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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

FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Shares Proposal to Promote Broadband Competition In Apartment Buildings

If adopted, the FCC’s regulations would increase broadband options for tenants.

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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

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.

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FCC

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.

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Photo illustration from the Pelican Institute

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.”

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FCC

Local Government Advisors Concerned by Delay in Sohn Confirmation Process

They also believe Alan Davidson will be viewed more favorably to head the NTIA.

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Nominee for FCC Commissioner Gigi Sohn

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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