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FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Calls for Network Neutrality and Transparency Rules

WASHINGTON, September 21, 2009 – The Federal Communications Commission must be a “smart cop on the beat” to preserve a free and open internet, Chairman Julius Genachowski said Monday during a speech at the Brookings Institution.

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WASHINGTON, September 21, 2009 – The Federal Communications Commission must be a “smart cop on the beat” to preserve a free and open internet,  Chairman Julius Genachowski said Monday during a speech at the Brookings Institution.

While acknowledging the 30th birthday of ARPANet – the predecessor to today’s internet, Genachowski announced his intent to launch a proceeding which would extend and formalize the “Four Principles” of the commission’s 2005 Internet Policy Statement through a formal rule making – as well as introduce two new principles: non-discrimination and transparency in network management.

Genachowski’s plans to formally codify “network neutrality” into federal regulations come as the commission’s 2008 ruling against Comcast for blocking peer-to-peer traffic remains under the cloud of a court challenge. Comcast has alleged the FCC’s 2005 policy statement does not have the force of law – nor does the commission have the authority to regulate broadband providers in the first place.

Legislation is already pending in the House of Representatives that would give the FCC this explicit authority.

But Genachowski has no plans to wait for legislative action, he said, and plans to introduce a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the commission’s October open meeting.

Action is needed because as Americans have shifted to broadband services from dial-up internet access, the number of provider choices has “narrowed substantially,” he said. But no one should infer any conclusions from that statement, Genachowski added cautiously. “It is simply a fact about today’s marketplace that we must acknowledge and incorporate into our policymaking.

And the convergence of entertainment providers with broadband service providers means that those companies often compete with services that are delivered over their own networks – creating a situation in which “broadband providers’ rational bottom-line interests may diverge from the broad interests of consumers in competition and choice,” he said.

The explosive growth of internet traffic is yet a third reason for clear regulatory principles, Genachowski added. He noted that internet traffic has roughly doubled every two years, and with them have come a plethora of sophisticated network management tools that are often opaque to the end-user. These tools “cannot by themselves determine the right answers to difficult policy questions – and they raise their own set of new questions,” he said.

These questions are difficult, Genachowski acknowledged. But “we have an obligation to ask and to answer correctly for our country,” he said. Ignoring the issues and leaving them to the whims of the market would “deprive innovators and investors of confidence” that the internet will remain open, he said.

And retreating from the internet’s core principle of openness would be  dangerous to the medium that has become “stunningly successful as a platform for innovation, opportunity, and prosperity,” he said. “Saying nothing – and doing nothing – would impose its own form of unacceptable cost.”

Genachowski outlined two specific additions to the 2005 policy statement which he intends to circulate next month. The “fifth principle” would state that broadband providers may not discriminate against particular Internet applications by degrading or blocking lawful traffic.

This would not prevent enforcement of any existing laws — nor hamper network providers from managing their networks, Genachowski stressed. “This principle will not constrain efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and spam-free Internet experience, or to enforce the law. It is vital that illegal conduct be curtailed on the Internet,” he said. “The enforcement of copyright and other laws and the obligations of network openness can and must co-exist.”

And the “sixth principle” would mandate broadband providers be transparent about their network management practices. Because the internet evolved from open standards, it should be managed with tools and practices that are disclosed so their effects can be known, he said. Such openness will “help facilitate discussion among all the participants in the Internet ecosystem, which can reduce the need for government involvement in network management disagreements,” he said.

Mobile broadband will be held to the same standards as traditional broadband, Genachowski said. “Even though each form of Internet access has unique technical characteristics, they are all are different roads to the same place. It is essential that the Internet itself remain open, however users reach it,” he urged.

Genachowski will circulate these six principles in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to his colleagues to be introduced at next month’s open meeting. The proposed rules are being drafted by commission staff.

But the proposal is “not about government regulation of the internet,” Genachowski stressed emphatically. “It’s about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the internet.” And the commission’s approach will be limited and only exercised on a case-by-case basis, he said. “We will do as much as we need to do, and no more.”

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Andrew Feinberg was 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.

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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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