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FCC Addresses Wireless Buildout Issues At Monthly Meeting

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 – The Federal Communications Commission passed a series of measures aimed at expanding mobile broadband access at its April open meeting on Thursday.

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WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 – The Federal Communications Commission passed a series of measures aimed at expanding mobile broadband access at its April open meeting on Thursday.

In a unanimous vote, the Commission passed an update to the pole-attachment rules. The update lowers the rate that utility companies may charge mobile providers for attaching antennas to utility poles. In the past, utility firms have charged mobile provides more than double what they charged cable companies. Under the new rules, the costs are comparable.

The update also includes a new deadline under which pole attachment requests must be resolved. The new rules require utility companies to respond to the request within 148 days.

“It’s not sexy or very exciting and you can quickly get lost in the weeds, but clarifying the rules surrounding rates and access to poles has been on the Commission’s to-do list for longer than I’ve been here—and that’s a long time,” Commissioner Michael Copps said in a statement. “Pole attachments are without a doubt one of the critical inputs when communications providers assess the economics of deploying advanced telecommunications networks. “

Chairman Julius Genachowski called pole attachments the “blood and guts” of the telecommunications infrastructure.

As a companion to the pole-attachment rules, the Commission also issued a Notice of Inquiry requesting comment on current tower siting and right of way requirements.

The wireless trade association, CTIA, commended the FCC through a statement saying, “In stressing the need to unlock greater efficiencies in rights-of way and wireless facilities siting policies to speed broadband deployment, today’s Notice of Inquiry recognizes that work remains to improve wireless infrastructure buildout.”

In a 3-2 party-line vote, the Commission also approved an order that will require wireless broadband providers to enter into data roaming contracts with other wireless broadband providers. This new order will allow subscribers of regional carriers to access data services out of their network.  Similar rules exist for voice roaming.  The Commission found that many larger mobile broadband providers have refused to negotiate any 3G or 4G roaming agreements.

“The news of AT&T’s attempt to purchase T-Mobile makes it even more important for the FCC to continue to make sure that consumers have affordable choices in the marketplace,” said Parual Desai, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union. “This data roaming rule will help in that effort and we will work with the FCC to work on other important competitive issues such as interoperability, special access and spectrum policy.”

The Republican commissioners supported the idea of data roaming agreements but felt that the agency did not have the legal authority to impose the agreements.

“Very often when we act here at the Commission, someone says we’ve exceeded our authority.  But the truth is that these claims of overreaching are themselves an overreach,” said Chairman Genachowski. “During the last four years, the federal courts have issued 16 published merits decisions addressing direct statutory challenges to FCC orders.  The FCC prevailed in 15 of the 16 challenges—94 percent of the time.  I am confident that the same result will pertain here, if this order is challenged.”

Both Verizon and AT&T released statements in which they opposed the data roaming order. The companies claim that they will now have less incentive to expand their wireless broadband infrastructure if they must share it with their competitors.

“By forcing carriers that have invested in wireless infrastructure to make those networks available to competitors that avoid this investment, at a price ultimately determined by the FCC, today’s order discourages network investment in less profitable areas,” said Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications, Tom Tauke. “That is directly contrary to the interests of rural America and the development of facilities-based competition and potential job creation.”

In contrast, Sprint supported the order asserting that access to data roaming services is necessary to expand wireless broadband services to the entire nation.

By unanimous vote the Commission also adopted a Notice of Inquiry asking for information on how the nation can “strengthen the reliability and resilience” of the communications network.

“Our Nation’s own experiences, in the aftermath of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, and violent storms like the one which struck my parent’s neighborhood in South Carolina this week, highlight the importance of having our networks protected from potential failures,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in her statement of support. “The NOI asks important questions about critical features in preventing the outages such as the need for backup power, and backhaul redundancy.”

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

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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