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Baller: McCain and Obama Should Issue Joint Statement on Broadband

WASHINGTON, June 23 – Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama should issue a statement underscoring the importance of broadband in the United States, said one proponent of a national broadband strategy.

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William G. Korver, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, June 23 – Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama should issue a statement underscoring the consensus between Republicans and Democrats on the importance of broadband in the United States, said the organizer of capitol hill forum on Monday afternoon entitled “Broadband Revolution.”

Speaking at the event, which was sponsored by the New America Foundation, attorney Jim Baller said that a joint statement from the presumptive presidential nominees of the two major political parties would illustrate that the federal government is seriously reevaluating its current broadband policy – no matter who assumes the White House on January 21, 2009.

Both McCain, the Republican Senator from Arizona, and Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois, have solid solutions to improve the current broadband situation in the U.S., said Baller, of the Baller Herbst Law Group. Baller represents municipalities that seek to offer broadband as an alternative to incumbent telecommunications and cable companies. He has also promoted the notion of a national broadband strategy.

Also speaking at the event were Federal Communications Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, both Democrats. About 75 people attended the event in the 9th floor of the Hart Senate Office Building. The event had originally been scheduled for another, smaller location, but moved because of high demand.

Copps, who served in the Clinton adminstration and was a long-time aide to Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C., said that a new administration and a more active Congress should rejuvenate what he described as a “stagnant” atmosphere around a national broadband policy and universal broadband service.

Copps said that the U.S. must cease to debate whether broadband topics are liberal or conservative; regulatory or deregulatory. Such questions are “foolishness” in the extreme, Copps said. He said that the U.S. should not settle for being 12th or 15th in global broadband penetration.

Only with more federal assistance to states can broadband become universal and the U.S. become the “unquestioned leader of broadband,” said Adelstein, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

He said that there have been stacks of reports involving a national broadband policy, yet he decried the lack of leadership to implement the strategies.

Both Copps and Adelstein criticized the state of American broadband: broadband costs that are four times those of Japan at only one-tenth of the speeds available in the country.

Both also said that the FCC should “guarantee the openness of the Internet,” a reference to their support for Net Neutrality policies, or those that would require Bell and cable companies not to differentiate in the prices that they charge businesses for similar services.

Adelstein also called for more public education on broadband, targeted subsidies for remote areas, and an increase in spectrum devoted to bolstering competitie wireless entrants. He was particularly interested in promoting a third entrant in competition with cable and Bell companies.

Jane Smith Patterson, executive director for North Carolina’s e-NC Authority, agreed that efforts to make broadband universally availability will require federal, and not just state action.

Patterson said that, through the work of e-NC and its volunteers, 82 percent of North Carolina households are now capable of receiving a high-speed Internet connections.

Patterson said that e-NC is now calling on the state of North Carolina to participate in a “second revolution” of high-speed internet, with the goal of increasing the speed of connection.

Baller said that the average “high-speed” service in the U.S. ranged between one and nine megabits per second (8 Mbps), versus countries in Europe and Asia that now average 100 Mbps, and that aim to reach one gigabit (1 Gbps) within the next few years.

The U.S. cannot afford to continue to build schools complete with inadequate broadband services, Baller said. Yet he said that 98 percent of North Carolina schools have “the wrong kind” of broadband: one that is already obsolete.

If the cause of universal broadband is not taken up by political leaders and everyday individuals, the speakers said that the economy, education, health care, the environment and public safety will be adversely effected.

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FCC

FCC Institutes ACP Transparency Data Collection

The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels.

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Photo of people working on computers, cropped, in 2011 by Victor Grigas

WASHINGTON, November 23, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission last week adopted an order that mandated annual reporting from all providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal initiative that subsidizes the internet-service and device costs of low-income Americans.

The FCC order establishing the ACP Transparency Data Collection, not released until Wednesday, requires ACP-affiliated providers to disclose prices, subscription rates, and other plan characteristics on yearly basis. The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels, which, it says, will ease regulatory burdens for providers.

The FCC created the Transparency Data Collection pursuant to the statutory requirements of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking in June.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile endorsed the nutrition-label method of collection. Industry associations including IMCOMPAS and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Associations warned the FCC against instituting excessive reporting burdens.

“To find out whether this program is working as Congress intended, we need to know who is participating, and how they are using the benefit,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “So we’re doing just that.  The data we collect will help us know where we are, and where we need to go. We’re also standardizing the way we collect data, and looking for other ways to paint a fuller picture of how many eligible households are participating in the ACP.  We want all eligible households to know about this important benefit for affordable internet service.”

Although the ACP is highly touted by the FCC, the White House, and industry experts, there is evidence the fund has been exploited by fraudsters, according to a watchdog. In September, the FCC Office of Inspector General issued a report that found the ACP handed out more than $1 million in improper benefits. In multiple instances, according to the OIG, the information of a qualifying individual was improperly used for hundreds of applications, achieving payouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last month, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., contacted 13 leading internet service providers, requesting details on alleged fishy business practices connected to the ACP and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

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Broadband's Impact

Federal Communications Commission Mandates Broadband ‘Nutrition’ Labels

The FCC also mandated that internet service provider labels be machine-readable.

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Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday afternoon ordered internet providers to display broadband “nutrition” labels at points of sale that include internet plans’ performance metrics, monthly rates, and other information that may inform consumers’ purchasing decisions.

The agency released the requirement less than 24 hours before it released the first draft of its updated broadband map.

The FCC mandated that labels be machine-readable, which is designed to facilitate third-party data-gathering and analysis. The commission also requires that the labels to be made available in customers’ online portals with the provide the and “accessible” to non-English speakers.

In addition to the broadband speeds promised by the providers, the new labels must also display typical latency, time-of-purchase fees, discount information, data limits, and provider-contact information.

“Broadband is an essential service, for everyone, everywhere. Because of this, consumers need to know what they are paying for, and how it compares with other service offerings,”  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. 

“For over 25 years, consumers have enjoyed the convenience of nutrition labels on food products.  We’re now requiring internet service providers to display broadband labels for both wireless and wired services.  Consumers deserve to get accurate information about price, speed, data allowances, and other terms of service up front.”

Industry players robustly debated the proper parameters for broadband labels in a flurry of filings with the FCC. Free Press, an advocacy group, argued for machine-readable labels and accommodations for non-English speakers, measures which were largely opposed by trade groups. Free Press also advocated a requirement that labels to be included on monthly internet bills, without which the FCC “risks merely replicating the status quo wherein consumers must navigate fine print, poorly designed websites, and byzantine hyperlinks,” group wrote.

“The failure to require the label’s display on a customer’s monthly bill is a disappointing concession to monopolist ISPs like AT&T and Comcast and a big loss for consumers,” Joshua Stager, policy director of Free Press, said Friday.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association clashed with Free Press in its FCC filing and supported the point-of-sale requirement.

“WISPA welcomes today’s release of the FCC’s new broadband label,” said Vice President of Policy Louis Peraertz. “It will help consumers better understand their internet access purchases, enabling them to quickly see ‘under the hood,’ and allow for an effective apples-to-apples comparison tool when shopping for services in the marketplace.”

Image of the FCC’s sample broadband nutrition label

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FCC

FCC to Establish New Space Bureau, Chairwoman Says

‘The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head.’

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, via fcc.gov

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission will add a new space bureau that will modernize regulations and facilitate innovation, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday.

The new bureau is intended to facilitate American leadership in the space economy, boost the Commission’s technical capacity, and foster interagency cooperation, Rosenworcel said, speaking at the National Press Club.

“The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head,” Rosenworcel said. “But the organizational structures of the [FCC] have not kept pace,” she added.

The space economy is “on a monumental run” of growth and innovation, the chairwoman argued, and the FCC must remodel itself to facilitate continued growth. Rosenworcel said the commission is currently reviewing 64,000 new satellite applications, and she further noted that 98 percent of all satellites launched in 2021 provided internet connectivity. By the end off 2022, operators will set a new record for satellites launched into orbit, she said.

The FCC will not take on new responsibilities, Rosenworcel said, but the announced restructuring will help the agency “perform[] existing statutory responsibilities better.” In September, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R–Wash., warned the FCC against overreaching its statutory mandate and voiced support for robust congressional oversight – a position reiterated by House staffers Wednesday.

“The formation of a dedicated space bureau within the FCC is a positive step for satellite operators and customers across the United States,” said Julie Zoller, head of global regulatory affairs at Amazon’s satellite broadband Project Kuiper, on a panel following Rosenworcel’s announcement.

“An important part of [Rosenworcel’s] space agenda is ensuring that there is a competitive environment in all aspects of that space,” said Umair Javed, the chairwoman’s chief counsel, during the panel. “So we’ve taken action to update our rules on spectrum sharing to make sure that there are opportunities for multiple systems to be successful in low Earth orbit.

“We’ve granted a number of experimental authorizations to companies that are doing really new…things,” Umair continued.

The FCC in September required that low–Earth orbit satellite debris be removed within five years of mission completion, a move Rosenworcel said would clear the way for new innovation.

In August, the FCC revoked an $885 million grant to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-broadband service. FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington criticized the reversal, and Starlink has since appealed it.

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