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Copps' Seeks to Revitalize Transparency and Cooperation at FCC, Welcomes Broadband Stimulus Legislation

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2009 – Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps said he had “no idea” how long he will hold the gavel, but he has no intention of being a mere seat-warmer.

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WASHINGTON, February 11, 2009 – Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps said he had “no idea” how long he will hold the gavel, but he has no intention of being a mere seat-warmer.

Speaking at a press briefing Wednesday morning, Copps outlined an ambitious agenda of institutional reform, welcoming Congress’ investment in broadband deployment, and emphasizing his plans to encourage more growth in high-speed networks.

Most the briefing was devoted to the upcoming transition to digital television. Originally set for February 17, last week Congress moved the date of the transition to June 12, 2009.

Speaking about the broadband stimulus legislation that passed the Senate on Tuesday and is currently in conference negotiations, Copps said that the FCC is “trying to hit the ground running” to collect better data on broadband availability.

The agency will have no problem coming up with definitions of unserved and underserved areas within the 45 day period imposed by the bill. Regardless of who is in charge of administering the stimulus bill’s grant programs, Copps stressed that the FCC is ready to do its part to foster inter-agency cooperation to ensure the public’s dollars are well spent.

One of Copps’ initial goals at the FCC is to reopen lines of communication within the FCC. Better communication will “unleash the huge reservoirs of talent, energy and intellect” at the agency, he said.

Every commissioner should be included in the flow of information between the FCC’s various bureaus — a sharp contrast to what he called “opaque” practices that were commonplace under former chairman Kevin Martin. Martin was often criticized for keeping other commissioners in the dark on important decisions, and for hindering communication between the bureaus.

Copps said he had already begun to include representatives from each commissioner’s office at the weekly meeting of bureau chiefs. He also said he wants to ensure that “synergies” within the agency are taken full advantage of. The bureaus should know what the other bureaus are doing. Such policies would ensure that “everyone [at the FCC] has a better idea of what is going on,” he said.

Copps was adamant about revitalizing the culture and mission of the FCC. “We need transparency in this agency,” he said, emphasizing that the FCC is consumer protection agency. The commission should focus on its goal of serving the public interest, rather than acting as “a referee between well-heeled interests.”

The commission needs to make it easier to include consumer input in its decisions as well as make proceedings and information more accessible to the public, Copps said.

Referring to the generally terse notices of ex parte proceedings — issued when a party meets with a single commissioner, Copps said the public should be able to know more than about them than “such-and-such Inc. met with Commissioner Copps, they talked about retransmission consent, period.”

“That’s not a public record that a transparent agency needs to have,” he said. “Knowing who met with who is important, but so is knowing what is actually said.”

The FCC also needs to return to a “culture of predictability,” Copps said. The commission should operate based upon rules and “fact-based” policymaking, he said, and use information gathered professionally and neutrally – as “an agency acting under rule of law.”

Reaching those goals would “take a while to get all the way,” he said, noting that he was encouraged by the open government initiatives of the new administration that would allow the agency to better perform in the public interest.

As regards the national broadband strategy called for by the fiscal stimulus legislation current in conference committee, Copps said that a nationwide broadband network can’t be built in an uncoordinated fashion.

Getting it done will depend on successful public-private partnerships, and the innovative ideas they can generate, he said. Copps noted that well-executed infrastructure projects have always relied on created policy environments that foster successful partnerships. Why it hasn’t been done with broadband remains a mystery, he said.

Copps also announced the dates for upcoming open meetings going into the next three months, and while he acknowledged he won’t be running the show forever, he may yet be in the driver’s seat for some time.

It has been widely reported that President Obama had selected Julius Genachowski, a former aide to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and a Harvard Law School classmate of Obama’s, to fill the chairman’s seat. Senate Commerce Committee staff said that no confirmation hearing has been scheduled since they had not yet recieved Genechowski’s official nomination papers.

Andrew Feinberg is the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined BroadbandBreakfast.com in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at BroadbandBreakfast.com from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.

FCC

FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Shares Proposal to Promote Broadband Competition In Apartment Buildings

If adopted, the FCC’s regulations would increase broadband options for tenants.

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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, January 21, 2022––Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared a draft regulation that aims to would promote competition and greater broadband choice for tenants in apartment buildings.

If adopted, the regulations would prevent practices that keep tenants from choosing their own broadband provider.

“With more than one-third of the U.S. population living in apartments, mobile home parks, condominiums, and public housing, it’s time to crack down on practices that lock out broadband competition and consumer choice,” said Rosenworcel.

The proposal would prohibit broadband providers from entering into revenue-sharing agreements with apartment building owners. If approved by her fellow commissioners and hence adopted as official agency rules, the regulation would also require providers to disclose any existing marketing arrangements they have with building owners to tenants.

“Consumers deserve access to a choice of providers in their buildings. I look forward to having my colleagues join me in lifting the obstacles to competitive choice for broadband for the millions of tenants across the nation,” Rosenworcel said.

Her proposal builds on a September 2021 notice that invited a new round of comments during an examination of broadband access In apartment and office buildings. The FCC said the proceedings revealed “a pattern of new practices that inhibit competition, contrary to the Commission’s goals, and limit opportunities for competitive providers to offer service for apartment, condo and office building unit tenants.”

More than one third of the U.S. population lives in condominiums or apartment buildings.

Exclusive agreements between broadband providers and buildings owners limit options for tenants, who are precluded from access to new carriers. “Across the country throughout the pandemic, the need for more and better broadband access has never been clearer,” Rosenworcel added.

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FCC

FCC Announces Largest Approval Yet for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund: $1 Billion

The agency said Thursday it has approved $1 billion to 69 providers in 32 states.

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Photo illustration from the Pelican Institute

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced its largest approval yet from the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, greenlighting on Thursday $1 billion from a reverse auction process that ended with award announcements in December but that the new-look agency has been scrutinizing in recent months.

The agency said in a press release that this fifth round of approvals includes 69 providers who are expected to serve 518,000 locations in 32 states over 10 years. Its previous round approved $700 million worth of applications to cover 26 states. Previous rounds approved $554 million for broadband in 19 states, $311 million in 36 states, and $163 million in 21 states.

The agency still has some way to approve the entirety of the fund, as it’s asked providers that were previously awarded RDOF money in December to revisit their applications to see if the areas they have bid for are not already served. So far, a growing list have defaulted on their respective areas, some saying it was newer FCC maps that showed them what they didn’t previously know. The agency said Thursday that about 5,000 census blocks have been cleared as a result of that process.

The FCC also said Thursday it saved $350 million from winning bidders that have either failed to get state certification or didn’t follow through on their applications. In one winning bidder’s case, the FCC said Thursday Hotwire violated the application rules by changing its ownership structure.

“This latest round of funding will open up even more opportunities to connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, reliable broadband service,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “Today’s actions reflect the hard work we’ve put in over the past year to ensure that applicants meet their obligations and follow our rules.  With thoughtful oversight, this program can direct funding to areas that need broadband and to providers who are qualified to do the job.”

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FCC

Local Government Advisors Concerned by Delay in Sohn Confirmation Process

They also believe Alan Davidson will be viewed more favorably to head the NTIA.

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Nominee for FCC Commissioner Gigi Sohn

WASHINGTON, December 14, 2021 – Local government advisors are concerned by delays in the confirmation process of Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the Federal Communications Commission, and what those delays will mean for broadband services in local communities.

At the moment, there are reportedly not enough votes from Democrats to confirm Sohn.

The panel of local advisors at a National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors on Monday said the FCC would likely remain split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans until at least February, when the panel says Sohn’s confirmation will probably pass the Senate.

Such a split would prevent the agency from making some major decisions that would ramp up programs to expand broadband access for Americans. For this reason, several civil society groups have asked the Senate for a swift confirmation process of Biden’s nominees.

The panel also said that Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Association, Alan Davidson, will likely be reported favorably out of committee.

Logistical problems for the Affordable Connectivity Program

Panelists also spent significant time discussing what current regulatory agency efforts mean for connectivity.

The panel critiqued the FCC’s transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit to the Affordable Connectivity Program provided for by the newly-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to continue providing students with internet access for e-learning. The program provides monthly subsidies for connectivity and devices for eligible students.

This transition is planned to take place with the start of the 2022 new year, and the agency is fielding comments on how to transition.

The panel stated that because this transition takes place during the school year, it has the potential to strand students without connectivity services. Panelists noted that they have been trying to communicate these concerns to the FCC.

The FCC recently eliminated an enrollment freeze in the EBB that was planned to take place during the transition to the ACP.

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