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Genachowski, Colleagues Outline FCC Reform Agenda for Congress

WASHINGTON, September 17, 2009 – FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has “tried to hit the ground running” on a reform agenda since taking office last summer, he told members of a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Thursday.

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WASHINGTON, September 17, 2009 – FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has “tried to hit the ground running” on a reform agenda since taking office last summer, he told members of a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Thursday.

During the first FCC oversight hearing of the 111th Congress, Genachowski was joined by all four of his colleagues as the full commission appeared before the Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee for the first time.

Many members of the subcommittee devoted significant time to praising the commission’s efforts for a national broadband strategy, which is scheduled to be delivered to Congress by February 2010. But the new chairman and colleagues are looking beyond the broadband plan towards ways to improving the operations of the FCC, they said.

While Genachowski’s tenure is only a few months old, he said he has already begun to articulate specific strategic priorities for the commission. These include “fostering investment and innovation, promoting competition, and protecting and empowering consumers, children, and families.” The commission has already begun work on these goals, he said.

Genachowski highlighted the commission’s series of open, public workshops on various aspects of the broadband plan, as well as the launch of the Broadband.gov web site to encourage yet more citizen input and dialogue on the FCC’s process.

He stressed as most important the idea that the plan should ensure the country has an “infrastructure appropriate to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,” he said.

Reform of the FCC is another of Genachowski’s goals as chairman, he told the subcommittee.

He noted that one of his first acts as chairman was to appoint a special counsel for FCC reform, and create a specific agenda for reform of the agency’s operations, including public safety readiness, data collection processes, comment filing systems, and streamlining and opening the commission’s workflow.

And he has also opened an internal forum on which FCC staff can submit ideas for reform, on which he said employees are involved in “hundreds of conversations on how to improve the agency.”

The FCC has also launched an initiative to reform its oft-maligned website –which Genachowski admitted is “many years out of date” requires a “significant upgrade.” The initiative will include upgrades and consolidation of the numerous licensing, commenting and complaint filing systems which will “give the public a consistent interface and will standardize business practices across Bureaus and Offices” throughout the commission, he said.

The commission’s approach to the national broadband plan should be “a model for future FCC proceedings,” commissioner Michael Copps said during his opening statement. Copps praised Genachowski’s leadership in pushing for “an open, transparent, and data-driven broadband process,” and expressed hope the broadband proceeding will be emulated in the future to “achieve maximum civic engagement with traditional and non-traditional stakeholders alike.”

Changing the way the commissioners are allowed to interact is another priority of the commission’s reform agenda. While answering a question on FCC reform and transparency from Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., Commissioner Michael Copps called for Congress to enact changes to the “sunshine rule” which prohibits more than two commissioners from meeting at one time.

Noting there are no such limitations on Congress’ ability to meet and conduct business, Copps quipped: “If you could only meet with one of your colleagues at once, you’d be in quite the fix.”

Comissioner Robert McDowell was equally enthusiastic on reforming the FCC’s internal processes and procedures. “First and foremost, the FCC should be a more open and collaborative place where all Commissioners are included in the idea formulation process early on,” he said.

While Genachowski has done much to enhance information flow and improve morale, McDowell said “a tremendous amount of FCC reform work remains to be done.”

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FCC

FCC to Gather Information on Offshore Spectrum, Accurate 911 Call Routing

The FCC is examining the need and use cases for allocating spectrum for offshore use.

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Photo of Nathan Simington

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted in an open meeting Wednesday to examine technology that can improve wireless 911 call routing, propose a fine for interrupting U.S. forest service radio communications, and to seek comment on offshore spectrum needs and uses.

The FCC voted to begin gathering information through public comment on the “possible current and future needs, uses, and impacts of offshore wireless spectrum use,” including for cruise ships, oceanography and wind turbine projects. Other options, like satellite-based systems, are available to provide service.

The construction and operation of windfarms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and communication services between at-sea vessels require offshore spectrum. The notice of inquiry asks what other cases exist that require offshore spectrum access that are not being provided for under existing models.

“We seek more broadly to understand the extent of the demand to use offshore spectrum and more generally where that demand is concentrated,” stated the inquiry.

“It is important that the FCC stay ahead of the curve in its consideration of upcoming commercial spectrum needs and this item does just that,” said commissioner Nathan Simington.

911 call routing

The FCC launched an examination into technology that could result in faster response times by more precisely routing wireless 911 calls to the correct call center.

Some wireless emergency calls are made near city or county borders where the closest call center is in the neighboring jurisdiction, resulting in lost time as calls are rerouted to the correct call center.

Since 2018, when the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on feasibility of routing 911 calls based on location of the caller versus location of the cellular tower, there have been many advancements in location-based routing technology. The FCC issued a Public Notice Wednesday seeking updated information on these technologies and the feasibility of adopting them into public use.

Last month, AT&T announced a new technology that would allow dispatchers to get a more accurate location of distressed calls by using the phone’s GPS.

Proposed fine for violating radio interference rules

The FCC also proposed a $34,000 fine Wednesday against Jason Frawley who, in 2021, allegedly interfered with radio communications that were guiding firefighting during the 1000-acre wildfire near Elk River, Idaho.

Frawley reportedly admitted to a Forest Service supervisor that he broadcasted on government frequencies in direct defiance to the Communications Act which prohibits any interference with authorized radio communications.

Neither the allegations nor the proposed sanctions are final FCC actions, said the press release.

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FCC

FCC Seeks Comment on Higher Broadband Speeds and Increased Security Measures for Certain Carriers

FCC will consider raising the speed standard for certain carriers that receive fixed monthly funding from the agency.

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Screenshot of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Sparks

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted at its open meeting Thursday to seek comment on enhancing the Alternative Connect America Cost Model program, which would raise speed deployment obligations and align security goals with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.

The ACAM program, established in 2016, provides fixed monthly funding to certain carriers serving high-cost and hard-to-reach areas in return for commitments to provide broadband service to all eligible locations.

The ACAM broadband coalition requested that broadband deployment obligations be raised from the current federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload to 100/20 Mbps, the standard now set by the IIJA that will then be required of ACAM carriers to deliver.

Baseline cybersecurity proposal

The FCC is also requesting comment on whether it should “require A-CAM carriers and carriers receiving high-cost support to have a baseline cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans.”

Commissioner Geoffrey Sparks indicated that the FCC will focus its efforts on harmonizing ACAM’s modification proposal with cyber security standards indicated in the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment program, which is managed by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and that will be disbursing billions in broadband infrastructure funding.

“Networks that are subsidized or built with federal funds must be secure,” Sparks said. “This is evident in the constant barrage of attacks on American networks from hostile state and non-state actors.”

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who said the FCC is looking to align its goals with the IIJA, concluded that “this is not the only effort we’re making to ensure that new broadband programs are working hand-in-glove with long-standing FCC efforts.”

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FCC

Treasury Department Joins FCC, USDA and NTIA in Collaborating on Broadband Funding

Agency leaders sign pact to formalize information-sharing on broadband deployment projects.

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Photo of Janet Yellen from January 2018 by the European Central Bank

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2022—Just in advance of the deadline for the release of the funding requirements under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act, the four principal federal agencies responsible for broadband funding released an interagency agreement to share information about and collaborate regarding the collection and reporting of certain data and metrics relating to broadband deployment.

The agencies are the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Commerce Department, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Memorandum of Understanding is the latest development in federal efforts to coordinate high-speed internet spending, and the Treasury Department is the new addition to agreement.

The other three agencies signed a prior memorandum in June 2021 to coordinate the distribution of federal high-speed internet funds. That June 2021 Memorandum of Understanding remains in effect.

The respective Cabinet and Agency leaders announced that their agencies will consult with one another and share information on data collected from programs administered by the FCC, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, programs administered or coordinated by NTIA, and Treasury’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund and State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

“No matter who you are or where you live in this country, you need access to high-speed internet to have a fair shot at 21st century success. The FCC, NTIA, USDA and Treasury are working together like never before to meet this shared goal,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Our new interagency agreement will allow us to collaborate more efficiently and deepen our current data sharing relationships[and] get everyone, everywhere connected to the high-speed internet they need.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “When we invest in rural infrastructure, we invest in the livelihoods and health of people in rural America. High-speed internet is the new electricity.  It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, to have access to health care and to stay connected.”

“USDA remains committed to being a strong partner with rural communities and our state, Tribal and federal partners in building ‘future-proof’ broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage across the country.”

“Our whole-of-government effort to expand broadband adoption must be coordinated and efficient if we are going to achieve our mission,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and head of the NTIA, the agency responsible for administering the vast bulk of the broadband funding.

“This MOU will allow us to build the tools we need for even better data-sharing and transparency in the future,” he said.

“Treasury is proud to work with our federal agency partners to achieve President Biden’s goal of closing the nation’s digital divide,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen.  “Access to affordable, high-speed internet is critical to the continued strength of our economy and a necessity for every American household, school, and business.”

As part of the signed agreement, each federal agency partner will share information about projects that have received or will receive funding from the previously mentioned federal funding sources.  More information on what the interagency Memorandum of Understanding entails can be found on the FCC’s website.  The agreement is effective at the date of its signing, May 11, 2022.

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