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Broadband Roundup: Incumbents Defend Data Caps, Comcast Cites Competition for Merger, and Wheeler Seeks Diversity of Media Ownership

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WASHINGTON, September 24, 2014 –Verizon Communications and AT&T are urging the Federal Communications Commission to include the use of data caps in the agency’s definition of broadband. Including usage-based pricing in its definition is important because companies that use universal service funds to build networks in rural areas must accept the standards laid out in the FCC’s broadband definition of broadband, Ars Technica reported.  

Although Verizon doesn’t actually impose data caps on its landline network, it may do so in the future, maintaining in its filing that usage caps “encourage all users to make efficient use of finite network resources.” AT&T made similar claims in its filing. A survey conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that wireline internet does not suffer the same congestion problems as wireless internet and that data caps “can generate more revenues for ISPs to help fund network capacity upgrades.”

Consumers generally accepted data caps for wireless internet, but rely on unlimited in-home Wi-Fi to compensate for more limited wireless plans. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association also urged the Commission to continue to define broadband as a minimum of 4 Megabits per second (Mbps), a position that Wheeler has stated “isn’t exactly what’s necessary in the 21st century.”  

Comcast Sites Stiff Competition as Reason for Acqusition

Although FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler repeated multiple times that America lacks true broadband competition in many areas of the country, Comcast argued in a filing defending its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable that the cable and broadband giant does faces substantial competition. Citing municipal broadband networks, telephone companies, satellite broadband providers and fixed wireless providers, as well as newcomers like Google Fiber, as competitive threats, to which the company claims disgruntled customers can switch. (Ryan Block, other Comcast customers and even Comcast’s own customer service representatives and retention specialists, however, would beg to differ.)

In a speech on September 4, Wheeler said most Americans have at most two choices for internet speeds between 4 Mbps and 10 Mbps, and only one choice for speeds of 25 Mbps or faster, Ars Technica reported.

Cox & CenturyLink Push Gigabit Service In Phoenix

Cox Communications and CenturyLink both plan on providing Gigabit Networks in Phoenix , Fierce Telecom reported.

Cox announced that Las Vegas and Omaha are the next two markets to receive 1Gbps service as part of its plan to cover the entirety of its markets by 2016. CenturyLink is also planning to expand their fiber-to-the-premises services to Las Vegas and Omaha, as well as 13 more cities.

FCC Wheeler Seeks Diversity of Media Ownership

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler urged for more diversity in media ownership in a blog post about the E-Rate program and traditional media facilities following his recent trip to Philadelphia. Wheeler said that the newly revamped E-Rate program has been helping ensure internet access in libraries and schools. Meeting the information needs of communities nationwide means more than just providing universal internet access. Wheeler noted the need for “a diverse array of voices on all media platforms,” since “one way to ensure diversity of content is to encourage diversity of media ownership.”

Wi-Fi May Become Cash Cow for ISPs

Broadband providers may soon look to Wi-Fi as potential profit centers, Multichannel News reported. Currently, most cable operators offer free access to Wi-Fi hotspots to their wired broadband customers as a retention tool. As these companies continue to expand their Wi-Fi coverage, two top executives had said that monetizing these systems will be focal point over the next three to five years.  

 

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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