December 15, 2009 – The value of universal access to broadband was discussed at an occasionally tense Federal Communications Commission field hearing in Memphis on Monday night. The hearing was intended to focus on whether broadband services are being deployed in a way that allows all Americans to benefit, though it also addressed why internet access is necessary.
“I believe that universal access to broadband needs to be seen as a civil right,” said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “I don’t think you can look at it in any other way.”
“We’re here tonight because broadband access and broadband adoption are essential to full civic participation in our society,” said civil rights leader and former FCC commissioner Benjamin L. Hooks. For example, most jobs now require online applications, forcing potential employees to possess at least nominal digital literacy in order to apply.
So are citizens enjoying the benefits of broadband adoption? Not in Tennessee, several panelists said.
Despite broadband’s stated availability to 90 percent of Tennessee citizens, only 55 percent have adopted broadband. What accounts for this great disparity?
“Available is not synonymous with affordable,” said Tim Marema, vice president of the Center for Rural Strategies. He cited affordability as a major hindrance to adoption.
Marema recently asked kids at a Tennessee school if they used social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Almost every hand shot into the air.
When asked how many had a computer at home, however, only a few hands were raised. Marema added that in households making less than $25,000 annually, 34 percent cited cost as their main barrier to broadband adoption. In households earning more than $50,000 the number was only 5 percent.
Affordability and the perceived need for broadband are the two biggest factors in adoption said panelists. With the deadline for the national broadband plan just 60 days away, the question is: what needs to be done to overcome these barriers?
For some in attendance in Memphis, however, the question was: should anything be done at all?
During the open question and answer portion, several citizens expressed concern that government involvement would just be another case of meddling destined to derail free-market economics.
“It is not our effort or desire to stifle anything as it relates to these emerging technologies,” responded Commissioner Clyburn.
These general concerns were more explicitly expressed on the topic of net neutrality. Wouldn’t intervention or regulation by the government discourage investment by major providers who could lose out?
“What we have to be careful of is that it stays open and free and dynamic and that it is not controlled,” agreed FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps. “Nobody is going to tell you where to go and how to get there and that’s the beauty of the thing.”
“[However,] you have to let companies do something called reasonable network management,” Copps said.
Beside these concerns, several citizens wanted to know what they could do to facilitate the adoption process.
“You make sure your public servants, your elected officials know how important this issue is to you,” said Copps.
Indian Tribes Will Have Six-Month Window of Opportunity to Apply for Former EBS Spectrum at 2.5 GigaHertz
WASHINGTON, January 14, 2020 – Federally-recognized Indian tribes will have a six-month priority window, beginning February 3, in which to apply for access to the radio frequency spectrum available at 2.5 GigaHertz (GHz).
At a workshop at the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, Chairman Ajit Pai and agency officials detailed the eligibility requirements for access to the spectrum in the band of the federal airwaves that was previously referred to as the Educational Broadband Service. The window will run from February 3 until August 3, 2020.
Historically, educational services, including universities and school districts, has special access to the 2.5 GHz spectrum band.
When the FCC eliminated the education requirement in July 2019, Pai said tribal lands would have a priority window for free access to broadband, before commercial auctions.
Catherine Schroeder, senior advisor to the Wireline Competition Bureau, explained the benefits of 2.5 GHz in rural settings. As it is a midband spectrum, she said, 2.5 GHz combines the qualities of a lower band, but with greater broadband capacity.
Schroeder continued that 2.5 GHz is particularly useful in rural areas because it has high power limits, a lower frequency, and can travel through walls, windows, and densely wooded areas.
Because 2.5 GHz is already utilized with other radio frequency transmissions, Schroeder said that there is an “ecosystem of equipment” that can be relatively inexpensive because the education licensees have already used 2.5 GHz to deploy broadband or have leases with a commercial entity.
During the six-month window beginning February 3, Indian tribes seeking to apply would apply on the FCC website for rural areas in which the applicant’s tribe has a “local presence.”
Harold Chesnin, representing the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, was concerned about non-contiguous tribal lands. Dana Shaffer, chief of staff of the agency’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, replied that applicants can fill out waivers to turn in with their application.
Tribal lands will be able to define their license area and can apply for an overlay license. Although tribal areas will not be able to access spectrum or build on areas that are already covered, an overlay license is useful for areas that are partially covered.
If there is availability in one of the three channels, overlay licensees can request that slot.
There are buildout requirements, but it does not require that anyone be signed up for service. Schroeder explained that after the first two years, 50 percent of the population must be provided service, with 80 percent of the population to be covered within five years.
Shaffer clarified that rural areas do not have to use every megahertz within the spectrum range. The tribal lands that are approved can lease to a third party for buildout, but must maintain primary responsibility for the execution, completion, and buildout deadlines.
The FCC developed an improved mapping tool to help applicants know what channels are available on their lands. A search box and various color coding allows for simple maneuvering on the site. Users can follow links to see who has current licenses to those who have part of the spectrum, however, the site does not clarify if there is active deployment in those licensed areas.
In the case of a waiver to be filed with evidence for adding pockets of non-reservation lands to an area. The FCC made it clear that waivers are not to be used for access already-licensed spectrum. Furthermore, waivers are not guaranteed approval.
The FCC urged attendees to avoid applications for spectrum and areas that overlap.
Danae Wilson, a representative for Nez Perce tribe, wanted to know how an application might differ for tribes who are in the process of purchasing more land. The mapping data is based on the latest census, and those areas are only eligible for the 6-month window, said FCC Staff.
At the close of the priority window, the agency will move to an auction with bidding on the remaining spectrum in three channels at 2.5 GHz. Licenses will not be dispersed within the six months, but granted afterwards.
Shaffer said every federally recognized tribe has been contacted personally. FCC officials insisted that they want the initiative to be successful and feasible, and invited questions throughout the process.
Removing Chinese Telecommunications Equipment From U.S. Broadband Networks Would Cost More Than $1 Billion
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2019 – When it comes to removing Huawei or ZTE telecommunications equipment from U.S. broadband networks, a strategy of “rip and place” would cost well over $1 billion.
Rural broadband carriers don’t have the budget for that, and they are concerned that the costs of a retrofit would delay the deployment of 5G wireless networks.
That was the message that multiple broadband providers – particularly rural entities – delivered to Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks at a Thursday FCC workshop that had been framed as a discussion about network security.
Starks staked out a strong position against the use of Chinese telecommunications equipment in U.S. broadband networks, noting existing steps by the Trump administration to prohibit procurement of telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE.
Starks convened the discussion at the agency, however, to address equipment that is already inextricable intertwined within U.S. networks. “Network security is national security, and our interconnected networks are only as secure as their most vulnerable pieces,” he said.
The discussion applies to wired networks because equipment to run fiber-optic wires will be more instrumental in operating 5G networks than previous technologies. Mike Saperstein, vice president of policy and advocacy at US Telecom, said he is in support of federal risk management activities to “identify supply-chain threats.”
Others cited the distinction between trusting equipment and trusting suppliers. Much of 5G and 4G traffic will not necessarily pass through a network core, said Brian Hendricks, vice president of policy and government relations at Nokia. The radio layer of a mobile network has become a more vulnerable point of attack.
The issue of deploying 5G will fall “particularly hard” on small rural carriers in the United States, Hendricks said.
The only way to eliminate any risk would be to ban Chinese equipment entirely, said Jim Lewis, senior vice president and director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And such a “rip and replace” is not tenable, he said.
Moreover, he said, just as big American tech companies use Chinese components in their equipment, Chinese telecom depends on U.S. technological advancements.
And doing anything that would delay the deployment of 5G technology would ultimately hinder the economy.
Carri Bennet, general counsel at The Rural Wireless Association. Cited the figure of more-than $1 billion figure for replacing all Huawei and ZTE equipment. And attempting to replace network equipment while the network is still in operation could create service issues, including for public safety.
She suggested that it would be good to start with third-party monitoring of carrier networks.
“We should not be reliant on suppliers from adversarial nations to design manage and secure our critical infrastructure, especially as we develop cloud technologies,” said Travis Russell, director of cybersecurity at Oracle Communications. There is no finalized definition yet of what a stand-alone 5G network would look like, he said, so there is still time to “work out a solution” for this dilemma.
The FCC has a vital role in understanding the issues that small, rural carriers face, said Dileep Srihari, senior policy counsel at Telecommunications Industry Association.
Many rural providers lack the budget to replace banned equipment, said Jeff Johnston, senior economist at CoBank.
A “rip and replace” strategy to remove equipment that some have suggest is not secure would bear an “enormous” opportunity cost for rural carriers relying on Huawei for telecom infrastructure, said Christopher Reno, chief accounting officer at Union Telephone Company.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai Announces Broadband Advisory Group to Propose Model City Ordinances
WASHINGTON, January 31, 2017 – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday announced the formation of a new federal advisory committee that would seek to accelerate deployment of high-speed broadband nationwide, and to close the digital divide, by providing a model approach to deployment for municipalities.
“Access to broadband is increasingly critical for all Americans, no matter who they are or where they live,” Pai said in a statement. “It’s becoming the 21st-century gateway to jobs, health care, education, information, and economic development everywhere, from the smallest town to the largest city. That makes it imperative for us to remove regulatory barriers to the deployment of high-speed Internet access.”
The FCC said that the committee would focus on developing specific recommendations for how the agency can encourage broadband deployment by further changing the FCC’s pole attachment rules; identifying unreasonable regulatory barriers to broadband deployment; and through ways to entice local governments to adopt what it considers to be deployment-friendly policies.
In particular, according to the FCC release:
“[O]ne of the Committee’s first tasks will be drafting a model code covering local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations. Many localities may not currently have or be able to develop policies conducive to deployment. With a model code approved by the FCC, any city could build a better regulatory environment for deployment, and any provider would have a better case for installing infrastructure.”
The agency said that nominees for the newly formed Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee would be drawn from a diverse set of stakeholders representing both urban and rural areas, and that all are encouraged to apply.
More information is available at www.fcc.gov/broadband-deployment-advisory-committee. Nominations should be made by e-mail to BDAC@fcc.gov, and the FCC will accept nominations until February 15, 2017. The Commission expects to hold its first meeting of the new Committee during the spring of 2017.
For additional information about the Committee, please contact Brian Hurley, the Designated Federal Officer for the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, at (202) 418-2220 or (Brian.Hurley@fcc.gov), or Paul D’Ari, the Deputy Designated Federal Officer, at (202) 418-1550 or (Paul.DAri@fcc.gov).
Below is Chairman Pai’s complete statement about the BDAC:
“Last September, I proposed what I called a Digital Empowerment Agenda—a blueprint of policies that would accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access, or broadband, in communities across the country.
“Today, I am excited to announce the formation of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), which will aim to provide advice and recommendations to the FCC on how to do just that. The BDAC’s mission will be to identify regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment and to make recommendations to the Commission on reducing and/or removing them.
“One of the first things the BDAC will be asked to do is draft for the Commission’s consideration a model code for broadband deployment. This model code will cover topics like local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations. Building, upgrading, and deploying broadband networks isn’t easy, and red tape often can make the task harder than it needs to be. Similarly, many localities that have a strong interest in promoting a digital economy within their borders may not have the resources or expertise to develop and implement deployment-friendly policies. Consumers ultimately pay the price in terms of less access to next-generation services. Our hope is that with a model code approved by the FCC, one that any city could use as a template, the case for broadband deployment would be much easier, especially for communities that seek to proactively encourage it.
“We’ve already filed the necessary paperwork to stand up the BDAC, with plans to convene its first meeting this spring. Two dedicated members of the FCC staff, Brian Hurley and Paul D’Ari, have agreed to be the Committee’s Designated Federal Officer and Deputy Designated Federal Officer respectively, and I’d like to thank them for their commitment to these efforts. But we also need your help. The Commission will be releasing a Public Notice with more details about the Committee’s work and an explanation of the member-selection process. I encourage interested members of the public to apply and to be ready to share your best ideas in order to help bring digital opportunity to all Americans.”
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