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FCC Probes Industry on USF Modernization

WASHINGTON April 28, 2011 – The Federal Communications Commission gathered key industry experts on Wednesday to explore the different ways that the Universal Service Fund can be modernized to effectively deploy high speed broadband to rural America.

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WASHINGTON April 28, 2011 – The Federal Communications Commission gathered key industry experts on Wednesday to explore the different ways that the Universal Service Fund can be modernized to effectively deploy high speed broadband to rural America.

“The Universal Service Fund is at the heart of the Commission’s core mission,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at the start of the event. “The current system was largely successful in meeting the challenges of the 20th century challenges but cannot handle the needs of the 21st century; it does not work for broadband deployment.”

Genachowski said that the current system disperses broadband funds inefficiently and wastefully. He went on to say that, the current system cannot provide long-term sustainable broadband deployment and reform is necessary.

“This is an issue with bipartisan support,” said Commissioner Robert McDowell. “It’s my hope that one day we won’t need the USF because technology can bring affordable broadband to all Americans, but until then we need to work together to provide the necessary access.”

In early February, the FCC unanimously adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at transforming the Universal Service Fund (USF) to include broadband. The Commission proposed the creation of the Connect America Fund (CAF), which would provide support for both voice and broadband services. As a compliment to the CAF, the Commission also proposed the creation of a Mobility Fund, which would provide support to expand mobile broadband.

Andrew Newell, General Counsel at Viaero Wireless, called wireless networks the best solution for bringing high-speed broadband to rural areas with minimal cost.

“The endgame to bring fiber to every home won’t work. Fiber is getting increasingly expensive and it is considerably cheaper to deploy mobile broadband,” said Newell. “The download speed of mobile broadband is getting faster which makes it increasingly more attractive for home use.”

David Russell, Solutions Marketing Director at Calix, agreed that wireless is a solution, but to support the wireless network, a fiber backbone needs to be deployed and consumers should be able to access this fiber when it comes close to their homes. Also, he said, broadband is no longer a luxury, but increasingly a necessity.

“I was in Western Massachusetts recently, where a number of homeowners told me that they were unable to sell their homes because the properties did not have access to high speed broadband,” Russell said.

Consumer Federation of America Research Director Mark Cooper and Park Region Mutual Telephone CEO Dave Bickett both echoed Russell’s statements on providing users with access to fiber where possible.

“There is no doubt that mobile computing is more valuable than fixed computing,” said Cooper, “but there needs to be a shared infrastructure between wired and wireless to provide better access to consumers.”

One of the major reforms that the FCC proposes is the use of reverse auctions for the distribution of support. Currently the USF provides support to multiple companies that serve the same area as long as they provide access.

Under the reverse auction system, companies would bid to be the sole recipient of support, where the firm that can provide access with the least amount of funding wins.

The telecommunications industry is divided on the use of reverse auctions, but companies agree that the new fund should have separate wireless and wireline programs.

Maggie McCready, Vice President of Federal Regulatory at Verizon supported the use of reverse auctions saying, “this system will provide increased efficiency and provide the most access for the lowest cost.”

Grant Spellmeyer, Senior Director of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs at US Cellular and Jason Hendricks, Director of Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs, RT Communications, Inc. both voiced their opposition of the use of auctions saying that the auctions would not provide adequate support.

They both said that the auctions would leave current providers unable to recoup the cost of their current deployments if they lost the auction and stopped receiving funding.

Vice President of Government Affairs at the American Cable Association Ross Lieberman called upon the FCC to increase their speed goals for universal service.

“Right now the FCC has a broadband goal of 4 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 1 Mbps upload,” Lieberman said. “This is not adequate for future use. If the government is going to fund deployment it should make sure that the connections are going to be useful for long term use. Our members are currently offering base speeds of 16 Mbps down and 4 up and speeds will only improve over time.”

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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