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Obama to Implement Spectrum Recommendation from National Broadband Plan

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2010On Monday the President announced that he has instructed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to make 500 MHz of spectrum available over the next 10 years. This release of spectrum is one of the first direct implementations of recommendations made by the National Broadband Plan. “America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend, in part, upon the availability of additional spectrum” said President Obama.

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WASHINGTON, June 29, 2010On Monday the President announced that he has instructed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to make 500 MHz of spectrum available over the next 10 years. This release of spectrum is one of the first direct implementations of recommendations made by the National Broadband Plan. “America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend, in part, upon the availability of additional spectrum” said President Obama.

The memorandum instructs the NTIA and the FCC to identify the specific bands which will be released by October 1st. This new spectrum will then be used explicitly for broadband expansion, for either fixed or wireless solutions. Additionally the NTIA will work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Defense along with other agencies to develop spectrum sharing technologies.

In support of this new initiative, the Director of the National Economic Council, Lawrence H. Summers, gave a speech at the New America Foundation. During the speech Summers gave historical examples of how the United States has worked with private industry to spur investment and expand the economy specifically he cited the expansion of the railroad. He then went onto explain how the impending spectrum crunch will stifle innovation due to the lack of available spectrum for use by devices such as smartphones, or smart meters.

“[S]pectrum is becoming increasingly crowded. In recent years, the amount of information flowing over some wireless networks has grown at over 250 percent per year. By some estimates, the next five years will see an increase in wireless data of 20 to 45 times 2009 levels.” Summers said.

United States Frequency Allocations Chart

Summers then went onto to announce that the released spectrum will be sold via an auction whose profits will be used to help fund public safety networks. By using an auction the government is able to ensure that the new spectrum holders will use the spectrum and not just hold it in reserve. Additionally the government is able to obtain billions of dollars for a project which desperately needs funding.

“The first claim on auction revenues from the freed-up spectrum is to support the creation of a nationwide, interoperable, broadband network for public safety – originally recommended by the 9/11 Commission. The long-overdue shift to modern cellular systems for voice and data will both strengthen public safety and, over time, may actually save money” said Summers.

FCC Chairmen Julius Genachowski said of today’s announcement: “The initiatives endorsed today will spur economic growth, promote private investment, and drive U.S. global leadership in broadband innovation. Spectrum is the oxygen of wireless, and the future of our mobile economy depends on spectrum recovery and smart spectrum policies.”

The announcement by the president has received wide ranging support from industry groups to  consumer advocacy organizations.

CTIA, the wireless association, released a statement which said, in part, “By making spectrum available for auction, the Administration will enable the wireless industry to invest billions of dollars to purchase the licensed spectrum, and billions more to build and upgrade the networks that fuel our ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation. This announcement is a win for all Americans as it will drive innovation, investment and job creation, while at the same time providing much needed revenue not only for the U.S. Treasury, but also for a nationwide interoperable Public Safety network. By making spectrum available for auction, the Administration will enable the wireless industry to invest billions of dollars to purchase the licensed spectrum, and billions more to build and upgrade the networks that fuel our ‘virtuous cycle’ of innovation. This announcement is a win for all Americans as it will drive innovation, investment and job creation, while at the same time providing much needed revenue not only for the U.S. Treasury, but also for a nationwide interoperable Public Safety network.”

Free Press also supported the announcement but felt that the FCC needs to go further in their oversight of spectrum. “While today’s announcement is commendable, additional spectrum alone will not fix a broken market. For consumers to realize the full benefit of this reallocation of our public airwaves, the FCC and Congress must take steps to promote competition in the mobile broadband industry. Congress, the White House and the FCC should commit to dedicating a substantial portion of reallocated spectrum to unlicensed usage, in addition to auctioned spectrum. The FCC should also reinstate spectrum caps or tighter screens, impose and enforce build-out requirements to ensure that companies do not warehouse newly acquired spectrum, and move forward with handset exclusivity, data roaming and other policy problems facing consumers in the mobile broadband market.”

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for BroadbandBreakfast.com since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

Health

FCC Proposes Notification Rules for 988 Suicide Hotline Lifeline Outages

The proposal would ensure providers give ‘timely and actionable information’ on 988 outages.

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Photo via Health and Human Services

WASHINGTON, January 26, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission unanimously adopted a proposal to require operators of the 988 mental health crisis line to report outages, which would “hasten service restoration and enable officials to inform the public of alternate ways to contact the 988 Lifeline.”

The proposal would ensure providers give “timely and actionable information” on 988 outages that last at least 30 minutes to the Health and Human Services’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the 988 Lifeline administrator, and the FCC.

The commission is also asking for comment on whether cable, satellite, wireless, wireline and interconnected voice-over-internet protocol providers should also be subject to reporting and notification obligations for 988 outages.

Other questions from the commission include costs and benefits of the proposal and timelines for compliance, it said.

The proposal would align with similar outage protocols that potentially affect 911, the commission said.

The notice comes after a nationwide outage last month affected the three-digit line for hours. The line received over two million calls, texts, and chat messages since it was instituted six months ago, the FCC said.

The new line was established as part of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law in 2020.

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Health

FCC Eliminates Use of Urban-Rural Database for Healthcare Telecom Subsidies

The commission said the database that determined healthcare subsidies had cost ‘anomalies.’

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WASHINGTON, January 26, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission adopted a measure Thursday to eliminate the use of a database that determined the differences in telecommunications service rates in urban and rural areas that was used to provide funding to health care facilities for connectivity.

The idea behind the database, which was adopted by the commission in 2019, was to figure out the cost difference between similar broadband services in urban and rural areas in a given state so the commission’s Telecom Program can subsidize the difference to ensure connectivity in those areas, especially as the need for telehealth technology grows.

But the commission has had to temporarily provide waivers to the rules due to inconsistencies with how the database calculated cost differences. The database included rural tiers that the commission said were “too broad and did not accurately represent the cost of serving dissimilar communities.”

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel gave an example at Thursday’s open meeting of the database calculating certain rural services being cheaper than in urban areas, when the denser latter areas are generally less expensive.

As such, the commission Thursday decided to revert the methods used to determine Telecom Program support to before the 2019 database order until it can determine a more sustainable method. The database rescission also applies to urban cost determinations.

“Because the Rates Database was deficient in its ability to set adequate rates, we find that restoration of the previous rural rate determination rules, which health care providers have continued to use to determine rural rates in recent funding years under the applicable Rates Database waivers, is the best available option pending further examination in the Second Further Notice, to ensure that healthcare providers have adequate, predictable support,” the commission said in the decision.

Healthcare providers are now permitted to reuse one of three rural rates calculations before the 2019 order: averaging the rates that the carrier charges to other non-health care provider commercial customers for the same or similar services in rural areas; average rates of another service provider for similar services over the same distance in the health care provider’s area; or a cost-based rate approved by the commission.

These calculations are effective for the funding year 2024, the commission said. “Reinstating these rules promotes administrative efficiency and protects the Fund while we consider long-term solutions,” the commission said.

The new rules are in response to petitions from a number of organizations, including Alaska Communications; the North Carolina Telehealth Network Association and Southern Ohio Health Care Network; trade association USTelecom; and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“The FCC listened to many of our suggestions, and we are especially pleased that the Commission extended the use of existing rates for an additional year to provide applicants more certainty,” John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition, said in a statement.

Comment on automating rate calculation

The commission is launching a comment period to develop an automated process to calculate those rural rates by having the website of the Universal Service Administrative Company – which manages programs of the FCC – “auto-generate the rural rate after the health care and/or service provider selects sites that are in the same rural area” as the health care provider.

The commission is asking questions including whether this new system would alleviate administrative burdens, whether there are disadvantages to automating the rate, and whether there should be a challenge process outside of the normal appeals process.

The Telecom Program is part of the FCC’s Rural Health Care program that is intended to reduce the cost of telehealth broadband and telecom services to eligible healthcare providers.

Support for satellite services

The commission is also proposing that a cap on Telecom Program funding for satellite services be reinstated. In the 2019 order, a spending cap on satellite services was lifted because the commission determined that costs for satellite services were decreasing as there were on-the-ground services to be determined by the database.

But the FCC said costs for satellite services to health care service providers has progressively increased from 2020 to last year.

“This steady growth in demand for satellite services appears to demonstrate the need to reinstitute the satellite funding cap,” the commission said. “Without the constraints on support for satellite services imposed by the Rates Database, it appears that commitments for satellite services could increase to an unsustainable level.”

Soon-to-be health care providers funding eligibility

The FCC also responded to a SHLB request that future health care provider be eligible for Rural Health Care subsidies even though they aren’t established yet.

The commission is asking for comment on a proposal to amend the RHC program to conditionally approve “entities that are not yet but will become eligible health care providers in the near future to begin receiving” such program funding “shortly after they become eligible.”

Comments on the proposals are due 30 days after it is put in the Federal Register.

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Digital Inclusion

Broadband Breakfast Interview With Michael Baker’s Teraira Snerling and Samantha Garfinkel

Digital Equity provisions are central to state broadband offices’ plans to implement the bipartisan infrastructure law.

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Digital Equity provisions are central to state broadband offices’ plans to implement the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grant program under the bipartisan infrastructure law.

In this interview with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, Michael Baker International Broadband Planning Consultants Teraira Snerling and Samantha Garfinkel go into detail about the role of Digital Equity Act plans in state broadband programs.

Michael Baker International, a leading provider of engineering and consulting services, including geospatial, design, planning, architectural, environmental, construction and program management, has been solving the world’s most complex challenges for over 80 years.

Its legacy of expertise, experience, innovation and integrity is proving essential in helping numerous federal, state and local navigate their broadband programs with the goal of solving the Digital Divide.

The broadband team at Michael Baker is filling a need that has existed since the internet became publicly available. Essentially, Internet Service Providers have historically made expansions to new areas based on profitability, not actual need. And pricing has been determined by market competition without real concern for those who cannot afford service.

In the video interview, Snerling and Garfinkel discuss how, with Michael Baker’s help, the federal government is encourage more equitable internet expansion through specific programs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The company guides clients to incorporate all considerations, not just profitability, into the project: Compliance with new policies, societal impact metrics and sustainability plans are baked into the Michael Baker consultant solution so that, over time, these projects will have a tremendous positive impact.

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