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Experts Debate Incentive Auctions at Brookings

WASHINGTON May 6, 2011 -The Brookings Institution gathered key industry and government experts Thursday to discuss how solve the impending spectrum crunch through voluntary incentive auctions.

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WASHINGTON May 6, 2011 -The Brookings Institution gathered key industry and government experts Thursday to discuss how solve the impending spectrum crunch through voluntary incentive auctions.

Incentive auctions would allow current spectrum owners to obtain a part of the proceeds from the auction of part or all of their spectrum holdings. Currently any revenue obtained from the sale of spectrum by the Federal Communications Commission goes directly to the Treasury Department. To increase participation in the auctions, the FCC has proposed to share the proceeds with the spectrum holders. Congress must first pass legislation changing the law to allow for the sharing of auction proceeds before the incentive auctions could be held.

“Wireless is the fastest-growing information communications technology around the world and it can become a key solution to bring broadband to the most remote Americans,” said Matthew Hussey, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

According to Hussey, however, Incentive auction may not be enough to solve the spectrum crunch many experts forecast.

Though incentive auctions are a useful tool in obtaining additional spectrum, he says, they would not be able to provide enough spectrum to meet the full needs of the wireless industry. Key innovations such as spectrum sharing and advanced radios must also be considered in determining solutions.

Hussey also called upon the FCC to conduct an in-depth spectrum inventory to determine if license holders are currently using their spectrum or if it is lying fallow.

Sen. Snowe, along with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) called for a spectrum inventory earlier this year, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stood by the information available on the Commission’s website, insisting that such an inventory had already been completed.

“The spectrum dashboard the FCC created presents a very broad overview of the current spectrum holdings; we need a much more granular view,” Hussey said. “We must remember that spectrum is a public good and must be used in a way to maximize the benefits of the American people.”

Christopher Ornelas, vice president and chief strategy officer at the National Association of Broadcasters, agreed that wireless broadband is the best solution to reach the most remote 8 percent of Americans who cannot access wireline broadband, but indicated he feels that spectrum should not be recklessly taken away from broadcasters.

“We do not have a problem of holding a truly voluntary auction, but broadcasters should not be coaxed into participating,” Ornelas said. “We need to first conduct a deep inventory of the spectrum currently being used before we make any decisions and right now, we lack the data to make the most informed decision. This is something that we can only do once, so we have to do it right.”

Ornleas also warned that after the auctions, any repacking of spectrum would have to be done very carefully to ensure that broadcasters who kept their spectrum would still be able to reach their original consumers. Repacking would create a contiguous block of users rather than having them spread out across the band.

Uzoma Onyeije, president of telecommunications consulting firm, Onyeije Consulting, echoed Ornleas’ sentiments on the lack of data.

“Before we act we need a truly complete and up to date inventory of how spectrum is being used,” said Onyeije.

“Incentive auctions are the key to meeting our future spectrum needs,” said Christopher Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs at the CTIA – the Wireless Association. “The rest of the world has already allocated hundreds of megahertz for mobile use while the U.S. only has 50.”

Mobile broadband is experiencing explosive growth according to Guttman-McCabe, even as more mobile phones allow users to use Wi-Fi networks.

Guttman-McCabe told the assembled crowd that U.S. consumers use considerably more data and voice services than their international counterparts which makes the lack of spectrum a major issue for mobile carriers.

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

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FCC

FCC Institutes ACP Transparency Data Collection

The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels.

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Photo of people working on computers, cropped, in 2011 by Victor Grigas

WASHINGTON, November 23, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission last week adopted an order that mandated annual reporting from all providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal initiative that subsidizes the internet-service and device costs of low-income Americans.

The FCC order establishing the ACP Transparency Data Collection, not released until Wednesday, requires ACP-affiliated providers to disclose prices, subscription rates, and other plan characteristics on yearly basis. The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels, which, it says, will ease regulatory burdens for providers.

The FCC created the Transparency Data Collection pursuant to the statutory requirements of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking in June.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile endorsed the nutrition-label method of collection. Industry associations including IMCOMPAS and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Associations warned the FCC against instituting excessive reporting burdens.

“To find out whether this program is working as Congress intended, we need to know who is participating, and how they are using the benefit,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “So we’re doing just that.  The data we collect will help us know where we are, and where we need to go. We’re also standardizing the way we collect data, and looking for other ways to paint a fuller picture of how many eligible households are participating in the ACP.  We want all eligible households to know about this important benefit for affordable internet service.”

Although the ACP is highly touted by the FCC, the White House, and industry experts, there is evidence the fund has been exploited by fraudsters, according to a watchdog. In September, the FCC Office of Inspector General issued a report that found the ACP handed out more than $1 million in improper benefits. In multiple instances, according to the OIG, the information of a qualifying individual was improperly used for hundreds of applications, achieving payouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last month, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., contacted 13 leading internet service providers, requesting details on alleged fishy business practices connected to the ACP and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

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Broadband's Impact

Federal Communications Commission Mandates Broadband ‘Nutrition’ Labels

The FCC also mandated that internet service provider labels be machine-readable.

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Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday afternoon ordered internet providers to display broadband “nutrition” labels at points of sale that include internet plans’ performance metrics, monthly rates, and other information that may inform consumers’ purchasing decisions.

The agency released the requirement less than 24 hours before it released the first draft of its updated broadband map.

The FCC mandated that labels be machine-readable, which is designed to facilitate third-party data-gathering and analysis. The commission also requires that the labels to be made available in customers’ online portals with the provide the and “accessible” to non-English speakers.

In addition to the broadband speeds promised by the providers, the new labels must also display typical latency, time-of-purchase fees, discount information, data limits, and provider-contact information.

“Broadband is an essential service, for everyone, everywhere. Because of this, consumers need to know what they are paying for, and how it compares with other service offerings,”  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. 

“For over 25 years, consumers have enjoyed the convenience of nutrition labels on food products.  We’re now requiring internet service providers to display broadband labels for both wireless and wired services.  Consumers deserve to get accurate information about price, speed, data allowances, and other terms of service up front.”

Industry players robustly debated the proper parameters for broadband labels in a flurry of filings with the FCC. Free Press, an advocacy group, argued for machine-readable labels and accommodations for non-English speakers, measures which were largely opposed by trade groups. Free Press also advocated a requirement that labels to be included on monthly internet bills, without which the FCC “risks merely replicating the status quo wherein consumers must navigate fine print, poorly designed websites, and byzantine hyperlinks,” group wrote.

“The failure to require the label’s display on a customer’s monthly bill is a disappointing concession to monopolist ISPs like AT&T and Comcast and a big loss for consumers,” Joshua Stager, policy director of Free Press, said Friday.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association clashed with Free Press in its FCC filing and supported the point-of-sale requirement.

“WISPA welcomes today’s release of the FCC’s new broadband label,” said Vice President of Policy Louis Peraertz. “It will help consumers better understand their internet access purchases, enabling them to quickly see ‘under the hood,’ and allow for an effective apples-to-apples comparison tool when shopping for services in the marketplace.”

Image of the FCC’s sample broadband nutrition label

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FCC

FCC to Establish New Space Bureau, Chairwoman Says

‘The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head.’

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, via fcc.gov

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission will add a new space bureau that will modernize regulations and facilitate innovation, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday.

The new bureau is intended to facilitate American leadership in the space economy, boost the Commission’s technical capacity, and foster interagency cooperation, Rosenworcel said, speaking at the National Press Club.

“The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head,” Rosenworcel said. “But the organizational structures of the [FCC] have not kept pace,” she added.

The space economy is “on a monumental run” of growth and innovation, the chairwoman argued, and the FCC must remodel itself to facilitate continued growth. Rosenworcel said the commission is currently reviewing 64,000 new satellite applications, and she further noted that 98 percent of all satellites launched in 2021 provided internet connectivity. By the end off 2022, operators will set a new record for satellites launched into orbit, she said.

The FCC will not take on new responsibilities, Rosenworcel said, but the announced restructuring will help the agency “perform[] existing statutory responsibilities better.” In September, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R–Wash., warned the FCC against overreaching its statutory mandate and voiced support for robust congressional oversight – a position reiterated by House staffers Wednesday.

“The formation of a dedicated space bureau within the FCC is a positive step for satellite operators and customers across the United States,” said Julie Zoller, head of global regulatory affairs at Amazon’s satellite broadband Project Kuiper, on a panel following Rosenworcel’s announcement.

“An important part of [Rosenworcel’s] space agenda is ensuring that there is a competitive environment in all aspects of that space,” said Umair Javed, the chairwoman’s chief counsel, during the panel. “So we’ve taken action to update our rules on spectrum sharing to make sure that there are opportunities for multiple systems to be successful in low Earth orbit.

“We’ve granted a number of experimental authorizations to companies that are doing really new…things,” Umair continued.

The FCC in September required that low–Earth orbit satellite debris be removed within five years of mission completion, a move Rosenworcel said would clear the way for new innovation.

In August, the FCC revoked an $885 million grant to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-broadband service. FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington criticized the reversal, and Starlink has since appealed it.

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