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FCC Chairman Announces Howard Symons as New General Counsel

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WASHINGTON, July 19, 2016 – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today announced the departure of Jon Sallet as the FCC General Counsel and his intention to appoint Howard Symons as the next General Counsel.  Mr. Sallet will become the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Litigation in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. 

“Jon Sallet has been an incredible contributor to the activities of the Commission over the last two and a half years,” said Chairman Wheeler.  “He has been a great counselor to me and the Commission.  As General Counsel, Jon worked closely with our colleagues at the Department of Justice; it should be no surprise that the Antitrust Division would seek to have Jon join their team. To the Antitrust Division, we say, ‘Good move!’ To our friend Jon Sallet we say, ‘Godspeed.’”

In his new position as FCC General Counsel, Mr. Symons will lead the office that serves as the principal legal advisory office to the Commission as a whole.  Attorneys in the office represent the Commission in litigation, recommend decisions in adjudicatory matters, assist the Commission in its decision-making capacity and perform a variety of legal functions regarding internal and other administrative matters. 

“Howard Symons has distinguished himself as a sage practitioner of communications law for decades,” said the Chairman.  “I have had the opportunity of working with Howard many times on complicated and important communications issues and know from firsthand experience his significant abilities. Now that the Incentive Auction rules are in place and the auction is underway, we have the flexibility to ask Howard to transfer his considerable talents to become General Counsel.”

Prior to joining the Commission, Mr. Sallet was been a partner in three law firms, served as chief policy counsel for MCI Telecommunications (later MCI WorldCom), and served as Director of the Office of Policy & Strategic Planning for the Department of Commerce.  He was a law clerk to the Honorable Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and the Honorable Edward A. Tamm of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Mr. Symons has been working in telecommunications in both the public and private sectors for more than 30 years. Before his appointment to the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force in January 2014, he was the chair of the communications practice at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. and served as senior counsel to the Subcommittee on Telecommunications in the U.S. House of Representatives.    He graduated from Yale University and earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

FCC

FCC Delays Auction of Citizens Broadband Radio Service Frequences in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic from Coronavirus

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Seal of the Federal Communications Commission

Agency Changes Upcoming Auction 105 Schedule, Postpones Auction 106

Adjustments Made in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2020—The Federal Communications Commission today announced schedule changes for Auction 105 as well as the postponement of Auction 106.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, these changes were deemed necessary in order to protect the health and safety of Commission staff and to allow parties additional time to prepare to
participate in Auctions 105 and 106.

“Many Americans have had to make tough decisions on how they do business in this rapidly changing environment, and the FCC is no different,” said agency Chairman Ajit Pai. “After consulting agency staff within the relevant Bureaus and Offices, we determined that it was in everyone’s best interest to make these changes. But we remain committed to holding the 3.5 GHz auction this summer and look forward to beginning this important mid-band auction in July.”

For Auction 105, involving the auction of Priority Access Licenses for the 3550-3650 MHz band, the short-form application (FCC Form 175) filing window will now open on April 23,
2020 at 12 p.m. EDT and will close on May 7 at 6 p.m. EDT. Upfront payments will be due June 19.

Bidding will begin on July 23. Interested parties should continue to monitor the Auction 105 website at www.fcc.gov/auction/105 for any future announcements regarding the auction schedule and other important auction information. To read the Auction 105 Public Notice, visit https://go.usa.gov/xdhf4.

The FCC is postponing indefinitely Auction 106, an auction of construction permits in the FM broadcast service that was scheduled to begin on April 28. Auction 106 applicants that
submitted upfront payments may obtain a refund of those deposits after submitting a written request. Additional processes are outlined in today’s Public Notice. A revised schedule will
be announced in a future public notice. To read the Auction 106 Public Notice, visit https://go.usa.gov/xdhfZ.

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Press Releases

Tech Freedom and Other Advocacy Groups Push Back Against Growing Pressure to Modify Section 230

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WASHINGTON, July 11, 2019 – Pushing back against a growing group of critics on the right and the left, the pro-free-market pro-free-speech group Tech Freedom on Thursday released a set of seven principles and online resources designed to “guide conversation about amending Section 230.”

As the principles statement declares: “we value the balance between freely exchanging ideas, fostering innovation, and limiting harmful speech. Because this is an exceptionally delicate balance, Section 230 reform poses a substantial risk of failing to address policymakers’ concerns and harming the Internet overall.”

In its current form, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (and part of the 1996 Telecom Act) holds online content creators responsible for what they publish, while protecting third parties that generate this content from liability.

“Section 230 is the law that made today’s Internet possible. Without it, hosting user-generated content would be impossible. Today’s most popular social websites would never have taken off and the Internet would look basically like cable,” said Tech Freedom President Berin Szóka.

“Making Section 230 protections contingent upon approval of government bureaucrats would be a grave mistake. Regulation must evolve as the Internet evolves, but creating new government powers that would be subject to the whims of whichever party occupied the White House would be bad for all Americans,” said Kevin Glass, vice president of communications at National Taxpayers Union.

The statement also included expressions of support from Prof. Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law, Sharon Bradford Franklin, director of Surveillance & Cybersecurity Policy, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Emma Llanso, director of the Free Expression Project, Center for Democracy & Technology, Bartlett Cleland, president of the Innovation Economy Alliance, and others.

Some of Tech Freedom’s resources on free speech and Section 230 on its website, including:

  • An op-ed “Some conservatives need a First Amendment refresher”
  • A letter to AG Session “DOJ Inquiry re Tech Companies Bias is Misguided”
  • A blogpost “Reality Check for Trump and Republicans Crying ‘Bias’”!
  • Tech Freedom President Berin Szóka’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on the filtering practices of social media platforms
  • A statement on the passage of SESTA
  • A statement on the takedown of Backpage and its implications for Section 230 and recent sex trafficking legislation
  • Tech Policy Podcast #226: The Fairness Doctrine: Next Generation
  • Tech Policy Podcast #214: Information Intermediaries in a Nutshell

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FCC

Federal Communications Commission Announces $169 Million in Rural Broadband Funding

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WASHINGTON, June 10, 2019 – The Federal Communications Commission on Monday authorized $166.8 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 60,850 unserved rural homes and businesses in 22 states. Providers will begin receiving funding this month. A map of the winning bids is available here.

This funding represents the second wave of support from last year’s successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction. The FCC authorized the first wave of funding in May, providing $111.6 million in funding over the next decade to expand service to 37,148 unserved homes and businesses in 12 states.

To date, the first two rounds of authorizations are providing $278.4 million over the next decade to expand service to 97,998 new locations.  Over the coming months, the FCC will be authorizing additional funding as it approves the final applications of the winning bidders from the auction.

“I’m pleased to announce that the second round of funding starts now for buildout of high-speed Internet service to 60,850 rural homes and businesses, which will bring them to the right side of the digital divide and give them access to the 21st-century opportunities that broadband offers,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“Providers will be deploying gigabit-speed connections to the majority of locations for which funding is being authorized today, while nearly 8,000 homes and small businesses on Tribal lands will be getting fixed broadband service for the first time,” he said.

Providers must build out to 40 percent of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas won in a state within three years.  Buildout must increase by 20 percent in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year.

The Connect America Fund Phase II auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in rural America.

In addition to the funding that will be made available through this auction, the Commission recently provided 186 companies in 43 states $65.7 million in additional annual funding to upgrade broadband speeds in rural communities, and offered incentives for over 500 rural carriers to provide faster broadband to over 1 million rural homes and businesses.

Pai also announced his intention to create the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which will provide $20.4 billion over the next decade to connect approximately four million rural homes and businesses to high-speed broadband, representing the FCC’s single biggest step yet to close the digital divide.

(Photo by Jim Bradley used with permission.)

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