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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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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.

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 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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FCC

FCC Takes Stock of Telehealth Successes, But Acknowledges a Long Way to Go at Agency Event

Procedural hurdles lie ahead for the commission’s telehealth efforts.

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FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr

WASHINGTON, December 6, 2021 – Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr and several leaders in healthcare said Monday the agency’s efforts to expand telehealth programs for Americans face procedural hurdles before Congress.

The cost of government telehealth expansion efforts is among key factors that create congressional hesitance to rubber stamp the FCC’s telehealth initiatives.

During panel discussions moderated by Carr at a commission event on Monday, experts also remarked that the commission’s efforts would require a good deal of regulatory flexibility that many members of Congress may not be willing to grant it.

Panel guest Deanna Larson, CEO of virtual health network Avera eCARE, testified before the Senate on the matter in October, urging Congress to extend or make permanent its regulatory flexibility toward telehealth.

The panels also spent time discussing the substantial success the FCC has had in expanding telehealth over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts emphasized accomplishments such as the employment of remote monitoring devices by physicians to physically examine patients when they cannot come into the office.

The panel stated that the move from fully in-person healthcare to telehealth can be compared to the significance of the move from “Blockbuster to Netflix,” referencing the at-home experience of the streaming platform.

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