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Speakers at Minority Telecom Conference Call Broadband a 21st Century Civil Right

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WASHINGTON, July 30, 2014 – Speakers at a Minority Media Telecommunications Council conference here on Monday advocated for expanded minority-based involvement with and access to broadband capital.

“Broadband is the 21st Century’s civil right and our laws must reflect the digital shift,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C, at the MMTC’s twelfth annual telecom policy conference.

Nicol Turner-Lee, Vice President of MMTC, highlighted several issues, including: widening broadband service to minorities in poor and rural communities, expanding minority-based ownership of media and telecom businesses, and convincing the Federal Communications Commission to reform Designated Entity rules.

While the unprecedented “digital disruption and explosion” of media and telecom has born witness to “differentiation” in the industry, 36 million people are still offline, Turner-Lee said. Many of them are African Americans.

“We’re seeing increasing involvement by people of color…who are using technology to change their lives,” Turner-Lee said. “On the flipside, however, many of us might be ‘multi-deviced,’ but at the same time, people living in low-income, rural America are older, and are still striving to get online.”

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Fla., said that 36 million people offline is too many.  “I hear the story over again of the mother who takes her daughter of children to the McDonald’s because they don’t have access,” he said. “They have to grab the Wi-Fi and sit in a car just to do the homework. That’s disappointing and it’s frustrating.”

In the increasingly digital economy, a business in Baltimore doesn’t have to serve local markets. It can serve the entire global market, said Catherine Pugh, President-Elect of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. The social benefits of this are enormous, she said, and ought to be present in every community nationwide.

Access to capital isn’t just about internet diversions, but about essential broadband services, speakers said.

“It’s one to thing to play the game, but it’s another thing to build it and be in the game,” Turner-Lee said. “It’s about allowing the internet to be a game-changer for our community when it comes to economic stability, telehealth and telemedicine, educational opportunities.”

Butterfield added the lack of sufficient diversity within telecom companies is “absolutely deplorable.” Only 100 out of the Fortune 500 companies have more than one African American, he said. Two percent of telecom leaders are African American or Latino, Turner Lee said.

The speakers heavily criticized partisanship on the FCC’s Designated-Entity rules, which over the past twenty years have aimed to promote minority-owned wireless spectrum. An MMTC white paper from earlier this year stated the program has been “largely ineffective.”

“Over the course of fifty-six wireless auctions during the past 20 years, the majority of DEs that currently hold wireless licenses are incumbent rural telephone companies, very few DEs are new entrants, and even fewer DEs are MBEs (minority-owned business entity). Without a change in policy and current rules and regulations, the outlook for expanded minority participation remains dismal,” the paper read.

Pugh referred to the DE program as minorities’ “last hope to own wireless spectrum.” She said politicians should stop deprecating the program.

“The designated entity program was created as a vehicle to foster competition and innovation particularly among new entrants in smaller incumbents,” said Butterfield.  “Small businesses are the heart of participation in the economy and  they represent the communities in which they serve and can drive economic development and foster more economic certainty.”

Pugh encouraged the FCC and MMTC allies to push for reform of DE laws to be more inclusive. Both she and Butterfield also threw in their support for using Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as the proper means to allow for enabling net neutrality and keeping an open internet.

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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