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ITIF Panel: FCC Needs to Address Spectrum Needs

WASHINGTON May 18, 2011 – The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation assembled a unique group of economists, legislative aides and engineers on Tuesday to explore how best to allocate this scarce resource.



WASHINGTON May 18, 2011 – The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation assembled a unique group of economists, legislative aides and engineers on Tuesday to explore how best to allocate this scarce resource.

“The most popular mobile operating systems, Android and iOS, along with the top applications have all been developed in the U.S.,” said Rasika Abeysinghe, director of Networks Solutions. “The rest of the world is looking to the U.S. as a model for the use and deployment of mobile broadband; therefore we must figure out how to best use spectrum to support the expansion of mobile broadband networks.”

According to data collected by Network Solutions mobile broadband use will grow 30-fold over the next five years. As devices become more complex, they consume greater amounts of data. On average, feature phones, like the popular Motorola Razor use 8 megabytes (MB) of data per month, whereas a smartphone uses an average of 900 MB and tablets typically use about 2 gigabytes.

According to Abeysinghe, researchers are working hard to improve the efficiency of devices; however, there is a physical limit as to how much data radio waves can carry. Soon, he said, the only way to increase bandwidth will be through the use of more spectrum. If the mobile providers are unable to obtain and then access additional spectrum connection speeds will become stagnant.

Steven Crowley, a consulting wireless engineer, suggested that to improve the use and allocation of spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission needs to conduct an annual report on spectrum use in the same way it reports on broadband deployment.

“The report could show where spectrum is being used or just being held,” Crowley said. “Also, it would allow the Commission to see if the licensees were using their holds efficiently.”

Matthew Hussey, Legislative Assistant in the Office of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), said that that the FCC needs to conduct an in-depth inventory of the spectrum currently being used. Earlier this year Sen. Snowe co-sponsored a bill with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the Reforming Airwaves by Developing Incentives and Opportunistic Sharing (RADIOS) Act, which would in part require the FCC to conduct an inventory.

“The spectrum dashboard is a great tool but it provides a very high level look,” Hussey said. “What we need is granular data to see who owns what and what it’s being used for. The proposed inventory [would] provide policy makers and industry with crucial information which we currently don’t have.”

Hussey also commented that the inventory does not need to precede proposed voluntary incentive spectrum auctions and could be done concurrently since the auctions will only include voluntary participants. He also called upon industry to expand the use of shared spectrum as a way to increase efficiency.

Currently all revenue gained from the auctioning of spectrum goes directly to the Treasury Department. Voluntary 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. The FCC believes by providing a financial incentive license holders will become more likely to participate in the auction. However, before the FCC shares any auction proceeds the Congress must change the current regulations.

The idea of using voluntary incentive spectrum auctions was generally praised by the panelists.

“An auction will bring the spectrum to the group which values it most.” said Hal Singer, managing director and principal at Navigant Economics.

Singer went on to say that an auction will prevent money from being wasted in lobbying that would occur if the FCC simply gave out the spectrum to groups the agency felt deserved it.

Speaking from the audience, Blair Levin, former Broadband Plan executive director, said that if the auctions do not take place, it is likely that when the mobile firms use up their entire spectrum holdings the FCC will simply take away spectrum from television broadcasters and give it to mobile providers. Incentive auctions provide a way for the broadcasters to obtain some revenue from their holdings.

George Mason University Law professor, Thomas Hazlett, opposed the incentive auction proposal and called for the use of an overlay plan. Such a plan would repack television broadcasters into a single contiguous block, which would then free up a large amount spectrum that could be used by mobile broadband. The “Hazlett Plan” would allow television stations that continue to use broadcast technologies to share transmitters, since they would be transmitting on frequencies which are located next to each other. Additionally the plan would free up large contiguous blocks of spectrum which is better for mobile broadband deployment.

Richard Bennett, Senior Research Fellow at Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said that the FCC needs to change the way they think about overall spectrum allocation.

“We need to move to a place where we no longer allocate spectrum for a single purpose. Instead we should think of it as mobile data in general be it for mobile broadband or television or public safety,” Bennett said.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for 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


Federal Communications Commission Implements Rules for Affordable Connectivity Program

The agency implemented new rules on the Affordable Connectivity Program, which makes a new subsidy permanent.



Photo of Jessica Rosenworcel by Rob Kunzig of Morning Consult

WASHINGTON, January 24, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules Friday for its Affordable Connectivity Program that changes and, in some cases narrows, the eligibility requirements for the subsidy to allow for more households to be connected.

An extension of the former Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which offered discounts to broadband service providers to subsidize connectivity and devices, the new program will make it easier for providers to get in the program by automatically making eligible providers in good standing.

Additionally, the FCC maintains that the monthly discount on broadband service is limited to one internet discount per household rather than allowing the benefit for separate members of a household. “Adopting a one-per-household limitation best ensures that Program funding is available to the largest possible number of eligible households,” the agency said in its report.

To accommodate the volume of eligible households enrolling in the ACP, the FCC allowed providers until March 22 – 60 days after its Friday order is published in the Federal Register– to make necessary changes to ensure that the ACP can be applied to providers’ currently sold plans.

“So much of our day to day—work, education, healthcare and more—has migrated online. As a result, it’s more apparent than ever before that broadband is no longer nice-to-have, it’s need-to-have, for everyone, everywhere,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “But there are far too many households across the country that are wrestling with how to pay for gas and groceries and also keep up with the broadband bill. This program, like its predecessor, can make a meaningful difference.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act transformed the EBB to the longer-term Affordable Connectivity Program by allocating an additional $14.2 billion to it.

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FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Shares Proposal to Promote Broadband Competition In Apartment Buildings

If adopted, the FCC’s regulations would increase broadband options for tenants.



FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, January 21, 2022––Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared a draft regulation that aims to would promote competition and greater broadband choice for tenants in apartment buildings.

If adopted, the regulations would prevent practices that keep tenants from choosing their own broadband provider.

“With more than one-third of the U.S. population living in apartments, mobile home parks, condominiums, and public housing, it’s time to crack down on practices that lock out broadband competition and consumer choice,” said Rosenworcel.

The proposal would prohibit broadband providers from entering into revenue-sharing agreements with apartment building owners. If approved by her fellow commissioners and hence adopted as official agency rules, the regulation would also require providers to disclose any existing marketing arrangements they have with building owners to tenants.

“Consumers deserve access to a choice of providers in their buildings. I look forward to having my colleagues join me in lifting the obstacles to competitive choice for broadband for the millions of tenants across the nation,” Rosenworcel said.

Her proposal builds on a September 2021 notice that invited a new round of comments during an examination of broadband access In apartment and office buildings. The FCC said the proceedings revealed “a pattern of new practices that inhibit competition, contrary to the Commission’s goals, and limit opportunities for competitive providers to offer service for apartment, condo and office building unit tenants.”

More than one third of the U.S. population lives in condominiums or apartment buildings.

Exclusive agreements between broadband providers and buildings owners limit options for tenants, who are precluded from access to new carriers. “Across the country throughout the pandemic, the need for more and better broadband access has never been clearer,” Rosenworcel added.

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FCC Announces Largest Approval Yet for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund: $1 Billion

The agency said Thursday it has approved $1 billion to 69 providers in 32 states.



Photo illustration from the Pelican Institute

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced its largest approval yet from the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, greenlighting on Thursday $1 billion from a reverse auction process that ended with award announcements in December but that the new-look agency has been scrutinizing in recent months.

The agency said in a press release that this fifth round of approvals includes 69 providers who are expected to serve 518,000 locations in 32 states over 10 years. Its previous round approved $700 million worth of applications to cover 26 states. Previous rounds approved $554 million for broadband in 19 states, $311 million in 36 states, and $163 million in 21 states.

The agency still has some way to approve the entirety of the fund, as it’s asked providers that were previously awarded RDOF money in December to revisit their applications to see if the areas they have bid for are not already served. So far, a growing list have defaulted on their respective areas, some saying it was newer FCC maps that showed them what they didn’t previously know. The agency said Thursday that about 5,000 census blocks have been cleared as a result of that process.

The FCC also said Thursday it saved $350 million from winning bidders that have either failed to get state certification or didn’t follow through on their applications. In one winning bidder’s case, the FCC said Thursday Hotwire violated the application rules by changing its ownership structure.

“This latest round of funding will open up even more opportunities to connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, reliable broadband service,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “Today’s actions reflect the hard work we’ve put in over the past year to ensure that applicants meet their obligations and follow our rules.  With thoughtful oversight, this program can direct funding to areas that need broadband and to providers who are qualified to do the job.”

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