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Ofcom to Investigate Network Neutrality

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2010 – Britain’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) has begun a request of information about network neutrality. The office specifically citied the Comcast case and the actions being taken by the Federal Communication Commission as a contributing factor as to why they believe they must inquire about the issue.

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WASHINGTON, June 25, 2010 – Britain’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) has begun a request of information about network neutrality. The office specifically citied the Comcast case and the actions being taken by the Federal Communication Commission as a contributing factor as to why they believe they must inquire about the issue.

Additionally the EU has given telecommunications regulators increased authority on broadband related issues which allows Ofcom to act on them.

‘New EU rules give regulators a clear responsibility to address the emerging issues around traffic management. The question is how Ofcom uses these and existing powers to further the interests of consumers, while supporting vibrant, innovative content production and network deployment,’  said Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards.

Ofcom has released a 68 page report which outlines why they have deiced to look into the issue and asks a series of questions for which they would like responses from stakeholders. The questions mirror those being asked by the Federal Communications commission which as about discriminatory practices, and how network neutrality will affect innovation.

As part of their request for information Ofcom summarizes actions being taken by the FCC in the United States and also in the rest of Europe.

In Norway the communications authority setup an external working group which included major stakeholders to create a set of voluntary guidelines. These guidelines include giving users a predefined level of speed, the ability to connect any device and the use of any software on the network as long as it is non-harmful to the network and the guarantee of non-discrimination based upon the type of content.

In France the Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Poste (ARCEP) issued a set of guidelines similar to the Norwegian ones and the French Parliament has requested a report on the state of internet use which will be used to possibly formulate legislation.

Sweden’s Post and Telecom Agency has produced a report about the issue but the government has yet to act. The report concluded that effective competition ensures non-discrimination.

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

FCC

Carrier Association Requests Reconsideration of FCC Decision on 911 Outage Notification

The CCA says the FCC order creates burdens on call providers and 911 special facilities.

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Photo of CCA president and CEO Tim Donovan

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2023 – The Competitive Carriers Association is asking the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider a November decision requiring carriers to provide certain network outage notifications within 30 minutes.

The FCC order mandates that originating call providers notify 911 special facilities – such as emergency call centers called public safety answering points – of outages “no later than within 30 minutes of when the outage that potentially affects 911 service is discovered.” The order also required those providers to keep up-to-date contact information for those special facilities in areas they serve.

In a petition on Friday, the CCA is asking for the FCC to review and implement flexibility in that timing. “The significant new requirements that the Commission has imposed on carriers…are likely to be burdensome and counter-productive not only for carriers, but also 911 special facilities,” the CCA said in its application, though it continues to encourage the commission to retain the “as soon as possible” requirement.

“At a minimum, however, the Commission should start the 30-minute timer (and subsequent timers) when actual originating service provider…notification occurs from its vendor or other underlying provider,” the CCA said, adding even then carriers “would face significant difficulty assessing the outage, identifying the appropriate” public safety answering points to notify, and making the required notifications within 30 minutes.

“Therefore, it would be appropriate to deem [originating call providers] compliant if they begin notifying affected PSAPs that an outage exists within the 30- minute timeframe, and continue to notify any PSAPs that the OSPs could not reach before the expiration of the 30-minutes,” the industry association added.

The association said the problem with the decision is it doesn’t account for the “practical difficulty (if not impossibility)” of getting a vendor notification, determining which of the thousands of answering points may be affected by the outage, and making the required notification in that timeframe. It said carriers frequently don’t get outage notifications from 911 solution vendors within 30 minutes.

“The unnecessarily rigid approach in the [order] will often make compliance an impossibility, and otherwise will require carriers to spend critical time and resources on notifications to PSAPs that are not affected by outages, and will subject PSAPs to frequent notifications regarding outages that do not affect them, with limited actionable information given the short deadline,” the CCA added.

The CCA is also requesting that the commission create and maintain a centralized database with information provided by the 911 special facilities. It notes that the FCC order fails to fully take into consideration the burden its approach will place on carriers, especially smaller ones with limited resources, and PSAPs, who are “likely to experience a recurring deluge of requests for updated contact information from numerous carriers subject to this amorphous standard.”

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FCC

FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn Withdraws from Consideration

Sohn was first nominated in October 2021.

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WASHINGTON, March 7, 2023 – The nominee for the fifth commissioner to the Federal Communications Commission withdrew her candidacy in a statement Tuesday, blaming “dark money political groups” for tainting her career.

“Unfortunately, the American people are the real losers here,” Gigi Sohn said in the statement. “The FCC deadlock, now over two years long, will remain so for a long time. As someone who has advocated for my entire career for affordable, accessible broadband for every American, it is ironic that the 2-2 FCC will remain sidelined at the most consequential opportunity for broadband in our lifetimes.”

Just last month, Sohn appeared before the Senate commerce committee for a third time and was lambasted by Republican members as an impartial nominee who has made controversial public statements on race and policing and who alleged gave money to members of the committee while being a nominee.

“When I accepted his nomination over sixteen months ago, I could not have imagined that legions of cable and media industry lobbyists, their bought-and-paid-for surrogates, and dark money political groups with bottomless pockets would distort my over 30-year history as a consumer advocate into an absurd caricature of blatant lies,” Sohn’s statement said. “The unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks on my character and my career as an advocate for the public interest have taken an enormous toll on me and my family.”

She appealed to the committee to hurry her to the Senate floor for votes so she can get to work on the FCC’s broadband availability map. She said in her statement that her withdrawal also means the commission won’t have the majority to adopt rules on nondiscriminatory access to broadband and to fix the Universal Service Fund programs.

Sohn was nominated for a second time by President Joe Biden in January.

“I hope the President swiftly nominates an individual who puts the American people first over all other interests,” she added in the statement. “The country deserves nothing less.”

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Broadband Mapping & Data

General Agreement on Broadband Label, But Not on Additional Disclosure Requirements

The FCC is considering additional requirements, but that could be burdensome for small providers.

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Screenshot of speakers at the Federal Communications Bar Association event

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2023 — As the comment deadline approaches for the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband “nutrition label” rule, industry experts are largely supportive of the measure, although some disagree over whether the requirements go too far or not far enough.

The FCC is currently considering whether to add additional requirements — such as cybersecurity data and more comprehensive pricing information about bundled plans — to the labels, which were mandated in November and require that providers list performance metrics, cost and other facts to inform purchasers at all points of sale. Other proposed measures aim to improve accessibility by requiring non-English translations, as well as Braille or a QR code with a tactile indicator. The comment deadline is Thursday.

Further requirements could have negative impacts on both consumers and providers, argued Farhan Chughtai, senior policy counsel at broadband consulting company JSI, at a Feb. 6 Federal Communications Bar Association event.

“You don’t want to make the labels too difficult—that’s going to lead to more consumer confusion,” Chughtai said. He pointed to metrics such as network management, network reliability and cybersecurity as topics that might be “too nuanced” for the labels.

Overly complicated labels risk being treated like terms of service agreements, where many users just skip through them, Chughtai said. “Let’s focus on speed, latency, monthly usage.”

Additional requirements would place a disproportionate burden on smaller, rural providers, he added.

Chughtai also pointed to the “point of sale” disclosure requirements as a potential barrier for small providers.

“For some of the larger providers, that documentation can be automated,” he said. “But when you’re talking about a small carrier in Kentucky that has two or three people that are working, that type of communication… could be troublesome. So again, I think that the commission did strike a good balance, but when it comes to implementation, I think there’s ways to continue to refine this.”

Diana Eisner, vice president of policy and advocacy at industry association USTelecom, agreed with Chughtai, adding that both small and large providers “agree that this point of sale documentation is problematic.”

The FCC should work with industry and consumer groups to continuously fine-tune the label requirements, Chughtai said.

Debate on current version of label

“I think the commission really struck the right balance largely of making sure that consumers can see the information in a snapshot—they’re not overloaded with irrelevant information,” Eisner said.

Consumer advocates are generally excited about the label, said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports. “I think the commission gets it mostly right,” he said.

However, Schwantes voiced concerns about the label’s scope, saying that they were intended to educate consumers in addition to serving as a comparison shopping tool.

“I’m concerned that existing consumers may never see the label unless you’re moving or you decide to change or maybe if you’re lucky enough to have a competing provider,” he said. “Based on the [FCC’s Communications Marketplace] report that came out right at the end of last year, there are still many millions of Americans who only have one choice of broadband provider.”

Schwantes noted that he and several other consumer groups attempted to address this issue by advocating for the labels’ inclusion on monthly service bills, but such a requirement failed to make it into the FCC’s mandate.

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