Editor’s Note: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is attempting to craft legally unassailable rules promoting net neutrality. But he’s run into trouble from all sides. Communications providers aren’t happy. His fellow commissioners aren’t happy. And the “netroots” activists aren’t happy, either.
BroadbandBreakfast.com posts three articles on Thursday’s action at the FCC. First, the scene at 12th Street SW. Second, the reaction from interested parties. Third, what the details of the agency’s order says.
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2014 – In a Federal Commissions Commission meeting tinged with protest, the agency voted Thursday to begin a process to re-established certain network neutrality rules after they had been struck down by a federal appeals court in January.
On a 3-2 vote, the agency’s three Democrats kicked off a proceeding seeking public input on how to find a solution protecting and promote the open flow of information on the internet that will pass legal scrutiny.
Chairman Tom Wheeler retained the support of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn – even though Rosenworcel said she only “concurred” with the proposal.
At the heart of the debate is whether internet service providers should be permitted to discriminate against internet content providers in the speeds whereby consumers may access data. The agency’s proposed rule would re-enshrine a “no blocking” order, and institute a “commercially reasonable” test to evaluate actions by broadband providers.
The agency also re-iterated and enhanced its existing broadband transparency rules, and proposed to implement a range of new dispute resolution procedures. In a last-minute effort to bolster support among net neutrality advocates who felt his proposals too week, Wheeler added language into the text of the proposed order considering whether broadband providers might be regulated as common carriers under the co-called “Title II” of federal communications law.
Before the meeting even began, protesters camped outside the FCC building to express their support for net neutrality.
Audience members erupted in anger during the meeting itself, disrupting the speeches of the Commissioners.
“This is a moment of crisis in our democracy!” exclaimed a representative of a group called Popular Resistance. “The internet is a common carrier…. We don’t want to see the FCC Commission regulate the internet for the people. We want to regulate it for the corporations!” He was escorted out of the room by guards, but not before a wave of applause.
A woman in the audience immediately followed suit.
“Protect the internet! The internet is our free speech, but in this country, our voice is being taken away!”
Wheeler attempted to quell the disquiet. In his remarks, he pledged to support a robust conception of network neutrality.
“If someone acts to divide internet between ‘have and have-nots,’ we will use every power to stop it.” Wheeler said. “I will take no back seat to anyone that privileges some network users…there is one internet. Not a fast internet, not a slow internet. One internet. It must be fast, robust and open.”
The other commissioners agreed the internet had made America the epicenter of innovation and civic engagement, but expressed varying degrees of support for Wheeler’s approach to net neutrality. Rosenworcel lamented Wheeler’s decision to rush headstrong into an issue that she said the agency didn’t firmly grasp.
Commissioner Ajit Pai argued that the FCC had no business interfering with the relationship between ISPs and their customers.
“[This] should be resolved by people’s elected representatives – those who choose the direction of government, and those who the American people can hold directly accountable,” Pai said. “Rather than turning to Congress, we’ve taken matters into our own hands. We’ve been down this road before. Our two prior attempts to go in alone ended in court defeats.”
Pai called for the FCC to solicit a wide range of perspectives from economists and computer scientists, and to put them up for a discussion at a series of hearings.
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly blasted net neutrality regulations as a slippery slope. He described network prioritization as a vital practice.
“Voice must be prioritized over emails, video over data. Prioritization is not a bad word. It’s a necessary component of reasonable network management,” he said. “There are companies that do business over the internet, including some of the strongest supporters of net neutrality, who routinely pay for a variety of services to ensure the best possible experience for consumers. They’ve been doing it for years.”
Wheeler retorted that as a former entrepreneur, he understood the need for openness better than anyone.
“I have had products and services shut out of closed cable networks,” Wheeler said. “As a [venture capitalist], I invested in companies that wouldn’t have been able to innovate if the network weren’t open. I understand this issue in my bones. I’ve got scars from when my companies were denied access in the pre-internet days.”
Nothing in his proposal would allow for paid prioritization, Wheeler insisted.
Before taking the vote, Wheeler closed his remarks with an expression of gratitude to the American people for their passionate involvement in the important issue.
“The founding fathers must be looking down and smiling at how the republic they created, carried out the ideals they established,” he said. “We look forward to further input… in what has been a decade long effort to preserve the open internet.”
Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas
The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.
WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.
The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.
The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.
The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.
Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.
“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.
“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.
“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”
New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues
A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.
WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.
According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”
Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.
“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”
According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.
“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.
John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”
Mattey report uniform with current recommendations
Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.
The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.
These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.
Outreach ‘Most Valuable Thing’ for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: Rosenworcel
FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said EBB will benefit tremendously from local outreach efforts.
WASHINGTON, September 13, 2021 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that a drawback of the legislation that ushered in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program is that it did not include specific funding for outreach.
“There was no funding to help a lot of these non-profit and local organizations around the country get the word out [about the program],” Jessica Rosenworcel said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance about the broadband affordability divide. “And I know that it would get the word out faster if we had that opportunity.”
The program, which launched in May and provides broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, has so-far seen an uptake of roughly 5.5 million households. The program was a product of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
“We gotta get those trusted local actors speaking about it because me preaching has its limitations and reaching out to people who are trusted in their communities to get the word out – that is the single most valuable thing we can do,” Rosenworcel said.
She said the FCC has 32,000 partners and has held more than 300 events with members of Congress, tribal leaders, national and local organizations, and educational institutions to that end.
“Anyone who’s interested, we’ll work with you,” she said.
EBB successes found in its mobile friendliness, language inclusion
Rosenworcel also preached the benefits of a mobile application-first approach with the program’s application that is making it accessible to large swaths of the population. “I think, frankly, every application for every program with the government should be mobile-first because we have populations, like the LatinX population, that over index on smartphone use for internet access.
“We gotta make is as easy as possible for people to do this,” she said.
She also noted that the program is has been translated into 13 languages, furthering its accessibility.
“We have work to do,” Rosenworcel added. “We’re not at 100 percent for anyone, and I don’t think we can stop until we get there.”
- TPRC Conference to Discuss Definition of Section 230, Broadband, Spectrum and China
- Repealing Section 230 Would be Harmful to the Internet As We Know It, Experts Agree
- Amy Klobuchar Reiterates Need for Funding Agencies to Handle Big Tech
- Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas
- AT&T’s Opens Learning Center in Dallas, Parallel Wireless Expands, AT&T 5G Experiment for National Defense
- Topic 2 at Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021: Last Mile Digital Infrastructure
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