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Spectrum Bill and Broadband Breakfast Pre Holiday Wrap Up

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WASHINGTON December 14, 2011 – The FCC, the Hill and the Telecom industry has been busy over the last couple of weeks. Here is a wrap-up of the most important events.

House Passes Spectrum Auction Incentive Bill

After a 234-193 vote, the House Payroll Tax Extension Bill incorporated the full version of the Republican Incentive Auction bill. Last week the House Communications Sub Committee headed by Rep Greg Walden (R-OR) voted 17-6 to approve the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011. This spectrum incentive auction bill would give the FCC authority to pay broadcasters for the voluntary release of their spectrum that could then be used for broadband build out.

The bill would set aside up to $3 billion in revenue that would go to the broadcasters from the predicted $15 billion that the auction will bring in. Walden noted that the bill has the potential to create up to 100,000 jobs.

The the bill would require the FCC to preserve the spectrum and coverage areas of the broadcasters that do not volunteer to give up spectrum, compensate cable operators for cost of re configuring broadcast signals and prevent UHF channels from having to move to VHF which is not as ideal for DTV.

An amendment that was added to the Bill by Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has been labeled a “poison pill” by Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA). The Blackburn amendment would prohibit the FCC from imposing Net Neutrality conditions on wireless companies that purchase the new spectrum.

FCC Chairman Genachowski addressed the passage of the incentive auction bill by remarking,

“Over the last weeks and months, we have conveyed to Members of Congress and their staff concerns about provisions that would reduce FCC flexibility to maximize the overall value of freed-up spectrum, enhance spectrum efficiency, and promote robust innovation and investment. Several provisions of the House bill would tie the agency’s hands in ways that could be counterproductive, reducing economic value and hindering innovation and investment. One important example is the legislation’s seeming limitation on the Commission’s ability to accommodate new technologies, including those that use unlicensed spectrum, like super WiFi or machine-to-machine Internet connected devices. I encourage Congress to leave no doubt that the FCC can continue its policies to promote unlicensed spectrum use alongside licensed uses.”

The Democrats have announced that aside from the net neutrality provision they do not support the current legislation for a number of reasons. The bill 1) “establishes an overly bureaucratic, costly and cumbersome governance model that places significant authority in a private for-profit entity that lacks meaningful oversight” for public safety broadband networks, 2) impedes the FCC from allocating future spectrum reclaimed from incentive auctions for unlicensed use, 3) restricts the Commission’s ability to craft auction rules that ensure communications markets remain competitive, 4) does not provide enough funds to build public safety network sand does not fund research and development in public safety communication 5) provides broadcasters with 3 times the amount of compensation for relocation expenses than the Democratic proposal and 6) could put state and local investment in public safety 700MHz narrow band at risk by forcing premature return of this spectrum.

Telecom Companies Challenge the FCC on USF and ICC Reform

Following up on our POST from last week, AT&T and National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) joined suit against the FCC’s overhaul of the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation Systems.

AT&T’s challenge comes on the grounds that the FCC overstepped their authority. An AT&T spokesman said they appealed on a very narrow inter-carrier compensation issue.

The NTCA also filed suit against the Commission’s Order and FNPRM stating:

“There are several specific provisions of the order, however, that we are concerned fail to comport with the fundamental mandates of the Communications Act and the core principles of universal service. These provisions threaten to undermine the carefully constructed regulatory balance that has proven successful thus far in bringing telecommunications and advanced services to ruralAmerica. They put at risk the ability of small, rural, community-based providers to access capital and invest in broadband-capable networks in their hometowns and the surrounding countryside. Provisions mandating an ultimate price of zero for all switched access and reciprocal compensation services, imposing retroactive and dynamically changing caps on USF-supported costs and blurring the lines between regulated and nonregulated operations are inconsistent with law. These provisions will harm rural communities, and will not help to advance the availability and affordability of services for all rural consumers.”

Verizon Finds Better Way to Get More Spectrum

BroadbandBreakfast.com and others have been paying attention to the problems AT&T is experiencing with its T-Mobile proposed merger.

Verizon made its own move last week to scoop up an additional $3.6 billion worth of spectrum from the cable industry. The coalition of cable companies, SpectrumCo, made up of Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks are selling 122 of their Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) licenses which cover much of the cable companies’ territory in the 48 states. Verizon Wireless is paying 1.2 billion over what the cable companies paid for the licenses in 2006.

The deal apparently stipulates that the cable companies will be able to use Verizon’s sales channels to promote their products and Verizon will be able to sell content owned by the cable companies thought it’s own channels. Furthermore the companies have also agreed to focus on developing technologies that will better integrate wireless and wireline products and services.

The deal will have to be approved by the FCC and the DOJ but with the FCC slated to apparently approve AT&T’s acquisition of Qualcomm’s 700 MHz spectrum it does not seem likely that this deal will face anything harsher than some possible conditions.

LightSquared Interference Leaks

Last week an NTIA proposed government test was leaked to the public showing that LightSquared Inc’s wireless services caused interference in 75% of GPS receivers examined. LightSquared Inc plans to develop a wholesale 4G LTE wireless broadband communications network integrated with satellite coverage across the United States.

The tests conducted between Oct. 31 and Nov. 4 apparently show that “LightSquared signals cause harmful interference to majority of GPS receiver tested.” National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Systems Engineering Forum conducted the testing on devices which include those used for automobile and boat navigation.

Martin Harriman, Executive Vice President of LightSquared Inc. was outraged at the leak of what he considers incomplete government data. Harriman noted that LightSquared is proposing to operate at a power level much lower than those used in the test and believes that operations would only affect about 10% of devices.

“It is important for the public to understand the purposeful manipulation at hand here: The NTIA, not the leakers of this raw data, will make the final determination about how many devices passed or failed. And that assessment has not yet been made. The government must launch a full investigation of the premature disclosure of this raw data to ensure the credibility of the process is not damaged, and question the motives of those who have leaked this incomplete information,” said Harriman.

FCC Gets Tough on Waste Fraud and Abuse in Lifeline Program

The FCC has sent out an Enforcement Advisory to state eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) who provide Lifeline services, reminding them of their obligation to properly confirm consumer’s eligibility and assure that consumers are not receiving Lifeline support from another provider. The FCC warns that violators of these Lifeline rules face stiff penalties and even possible revocation of their ETC designation.

Chairman Genachowski has made it clear that he wants the state Public Utility Commissions to take a more active role in policing the program. In a letter to the state commissions earlier this week the Chairman wrote, “I encourage all of you to join the FCC in our efforts to reform the Lifeline program by closely scrutinizing the requests for ETC designation pending before you, to be on guard for abuse by ETCs designated to provide Lifeline service in your states, and to take swift and strong action when necessary to protect the program.”

As Deputy Editor, Chris Naoum is curating expert opinions, and writing and editing articles on Broadband Breakfast issue areas. Chris served as Policy Counsel for Future of Music Coalition, Legal Research Fellow for the Benton Foundation and law clerk for a media company, and previously worked as a legal clerk in the office of Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. He received his B.A. from Emory University and his J.D. and M.A. in Television Radio and Film Policy from Syracuse University.

Digital Inclusion

Popularity Of Telework And Telehealth Presents Unique Opportunities For A Post-Pandemic World

A survey released earlier this month illustrates opportunities for remote work and care.

Benjamin Kahn

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Screenshot of Hernan Galperin via YouTube

April 20, 2021—A survey conducted by the University of Southern California in conjunction with the California Emerging Technology Fund explored the popularity and availability of opportunities for telework and telehealth in California.

At an event hosted by USC and CETF Monday, experts dissected the survey released earlier this month to explain the implications it may have for the future. Hernán Galerpin is an Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. He served as the lead investigator for the survey, which analyzed Californians’ attitudes towards their new schedules during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The first statistic Galerpin noted was the extent of broadband growth in California between 2008 and 2021. According to the survey, in 2008, only 55 percent of Californians had broadband coverage. By 2021, the number had risen steeply to 91 percent, with 85 percent of Californian’s utilizing broadband through either a desktop, laptop, or tablet (with the rest connected exclusively through a smartphone).

This is significant because it helps to explain the next statistic Galerpin showed; according to his data, Galerpin stated that approximately 38 percent of employed adults worked remotely five days a week over the course of the pandemic, while 45 percent did not work remotely (17 percent worked between 1-4 days remotely).

When asked how many times they would like to telecommute to work, respondents were most likely to indicate a preference for what they had become accustomed to; those who worked from home five days a week had a 42 percent chance of preferring working from home 5 days a week; those who worked from home three to four days a week had a 35 percent chance of preferring a three to four day telecommute schedule; those who worked remotely one to two days per week had a 56 percent chance of favoring a one to two day telecommuting schedule.

The data collected also indicated that low-income and Hispanic workers were disproportionately unable to telecommute.

Overall, telecommuting five days a week was the most popular option, with 31 percent of total respondents favoring that arrangement. By comparison, only 18 percent of respondents favored a schedule without any telecommuting.

President and CEO of CETF Sunne Wright McPeak called this data “unprecedented,” and stated that broadband had the potential to serve as a “green strategy” that could limit the number of miles driven by employees, and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as other harmful pollutants. According to the data, as many as 55 percent of work commutes could be offset by a reconfigured telecommuting schedule.

The benefits of broadband did not stop there, however. Data also indicated that nearly 70 percent of Californians 65 years and older were able to utilize telehealth services, whether that was over the phone/smartphone or computer. Unsurprisingly, wealthier Californians were also more likely to benefit from telehealth services, with nearly 56 percent of low-income Californians going without telehealth, compared to 43 percent of “not low income” Californians.

An additional positive sign was that the overwhelming majority of disabled individuals were able to utilize telehealth services, with 70 percent of disabled respondents indicating that they were able to do so over the course of the pandemic.

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Education

Multilingual Digital Navigators Crucial For Inclusion

Digital liaisons who speak multiple languages can help guide multilingual communities for the digital future.

Derek Shumway

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Screenshot taken from the Net Inclusion webinar

April 19, 2021 – Encouraging multilingualism among digital navigators will help facilitate better inclusion in digital adoption, experts said last week.

Speaking Spanish is a huge plus for digital navigators in Salt Lake City, Utah, for example, as many of its focused neighborhoods needing to be connected to broadband speak the language,  said Shauna McNiven Edson, digital inclusion coordinator at Salt Lake City Public Library.

Edson and other panelists spoke last Wednesday at the 2021 Net Inclusion Webinar Series hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, a digital inclusion advocacy group on what skills are needed to become a digital navigator.

At the Salt Lake City Public Library, progress is there but challenges persist for digital inclusion and navigation. Edson said there were about 450 participants in its library program’s group for digital inclusion. However, only about 5 percent of participants, or 22 people, have adequate broadband at home. Seventy-five percent of members said they needed help finding a computer or internet-enabled deice, and 10 percent of its 450 members have contacted the library’s support staff for It issues.

Digital navigators are crucial because they connect community members with the skills and resources they need to become digitally literate and help them get adequate broadband. Navigators can be volunteers or cross-trained staff who already work in social service agencies, libraries, health, and more who offer remote and socially distant in-person guidance. 

Compared to the rest of the country, Salt Lake City is highly connected, said Edson. Every community has a unique demographic make-up, and if the communities who need access to broadband mostly speak Spanish or English or even Mandarin, there should be community anchors with highly trained digital navigators to help the underconnected.

Andrew Au, director of operations at Digital Charlotte, said digital inclusion should include adult education. Every library and public institution that offers internet services should have digital navigators available and onsite to guide individuals in their communities and offer continuing education resources to keep digital skills literacy up, he said.

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Broadband's Impact

Mentorship Instrumental To Women Involvement in Telecom Industry

Experts advise mentorship and encouragement to get more women in the industry.

Derek Shumway

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Photo of Mitsuko Herrera, center, via Montgomery County, Maryland

April 19, 2021 – A group of women were asked to rate gender equality in their workplace on a scale of 1-10. Their average score? About a four. The solution? More mentorship early in their lives.

The women, experts in network companies, spoke at the event, “Women in Broadband: Achieving zero barriers,” hosted by fiber network company Render Networks last Wednesday.

Kari Kump, director of network services at Mammoth Networks, said that in the broadband industry, she rates it a four, and in government jobs, a bit higher at five. Kump said she sees lots of women in marketing positions and non-technical managerial positions that “may oversee tech.” She said the worst gender equality in her view is at the construction site, where women “pay the bills” in the office rather than being out on site.

What’s causing gender inequality? The problem starts long before the job interview. Mitsuko Herrera, from planning and special projects for Montgomery County, said in her current work, only 2 out of 25 colleagues are women.

“The opportunity may be there, but we don’t see a lot of qualified women in the industry,” she said. Even before they reach college, women and girls need to have opportunities for engagement across various industries. Having mentors at an early age would greatly increase women participation and influence at work. In the workspace, praising women privately is just as important as praising them publicly, said Herrera. Women need to know they are supported at all times with all people.

Having better representation at the table is crucial because diverse perspectives affect industry and society for the better, said Laura Smith, vice president of people and culture at Biarri Networks. “The groups making decisions should reflect society,” she said.

And even if there is diversity, it’s not enough to have women at work for diversity’s sake—you also need to listen to that diversity and not ignore it.

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