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FCC Commissioner Baker Outlines Plan For Merger Review Overhaul

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 – FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker outlined a plan to reform the Commission corporate mergers review process in a keynote address at the Institute for Policy Innovation’s Communications Summit Wednesday.

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WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 – FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker outlined a plan to reform the Commission corporate mergers review process in a keynote address at the Institute for Policy Innovation’s Communications Summit Wednesday.

Commissioner Baker’s plan comes barely a month after the agency’s approval of the Comcast-NBC Universal (CNBCU) merger.  That merger review took nearly a year to complete and resulted in an agreement rife with conditions – including a major concession that the new company would abide by the FCC’s controversial Open Internet Order, even if the Order were eventually struck down in the courts.

Conservative critics have maligned the agreement as an unacceptable intrusion by government regulators into the free market.

Commissioner Baker, in addition to taking issue with the final agreement in the CNBCU merger, has also voiced objections to the merger review process as a whole, typifying it as one that is inefficient, overreaching and unnecessarily time-consuming.

“The Current FCC merger review process is ripe for overhaul,” Baker noted.

Citing concerns that the current merger process will discourage investment in telecommunications – or at least in telecommunications in the U.S. – Baker called out several parts of the review process for revision. Requiring multiple agencies to review mergers, she said, is duplicative and unnecessary, the process takes far longer than it ought to, and conditions attached frequently do not serve the public interest.

In response to the issues she presented, Baker also proposed a number of solutions, including working with Congress to streamline the process, imposing a binding timeline on reviews and ensuring that any conditions are more closely tied to actual and specific harms.

Baker elaborated further on instituting timelines and restricting merger conditions, both of which are issues she has publicly commented on during FCC open meetings and while testifying before Congress.  Her plan would implement a binding 180-day deadline on reviews, with a possible 60-day extension “that would be the exception, not the rule.”

The Commissioner also asserted that calling merger conditions “voluntary” is disingenuous. She then quoted former FCC Commissioner, Kathleen Abernathy, in calling such conditions “quid pro quo.”

“[Conditions] have become the cost of doing business with the Agency,” said Baker. “It devolves into how to get more out of the transaction.”

Rather, she said, conditions should only be allowed where they are closely tied to actual harms.  Specifically, she called out conditions in the CNBCU merger that require the new company to invest in broadband buildout and low-income access.  While Baker lauded the intention and effect of the programs, she took issue with the lack of direct link between the conditions and actual harms stemming from the merger.

“[Allowing expansive conditions] invites special interests to use mergers for their own purposes,” said Baker. “It delays and muddles reviews.”

 

Jonathan began his career as a journalist before turning his focus to law and policy. He is an attorney licensed in Texas and the District of Columbia and has worked previously as a political reporter, in political campaign communications and on Capitol Hill. He holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Washington and a J.D. from Villanova Law School, where he focused his studies on Internet and intellectual property law and policy. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he roots for Seattle sports teams and plays guitar in his free time.

FCC

Cable Group NCTA Says Deny Exclusive Multitenant Access, But Not Wiring, Agreements

NCTA said the FCC should deny exclusive access to these buildings, but not exclusive wiring agreements.

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Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – The internet and television association NCTA is suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission deny all broadband providers exclusive access to multitenant buildings, but to continue allowing exclusive wiring agreements.

On Tuesday, the FCC opened a new round of comments into its examination of competitive broadband options for residents of apartments, multi-tenant and office buildings.

In a Tuesday ex parte notice to the commission, which follows a formal meeting with agency staff on September 2, the NCTA said the record shows that deployment, competition, and consumer choice in multiple tenant environments “are strong,” and that the FCC can “promote even greater deployment and competition by prohibiting not just cable operators, other covered [multiple video programming distributors], and telecommunications carriers, but all broadband providers from entering into MTE exclusive access agreements.

The organization, whose member companies include Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, also said it should continue to allow providers to enter into exclusive wiring agreements with MTE owners. Wiring just means that the provider can lay down its cables, like fiber, to connect residents.

“Exclusive wiring agreements do not deny new entrants access to MTEs. Rather, exclusive wiring agreements are pro-competitive and help ensure that state-of-the-art wiring will be deployed in MTEs to the benefit of consumers.”

The NCTA also told the FCC that there would be technical problems with simultaneous sharing of building wires by different providers and vouched for exclusive marketing arrangements, according to the notice.

The FCC’s new round of comments comes after a bill, introduced on July 30 by Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-New York, outlined plans to address exclusivity agreements between residential units and service providers, which sees providers lock out other carriers from buildings and leaving residents with only one option for internet.

Reached for comment on the filing, a spokesman for NCTA said they had nothing to add to the filing, which was signed by Mary Beth Murphy, deputy general counsel to the cable organization.

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China

Hytera’s Inclusion on FCC’s National Security Blacklist ‘Absurd,’ Client Says

Diversified Communications Group said the FCC flubbed on adding Hytera to blacklist.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – A client of a company that has been included in a list of companies the Federal Communications Commission said pose threats to the security of the country’s networks is asking the agency to reconsider including the company.

In a letter to the commission on Tuesday, Diversified Communications Group, which installs and distributes two-way radio communications devices to large companies, said the inclusion of Hytera Communications Corporation, a Chinese manufacturer of radio equipment, on a list of national security threats is “absurd” because the hardware involved is not connected to the internet and “does not transmit any sensitive or proprietary data.

“It seems that Hytera has been lumped in with other Chinese companies on the Covered List simply because they happen to manufacture electronics in the same country,” Diversified’s CEO Ryan Holte said in the letter, adding Hytera’s products have helped Diversified’s business thrive.

“This is a wrong that should be righted. Hytera is not a national security risk. They are an essential business partner to radio companies throughout the U.S.,” the CEO added.

In March, the FCC announced that it had designated Hytera among other Chinese businesses with alleged links to the Communist government. Others included Huawei, ZTE, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Dahua Technology.

List among a number of restrictions on Chinese companies

This list of companies was created in accordance with the Secure Networks Act, and the FCC indicated that it would continue to add companies to the list if they are deemed to “pose an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons.”

Last month, the Senate commerce committee passed through legislation that would compel the FCC to no longer issue new equipment licenses to China-backed companies.

Last year the U.S. government took steps to ensure that federal agencies could not purchase goods or services from the aforementioned companies, and had previously added them to an economic blacklist.

In July, the FCC voted in favor of putting in place measures that would require U.S. carriers to rip and replace equipment by these alleged threat companies.

The Biden administration has been making moves to isolate alleged Chinese-linked threats to the country’s networks. In June, the White House signed an executive order limiting investments in predominantly Chinese companies that it said poses a threat to national security.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Says 5 Million Households Now Enrolled in Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The $3.2 billion program provides broadband and device subsidies to eligible low-income households.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 30, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday that five million households have enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

The $3.2-billion program, which launched in May, provides a broadband subsidy of $50 per month to eligible low-income households and $75 per month for those living on native tribal lands, as well as a one-time reimbursement on a device. Over 1160 providers are participating, the FCC said, who are reimbursed the cost to provide the discounted services.

The agency has been updating the public on the number of participating households for the program. In June, the program was at just over three million and had passed four million last month. The program was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“Enrolling five million households into the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program in a little over three months is no small feat,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of nearly 30,000 individuals and organizations who signed up as volunteer outreach partners.”

Rosenworcel added that conversations with partners and the FCC’s analysis shows the need for “more granular data” to bring these opportunities to more eligible families.

The program’s strong demand was seen as far back as March.

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