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Broadband Roundup: A Spectrum Efficiency Challenge, Comcast Comments, Verizon Vexes Industry

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WASHINGTON, October 7, 2014 – Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and wireless industry pioneer Marty Cooper took to the opinion page of the San Jose Mercury News to offer their thoughts on the future of wireless spectrum.

As they emphasized the importance and centrality of mobile devices and Internet access, the two highlighted the limited amount of spectrum for wireless broadband. The answer to this problem: a federal challenge to find ways to use the finite amount of spectrum 50 to 100 times more efficiently, which they dubbed “Race to the Top, Spectrum Edition.” The potential prize of this challenge: 10 Megahertz, suitable for mobile broadband.

The duo acknowledged the fact that the reward may seem small. However, if the minimum efficiency benchmark is reached, “10 megahertz of spectrum could do the work of 500 megahertz using today’s technology.” Furthermore, the winner could sell or lease the spectrum prize.

The FCC Commissioner and Cooper, regarded as the “father of the cellphone,” both see the challenge as a much-needed catalyst to further wireless innovation. “We could take what we learn from it to help develop new measures of spectrum efficiency…. Revolutionary opportunities lie ahead — if we find new ways to seize them.”

Comments for Comcast Merger Extended

The Federal Communications Commission has extended the comment period for the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger to allow opponents more time to respond, National Journal reported. The Commission approved Dish Network’s request to extend the deadline until Oct. 29 in light of Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s 850-page defense of their deal, which, as the FCC pointed out in its extension, was both late and “incomplete or…otherwise nonresponsive.”

The FCC has “paused” the 180-day timeline it set for itself to issue a decision on the merger. While Comcast had opposed the extension, its spokeswoman said that the extension is routine for major transactions like its prior Comcast-NBCUniversal deal, which was ultimately approved.

Fiber Providers Add Video as Cable Companies Nix TV

As more small cable companies move to offering internet-only access, Little Rock-based Windstream announced its move in the opposite direction: a fiber-carried TV option called Kinetic, for 50,000 homes in the Lincoln, Nebraska area starting in the first half of 2015.

Kinetic calls itself, “a total entertainment option that leverages the company’s existing 100 percent fiber-backed network to provide customers with a wide array of features that will enable the highest quality video entertainment,” speedmatters.org reported.

Windstream will offer Kinetic with its high-speed internet and phone service. Where the company cannot deploy this IP-TV product, it will partner with satellite providers for their triple-play offerings, CEO Jeff Gardner said at the Comptel PLUS Convention.

Broadband Industry Mutters Under Its Breath At Verizon

The government’s net neutrality rules were thrown out when Verizon Communications won its case against the Federal Communications Commission, and the broadband industry is not pleased, the National Journal reported.

Not only could the current outcome of the net neutrality debate lead to tighter regulation of wired broadband under Title II, but it could also lead to net neutrality rules being applied to wireless broadband, which was left largely untouched in the 2010 Open Internet Order. While Verizon’s broadband peers won’t publicly chastise the telecom giant, broadband-industry officials have spoke of the extensive frustration for Verizon’s strategic error. Some had urged Verizon to drop its lawsuit.  

“They were like a dog chasing a bus,” one broadband source said. “What are you going to do when you catch the bus?”

 

FCC

Proposed Rules to Improve National Alert System Unnecessary, Say Critics

Proposed rules to improve EAS security and operational readiness are unnecessary, say commenters.

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Photo of Federal Emergency Management Agency

WASHINGTON, January 18, 2023 – Participants to the national public warning system claim that the Federal Communications Commission’s October rulemaking to improve its security and operational readiness will unduly increase resource and monetary burdens on participants. 

The national warning system is composed of the Emergency Alert System, which transmits important emergency information to affected areas over television and radio, and the Wireless Emergency Alert System, which delivers that information to the public on their wireless devices. Participation in the system is voluntary for wireless providers, but radio and television broadcasters are required to deliver Presidential alerts via the EAS. 

In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC sought comment on ways to strengthen the operational readiness of the warning system by requiring EAS participants to report compromises of equipment and WEA participants to annually certify to having a cybersecurity risk management plan in place. It further asked that commercial mobile service providers “take steps to ensure that only valid alerts are displayed on consumer devices,” citing several instances where false alerts were given following a system hack. 

Measures are unnecessary 

Participants argued that such measures are unnecessary in reply comments to the Commission.  

The proposals in the Notice are “unnecessary and will not meaningfully enhance operational readiness or security of EAS,” stated the National Association of Broadcasters in its comments, claiming that the Notice “presents only scant evidence of EAS equipment failures and new security threats, and thus does not justify the myriad measures proposed.” 

Furthermore, NAB claimed, the notice fails to present a clear rationale for how the Commission’s heightened situational awareness would improve EAS readiness. 

ACA Connects, a trade association representing small and mid-sized telecom and TV operators, added that the Notice identifies only two EAS security breaches in the past ten years, which, as the company said, is “hardly an epidemic.” 

Participating mobile service providers have cyber risk management plans in place already, making any separate cyber certification requirement for WEA unnecessary and likely to cause fragmentation of service-specific plans, claimed wireless trade association, CTIA. 

Increased participant burden 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for national-level activation and tests of the systems, stated in its comments that it is concerned about the potential increased burden placed upon participants. 

EAS participants voluntarily and at no cost provide state and local alerts and mobile service providers voluntarily participate in WEA without compensation. FEMA argued that some stakeholders may “have difficulty justifying additional resources necessary to comply with increasing regulation.” 

The proposed reporting, certification, and cyber management obligations are far too complex for many EAS participants to implement, stated NAB, claiming that the Commission’s estimation of costs are “wildly unrealistic,” not considering additional hires such a plan would require. 

Mobile provider AT&T added that requirements for updating cybersecurity plans would divert valuable resources from the ongoing, broad cybersecurity efforts that participants engage in daily. The proposed authentication would inhibit the timely release of critical emergency alerts without completely eliminating false WEA messages, it continued.  

The Center for internet Security, however, supported the FCC’s proposed actions, claiming that it moves forward with “critically important” measures to protect the nation’s alert systems from cyber threats. 

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5G

CES 2023: Commissioner Starks Highlights Environmental Benefits of 5G Connectivity

Starks also said federal housing support should be linked to the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (left) and CTA’s J. David Grossman

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – Commissioner Geoffrey Starks of the Federal Communications Commission spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show Saturday, touting connectivity assistance for individuals who benefit from housing assistance as well as the potential environmental benefits of 5G.

The FCC-administered Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes monthly internet bills and one-time devices purchases for low-income Americans. Although many groups are eligible – e.g., Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollees – Starks said his attention is primarily on those who rely on housing support.

“If you are having trouble putting food on your table, you should not have to worry about connectivity as well,” Starks said. “If we are helping you to get housed, we should be able to connect that house,” he added.

Environmental benefits of 5G

In addition to economic benefits, 5G-enabled technologies will offer many environmental benefits, Starks argued. He said the FCC should consider how to “ensure folks do more while using less,” particularly in the spheres of spectral and energy efficiency.

“This is going to take a whole-of-nation (approach),” Starks said. “When you talk to your local folks – mayors – state and other federal partners, making sure that they know smart cities (and) smart grid technology…making sure that we’re all unified on thinking about this is exactly where we need to go to in order to drive down the carbon emissions.”

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FCC

FCC Commissioners Tout 5G, Spectrum and Permitting Reform

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks argued that expanding connectivity would enable sustainable, environmentally-friendly technologies.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2022 – High-level Federal Communications Commission officials addressed the 40th Annual Institute on Telecommunications Policy and Regulation on Thursday, touting 5G technologies, increased spectrum access, and permitting reform as the broadband industry braces for what promises to be an action-packed 2023.

In his keynote, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks argued that expanding connectivity would enable sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies such as 5G-enabled precision agriculture. During a subsequent panel, Joel Taubenblatt, acting chief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, predicted robust innovation in 5G-powered technology sectors including transportation, energy and finance.

Starks, Taubenblatt, and Commissioner Brendan Carr each voiced support for robust spectrum availability. Carr reiterated his outspoken opposition to popular social-media app TikTok, and earlier in the day, Commissioner Nathan Simington proposed raising cybersecurity requirements on wireless device manufactures.

The Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act allocated $65 billion to broadband, the largest single investment to date. Policymakers and industry leaders have voiced concern that regulatory mismanagement could blunt the funds’ impact. Testifying before a U.S. Senate subcommittee Tuesday, representatives from trade groups US Telecom and NCTA – The Internet & Television Association warned lawmakers against onerous regulation, especially opaque permitting processes on federal lands.

To ensure the efficient use of unprecedented broadband funding initiatives, federal and state authorities should streamline permitting processes, Carr said. The commissioner told Broadband Breakfast he supports expanding small cell infrastructure reforms, such as approval shot clocks and limitations on unreasonable fees, to the wireline sector.

Carr, in his featured remarks, said regulators should craft policy to avoid overbuilding and prioritize building to the least unserved communities. He once again advocated tech-neutral policies that allow fixed-wireless and satellite broadband to fairly compete with fiber.

Permitting and access barriers at multiple levels of government

Representatives from broadband industry groups detailed potential regulatory barriers to deployment in a webinar held Wednesday.

At the local level, providers must obtain access to utility poles, which can be owned by a range of entities including municipalities and utility companies. State broadband offices could likely coordinate with providers and regulators to ease this process, suggested Teresa Ferguson, senior director of broadband and infrastructure funding at the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative.

At the federal level, Congress has signaled interest in streamlining permitting processes, said Angela Simpson, general counsel and vice president of legal and regulatory affairs at the Competitive Carriers Association, noting the body introduced 28 reform bills this session. Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of senators wrote to the U.S. Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce, urging them to update federal permitting guidelines.

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