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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.

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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 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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