Both bills move to the full Energy and Commerce Committee, which must approve them before either can be called up for a vote on the House floor. Similar Spectrum inventory language is also pending before the Senate Commerce Committee in the form of legislation sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

FCC Net Neutrality Efforts Spark Interest Group Mania

in Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, October 21, 2009 – As the Federal Communications Commission nears the monthly meeting slated for Thursday to consider new regulations regarding Net neutrality, e-mail boxes across Washington are being flooded by all manner of interest groups staking their claim over neutrality and freedom on the Internet.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s decision to take steps toward formal Net neutrality regulations is not surprising, particularly given President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge was to “strongly support the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.”

Businesses and interest groups have taken hard-line stances for and against Net neutrality. The term deals with how broadband providers may charge differential rates for preferred business customers.

“The rise of serious challenges to the free and open Internet puts us at a crossroads,” Genachowski said in a September speech at the Brookings Institution. “We could see the Internet’s doors shut to entrepreneurs, the spirit of innovation stifled, a full and free flow of information compromised. Or we could take steps to preserve internet openness, helping ensure a future of opportunity, innovation, and a vibrant marketplace of ideas.”

Internet companies such as Amazon, Google, and Skype, among others, favor Net neutrality rules. Dan Martin of Google told BroadbandCensus.com Wednesday that “opponents are trying to confuse the issue, but network neutrality is about networks that control consumer access to the Internet, not the plethora of applications, services, and viewpoints on the Internet itself.”

“This is about ensuring that a handful of broadband corporations can’t determine what people can see, do, or say on the Internet,” he said.

The Open Internet Coalition on Wednesday hosted an animated press call with reporters. Speakers included representatives from Amazon.com and Free Press.

On the other side are carriers including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon Communications. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg on Wednesday warned against “pitting network providers and applications developers against each other in a zero-sum game, when the real promise of broadband is an expanding pie for everybody,” in remarks at the Supercomm conference in Chicago.

“Rather than impose rigid rules on a rapidly changing industry, the FCC should focus on creating the conditions for growth,” he said. Steve Largent, president & CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association, said in an email that “Our greatest concern is that if Net neutrality is enacted for wireless, the U.S. will lose its leadership in the wireless world.”

Adding fuel to the fire in favor of regulation have been tech CEOs, Public Knowledge and the Christian Coalition. Those concerned about the FCC’s potential action include the Chamber of Commerce, some governors, minority groups, the Free State Foundation, and National Association of Manufacturers.

A letter from a variety of non-profit groups said the “outcry over a proposal the public has yet to see is clearly intended to halt the dialogue over the proper rules of the road for an open Internet before it even starts.”

The FCC has also received a significant amount of attention from Congress, including from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. A letter signed by Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., among others, urges the FCC Chairman to “avoid tentative conclusions which favor government regulation.”

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

Legislation Regarding Cell Phone Jamming in Prisons Has Industry Concerned

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By Alex Tcherkassky, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2009 – The legalization of cellular telephone jamming technology in prisons was discussed Wednesday before the Senate Commerce Committee in response to Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s S. 251 introduced earlier this year.

Cell phone jamming technology is currently illegal under the Communications Act. Hutchison, the ranking Republican member on the panel, seeks to change that.

Among the witnesses was Texas State Senator John Whitmire. Whitmire received death threats after a death row inmate’s mother and sister were arrested for smuggling a cell phone to an inmate.

Inspector General John Moriarty of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also supports S. 251.

Moriarty said that criminals are getting more and more creative when it comes to getting phones to prisoners. Add to that the financial motivators – a sting operation found a prisoner willing to pay $400 for a phone versus only $50 for heroin – and, he said, cell phones will continue to make their way into prisons.

He said jamming was “a very valuable tool that we need to put in our tool kit.”

Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard agreed, saying that as cell phone technology advances “we need to fight technology with technology.”

The cell phone industry was represented by wireless association CTIA President Steve Largent, and Richard Mirgon from the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.

Both expressed concern that jamming technology is ineffective and that it cannot effectively stop cell phone transmissions without adversely affecting legitimate use outside of the targeted prison. They were also concerned that jammers could interfere with public safety channels and first responders.

Specifically, Largent said that jammer technology being used at urban and suburban facilities where commercial areas and major transportation routes are directly adjacent to the prison. He supported this claim with aerial photos of a dozen prison facilities. Additionally, he said, jamming technology used in South America and India led to the unintentional interruption of the service of 200,000 customers.

Largent said that cell detection and limited access technology would be more effective solutions and that while CTIA supports the spirit of Bill 251 it cannot support the use of jamming technology. Mirgon said that if jamming technology is legalized, it must be exhaustively tested to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with public safety or wireless 911 services.

While S. 251 does not call for an outright legalization of jamming technology, it allows for prisons to apply for a waiver from the ban and provides for Federal Communications Commission testing and certification of jamming technology.

Senate Commerce Committee Passes Radio Spectrum Inventory Act

in Broadband Data/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2009 — The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved S. 649, the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act, which would give the National Telecommunications and Information Agency and the Federal Communications Commission 180 days to present Congress with a complete inventory of the radio frequencies that they manage from 300 Megahertz to 3.5 Gigahertz.

The bill, sponsored by committee member Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, requires that the FCC and NTIA also report on how licensed and government-owned spectrum is being used.

In other words, the agencies must report on who owns licenses, how they are being used, and the amount of unauthorized spectrum usage, as well as providing maps indicating locations of transmitting stations, together with signal strength and coverage. It would also require that TV and radio bands undergo the same cataloguing.

Once aggregated, the spectrum inventory would be made publicly-available on a portal managed by each respective agency, and updated to reflect real-time developments and changes. Agencies can petition for their data to be exempted for national security reasons, effective for two years.

“Our public airwaves belong to the American people, and we need to make certain we are putting them to good use in the best interests of those citizens,” Kerry said when he introduced the bill back in March.

If passed, the inventory would constitute a systematic attempt to understand how airwaves are being used. The goal is to allocate and better utilize unused frequencies.

Though large telecommunications companies hold licenses to use large swaths of cellular bands, some broadband advocates hope that the inventory will lead to greater unlicensed used of the spectrum for wireless broadband.

In a press release, the wireless industry association CTIA, applauded the committee’s approval.

“As the wireless industry continues to invest to meet consumers’ increasing demand for broadband services, we appreciate Senator Kerry and Snowe’s commitment to work with stakeholders to fashion a bill that identifies where the next allocation of spectrum for commercial use will come from,” said group CEO Steve Largent in a statement.

“We look forward to working with Senators Kerry and Snowe, Chairman Rockefeller and their colleagues in the House to enact inventory legislation this year,” said Largent.

White House Announces Nomination of Mignon Clyburn to Democratic FCC Spot

in FCC/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2009 – The White House announced its intention to nominate South Carolina Public Service Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to the Federal Communications Commission late Wednesday.

If confirmed, Clyburn would fill the Democratic seat being vacated by Democrat Jonathan Adelstein, who has been tapped to run the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utility Service. She would also fill a seat on the FCC that is by custom occupied by a state-level commissioner, previously Republican Deborah Taylor Tate, who was a director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority before serving on the FCC during the Bush administration.

Clyburn, the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., was first elected to the South Carolina Public Service Commission in 1998. South Carolina PSC members are elected officials who serve four year, staggered terms.

Clyburn has also been in charge of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Washington Action Program for the past three years, coordinating lobbying efforts by state utility commissioners.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps hailed the White House announcement of Clyburn, calling her “an excellent choice” to join the commission. “The experience she brings…will be an invaluable asset as we address the many challenges and opportunities that are before us,” he said.

“Senator [Jay] Rockefeller believes Mignon Clyburn will bring to this position an important rural state-based perspective and an understanding of the federal-state dynamic on regulatory issues,” said a spokesman for Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “The Committee’s intent is to move expeditiously to consider all pending nominees as soon as their paperwork is ready.”

Industry reactions to the announcement were universally positive.

National Cable and Telecommunications Association CEO Kyle McSlarrow said Clyburn “brings an insightful and pragmatic perspective to the complex policy issues that the FCC is tackling in today’s dynamic telecommunications environment.” Her experience at NARUC will make her “an invaluable asset,” he added.

Clyburn’s state-level experience was also invoked by American Cable Association president Matt Polka. “We look forward to working with [Clyburn] on a host of issues,” he said, “including efforts to extend broadband further into unserved areas and boosting download speeds in underserved communities.”

And Sprint Nextel Corp. spokesman John Taylor said Clyburn “would bring experience, deep policy understanding and the perspective of a state utility commissioner to the FCC.”

“Ms. Clyburn’s knowledge of the telecommunications industry and her extensive background and experience in regulatory policy make her an excellent choice for this important post at the FCC,” said Steve Largent, CEO of CTIA – The Wireless Association.

Other state commissioners were similarly pleased with the announcement. D.C. Public Services Commission Chairman Betty Ann Kane, who serves alongside Clyburn on the NARUC telecommunications committee, said in an e-mail that she was “delighted,” touting Clyburn as being “familiar with the important role that states have in implementing telecommunications, including broadband access for all segments of the community.”

“I look forward to having an experienced colleague with a strong voice for the states on the Commission,” said Kane.

NARUC communications director Rob Thornmeyer said Clyburn would be missed by her peers, but they look forward to working with her in her new role. Clyburn is “a good fit for the job who knows the issues well,” he said.

And when asked about his daughter’s latest job offer, the elder Rep. Clyburn declined to make any policy related judgments, instead offering fatherly praise: “She is very competent and accomplished,” he said, “someone of whom I am very proud.”

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