WASHINGTON, June 19, 2013 – Under questioning from the Senate Commerce Committee during a confirmation hearing to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler said spectrum auctions need to be designed to provide incentives for broadcasters to sell, and carriers to bid, on prime wireless frequencies.
Upcoming spectrum auctions were one of the most frequently asked subjects on senators’ minds. Wheeler’s responses centered on the idea that while raising revenue was important, incentives for industry players are crucial.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked specifically about placing limits on spectrum aggregation by larger carriers. Wheeler did not voice support for such restrictions. He did say, however, that the FCC had a responsibility to protect competition, including smaller players.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also asked about minimizing federal use of spectrum. Wheeler affirmed his support of President Barack Obama’s recently-announced initiative designed to more efficiently use federal spectrum.
In his opening statement, Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, D-W.V., focused on the FirstNet public safety network and providing better broadband connections to schools through the eRate and ConnectED programs. He also emphasized the importance of the chairman as a protector of consumers.
“The FCC chairman must be more than the arbiter of industry interests,” Rockefeller said. “You must use the vast statutory authority to advocate for the public interest, the consumer, the parent, the student.”
Rockefeller said during the hearing that he believed Wheeler’s confirmation was a certainty.
In his own opening statement, Wheeler addressed many of Rockefeller’s concerning, particularly in terms of education.
“It doesn’t make sense that 80 percent of e-Rate schools report the available bandwidth is below their instructional needs,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler also acknowledged that the commission’s role is to promote competition, not dictate the market.
“Competitive markets produce better outcomes than regulated or uncompetitive markets,” he said.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., questioned Wheeler about his stance on how the FCC should approach merger reviews. Wheeler recommended a careful examination of the unique facts, laws and precedents in each situation.
“What a regulator must deal with are the realities of a specific case and the law and precedent that deals with merger review,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler also outlined his goals for broadband in America. His three-point plan includes extension of broadband access, expansion of technology that improves broadband speed and quality and exploitation of broadband’s benefits.
“Federal government should be efficiently using spectrum to the point where it uses the minimal amount of spectrum to do its job,” Wheeler said.
Although the exact timing for Wheeler’s confirmation has not yet been announced, Rockefeller stated that he believed that the confirmation was a certainty.
FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Shares Proposal to Promote Broadband Competition In Apartment Buildings
If adopted, the FCC’s regulations would increase broadband options for tenants.
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.
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.
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.”
Local Government Advisors Concerned by Delay in Sohn Confirmation Process
They also believe Alan Davidson will be viewed more favorably to head the NTIA.
WASHINGTON, December 14, 2021 – Local government advisors are concerned by delays in the confirmation process of Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the Federal Communications Commission, and what those delays will mean for broadband services in local communities.
At the moment, there are reportedly not enough votes from Democrats to confirm Sohn.
The panel of local advisors at a National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors on Monday said the FCC would likely remain split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans until at least February, when the panel says Sohn’s confirmation will probably pass the Senate.
Such a split would prevent the agency from making some major decisions that would ramp up programs to expand broadband access for Americans. For this reason, several civil society groups have asked the Senate for a swift confirmation process of Biden’s nominees.
The panel also said that Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Association, Alan Davidson, will likely be reported favorably out of committee.
Logistical problems for the Affordable Connectivity Program
Panelists also spent significant time discussing what current regulatory agency efforts mean for connectivity.
The panel critiqued the FCC’s transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit to the Affordable Connectivity Program provided for by the newly-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to continue providing students with internet access for e-learning. The program provides monthly subsidies for connectivity and devices for eligible students.
This transition is planned to take place with the start of the 2022 new year, and the agency is fielding comments on how to transition.
The panel stated that because this transition takes place during the school year, it has the potential to strand students without connectivity services. Panelists noted that they have been trying to communicate these concerns to the FCC.
The FCC recently eliminated an enrollment freeze in the EBB that was planned to take place during the transition to the ACP.
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