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Community Radio Movement gets Boost as LPFM Bill is Reintroduced in House

WASHINGTON, February 26, 2009 – Members of Congress, public interest advocates and community organizations applauded the reintroduction of legislation to authorize a new wave of low power FM radio licenses during a Wednesday conference call organized by public advocacy group Free Press.

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WASHINGTON, February 26, 2009 – Members of Congress, public interest advocates and community organizations applauded the reintroduction of legislation to authorize a new wave of low power FM radio licenses during a Wednesday conference call organized by public advocacy group Free Press.

Supporters of the Local Community Radio Act say the bill would unleash the potential of low power FM radio to create jobs and serve diverse communities across the United States.

The LCRA would provide a mechanism for licensing approximately 3,000 low power community radio stations. Licensees would be limited to local governments and non-profit entities including educational, religious or labor organizations that serve specific audiences or small markets.

The Federal Communications Commission began to issue Low Power FM licenses in 2000 after an intense lobbying effort. But Congress later placed restrictions on the licenses at the behest of the National Association of Broadcasters, drastically limiting the power levels and spectrum available to LPFM stations.

The LCRA is sponsored by Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., and Lee Terry, R-Neb. The bill would lift current restrictions and allow the FCC to begin issuing new licenses. The Doyle-Terry bill does not yet have a Senate companion.

“It is in everyone’s interest to promote community radio,” Doyle said. Doyle has been negotiating with colleagues to find co-sponsors and hasten the bill’s passage. He said he was confident it would find bipartisan support in the House.

Low power FM stations “are a powerful tool to communicate with and connect people” in small communities, Terry said. He was not sure of a timetable for the bill’s passage, but was confident it would clear the House easily. “I’m not sure when this bill will pass, but am sure it will,” he said.

Cory Fischer-Hoffman of the Prometheus Radio Project, which won a protracted lawsuit against the FCC to block rules allowing newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, said that “now is the time to clarify public interests” by localizing more media ownership. “As media outlets are increasingly consolidated, local voices are being forced off the airwaves,” she said.

“It’s time for Congress to remove the unfair restrictions that stand in the way of community organizations, religious groups, students and senior citizens getting their own LPFM stations,” Fischer-Hoffman declared. LPFM will give communities access to local programming and important emergency information, she said. “Expanding LPFM is a concrete action that will provide this important service.”

And the national financial crisis has fostered an environment conducive for community radio, said Shawn Campbell of the Chicago Independent Radio Project. “Two of Chicago’s newspapers are in trouble,” he noted. “Community radio might be our last best hope.”

The Local Community Radio Act garnered wide support in the 110th Congress, with nearly 100 co-sponsors in the House. Both President (then senator) Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain., R-Ariz., his opponent in the 2008 election, co-sponsored a companion bill which cleared the Senate Commerce committee by unanimous consent, but did not receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Wireless

Starry Hosts First Earnings Call, Says its Model Positions it to Compete Against Larger Players

Starry CEO assured investors that Starry’s technology model allows them to compete with other more established providers.

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Photo of Staryy CEO Chet Kanojia, from Starry

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2022 – In its first earnings call since becoming a publicly-traded company, telecom company Starry Inc. reported continued profitability and a desire to expand its services.

Starry, which uses fixed-wireless technology for the last-mile with support from a fiber-based middle-mile, merged with special purpose acquisition company FirstMark Horizon Acquisition Corp to go public in March. Its founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said on the earnings call Thursday that Starry has the potential to be a disruptor.

“The opportunity in broadband is to be able to disrupt the sector with extremely low-cost technologies, and to be able to achieve scale with less investment compared to traditional approaches that have been used in the past,” Kanojia said.

“This is not a concept company – we have found investors willing to finance our approach,” Kanojia said. “However, the business ultimately will require more capital,” adding that last quarter, the average user consumed 574 gigabytes of downstream and a substantial amount of upstream.

Kanojia also emphasized that urban and dense suburban areas continue to make up the majority of Starry’s consumer base.

“In order to succeed as a service provider, we need to be able to match speed and capacity,” he added.

Kanojia also said that connecting a new customer to the network costs around $100, and this is over years of improving and refining the process in order to keep the cost down.

In addition to operating the infrastructure, Kanojia said that Starry owns it as well, which has allowed the company to cut down on supply chain interruptions and exercise more control over how the technology is implemented.

“The underlying economic model remains extremely healthy and unchanged,” Kanojia said. “We continue to see the potential for raising the profitability.

“This gives us a lot of confidence that the underlying economic model works as intended and reinforced our desire to expand.”

Chet Kanojia will be the guest on Broadband.Money’s Ask Me Anything! series on Friday, May 13, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Spectrum

Rosenworcel Proposes Funding Infrastructure and 911 Transition with Spectrum Auction Money

The FCC’s chairwoman spoke on the future of spectrum during a Tuesday CTIA event on 5G’s climate impacts.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel by T.J. York

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday proposed using funds raised in upcoming spectrum auctions held by the commission to fund infrastructure projects and the transition to a next-generation 911 system.

The proposal came as part of a list of potential future areas of focus on spectrum from the commission during Rosenworcel’s session at wireless trade association CTIA’s 2022 5G Summit focusing on 5G’s impacts on climate.

Rosenworcel has stated in the past that she would like spectrum auction proceeds to go towards updating the national 911 system.

Proposed upgrades include allowing 911 callers to send first responders photos, videos and text messages rather than just calls. A bill also exists in Congress to upgrade 911, the Next-Generation 911 Act, authorizing federal grants to go towards the upgrades.

In March the FCC announced that in July it would auction 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G services.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also speaking at Tuesday’s event, added to the calls for upgrades to the national 911 system.

Rosenworcel also spoke about the possibility of legislation targeting mid-band spectrum and development of next-gen wireless networks, work on updates to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act that governs allocation of spectrum to the commercial sector, as well as a greater focus on receiver performance and procurement practices rather than just examining transmitters.

She emphasized that the commission is always actively working on spectrum policy through the Affordable Connectivity Program, the freeing up of spectrum with a particular focus on mid band, advocating for a national spectrum plan, and broadband data collection via the provisions of the Broadband DATA Act. She stated that the commission is actively involved with National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson on freeing up spectrum.

Additional speakers at Tuesday’s event included director of the White House’s National Economic Council Brian Deese, who noted that in the coming weeks and months there will be many more announcements on broadband funding from the administration on money to come from new and existing sources, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

Guthrie voiced frustration with government agencies not designated authority on spectrum over the role they took in public debates on spectrum policy, largely related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s influence over cellular providers to make concessions on their rollout of 5G over safety concerns earlier this year.

“And we must always continue to address inter-agency coordination issues,” said Guthrie.

He stated the necessity of these agencies communicating concerns to the NTIA and FCC rather than directly involving themselves in policy discussions.

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WISP

WISPA Announces David Zumwalt as New CEO

Zumwalt’s tenure will begin on June 1.

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Photo of David Zumwalt used with permission

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2022 – In a press release Wednesday, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association announced that David Zumwalt will be the association’s president and CEO as of June 1, following selection by a search committee.

Zumwalt will be replacing Claude Aiken, who in February announced that he was stepping down from his position in April, moving to provider Nextlink Internet to serve as its chief strategy officer and chief legal officer.

Zumwalt has served as the CEO of Broadband VI, a major internet service provider in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was formerly the founder, chairman and CEO of CNet, Inc., a provider of radio-frequency engineering and operational support system software and services.

Zumwalt was recruited to Broadband VI to prepare the company for scale, and during his tenure helped guide the organization to a historic $84.5 million from the Federal Communications Commission Connect USVI fund as well as provided operations leadership last year through the organization’s acquisition by a unit of provider Liberty Latin America.

He also has experience leading policy, workforce investment, infrastructure and market outreach initiatives as the CEO and executive director of the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park Corporation.

“David is simply the best person to guide our members to the tremendous opportunities at stake,” said Todd Harpest, WISPA’s chairman of the board.

Zumwalt praised the work WISPA has done upon his selection.

“WISPA’s active advocacy efforts extend the reach of members at the Federal level and within state and regional jurisdictions,” said Zumwalt.

“I am delighted to be joining WISPA and look forward to leading it as our membership, staff, and Board work to advance our Association’s mission.”

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