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Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai, in Statement, Confirms Appointment as Agency Chairman

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WASHINGTON, January 23, 2017 — In a statement released on the web site of the Federal Communications Communications, and emailed to reporters at 4:48 p.m. ET, Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican announced his selection as Chairman of the agency, a nominally independent agency whose chairman is designated by President Donald Trump.

Pai said: “I am deeply grateful to the President of the United States for designating me the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. I look forward to working with the new Administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”

Pai is one of two Republicans and one Democrat currently on the commission, with fellow Republican Mike O’Rielly, and Democrat Mignon Clyburn. The agency is authorized to be composed of five commissioners, and is generally split between three members of the president’s party and two members of an opposing party.

Among the commissioner, industry non-profit reactions after the official announcement:

Mignon Clyburn:

“I congratulate Commissioner Ajit Pai on being named Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Ajit is bright, driven and committed to bringing connectivity to all Americans. I am hopeful that we can come together to serve the public interest by supporting competition, public safety, and consumer protection.”

NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association: 

“On behalf of the more than 800 community-based telecommunications providers in the membership of NTCA, I congratulate Commissioner Pai on his designation as FCC chairman,” said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield.

“Since joining the commission in 2012, Commissioner Pai has shown a commitment to solving rural broadband challenges and to thinking creatively about ways our country can more effectively deploy and sustain advanced communications in rural America. In an address to the NTCA membership in early 2013, Commissioner Pai was the first of his colleagues to call for universal service to enable broadband services in areas served by our members, and Commissioner Pai has consistently placed a spotlight on the kinds of resources and resourcefulness needed to connect America. Having grown up in a small town in Kansas and noting in his address to NTCA members that ‘rural America is different,’ he has a deep and genuine understanding of how the services that NTCA members deliver improve the quality of life and promote economic development in our rural communities.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Pai, and with his colleagues Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly, on advancing our nation’s broadband goals.”

Public Knowledge:

“Commissioner Pai has a history of attacking consumer protections, from the Open Internet order to our right to privacy online,” said Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman. “Even so, every Commissioner who has been elevated to Chairman discovers the job is very different from what he or she thought it would be. Most quickly discover that getting things done while running an agency sometimes requires a different set of skills as well as a willingness to compromise.

“With this in mind, we urge Chairman Pai to preserve consumer protections and to focus on driving down prices and expanding choices for all essential communications services while preserving the Commission’s recent pro-competitive and consumer protection rules and actions.”

US Telecom:

“Ajit Pai is an exceptional choice to head the Federal Communications Commission,” said CEO Jonathan Spalter. He’s a thoughtful, forward-looking and energetic leader who has never forgotten his roots in rural Kansas, and the need to deliver high-speed broadband access to all parts of our country.

“We share Commissioner Pai’s vision for a ‘Broadband First’ future based on a bold but pragmatic strategy to erase the many regulatory barriers impeding the expansion of our nation’s communications infrastructure, and the jobs and economic opportunity that depend on it. I am excited to work with the new chairman — as well as with the new Administration and Congress —  to advance policies, partnerships, and programs that will bring broadband’s benefits to all our families, communities, and businesses, and ensure our nation’s telecommunications innovators can invest and compete on a level regulatory playing field.”

Consumer Technology Association:

“Commissioner Pai is a champion for innovation, leading the way on key issues that impact the growth of our modern communications networks, ensuring consumers’ access to those networks in underserved areas and cautioning against unnecessary, growth-chilling regulation,” said CEO and President Gary Shapiro. “CTA looks forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Pai to tackle challenging issues, including the allocation of additional spectrum licensed and unlicensed bands to power consumers’ growing demand for anytime/anywhere connectivity and expanding broadband access and digital opportunity to all Americans.”

NCTA – The Internet and Television Association:

“We congratulate Ajit Pai on his well-deserved appointment to be Chairman of the FCC,” said NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell, the former Chairman of the FCC during the first administration of George W. Bush. “During his tenure on the Commission, Chairman Pai has consistently demonstrated a common-sense philosophy that consumers are best served by a robust marketplace that encourages investment, innovation and competition.  We stand ready to assist Chairman Pai and his colleagues in their effort to promote policies which ensure that America remains a global internet, communications and entertainment leader.”

Free Press:

“Ajit Pai has been on the wrong side of just about every major issue that has come before the FCC during his tenure,” said President and CEO Craig Aaron. He’s never met a mega-merger he didn’t like or a public safeguard he didn’t try to undermine. He’s been an inveterate opponent of Net Neutrality, expanded broadband access for low-income families, broadband privacy, prison-phone justice, media diversity and more.

“Pai has been an effective obstructionist who has always been eager to push out what the new presidential administration might call alternative facts in defense of the corporate interests he used to represent in the private sector. If Trump really wanted an FCC chairman who’d stand up against the runaway media consolidation that he himself decried in the AT&T/Time Warner deal, Pai would have been his last choice — though corporate lobbyists across the capital are probably thrilled.

“Millions of Americans from across the political spectrum have looked to the FCC to protect their rights to connect and communicate and cheered decisions like the historic Net Neutrality ruling, and Pai threatens to undo all of that important work. Those millions will rise up again to oppose his reactionary agenda.”

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.

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FCC

FCC Institutes ACP Transparency Data Collection

The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels.

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Photo of people working on computers, cropped, in 2011 by Victor Grigas

WASHINGTON, November 23, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission last week adopted an order that mandated annual reporting from all providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal initiative that subsidizes the internet-service and device costs of low-income Americans.

The FCC order establishing the ACP Transparency Data Collection, not released until Wednesday, requires ACP-affiliated providers to disclose prices, subscription rates, and other plan characteristics on yearly basis. The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels, which, it says, will ease regulatory burdens for providers.

The FCC created the Transparency Data Collection pursuant to the statutory requirements of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking in June.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile endorsed the nutrition-label method of collection. Industry associations including IMCOMPAS and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Associations warned the FCC against instituting excessive reporting burdens.

“To find out whether this program is working as Congress intended, we need to know who is participating, and how they are using the benefit,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “So we’re doing just that.  The data we collect will help us know where we are, and where we need to go. We’re also standardizing the way we collect data, and looking for other ways to paint a fuller picture of how many eligible households are participating in the ACP.  We want all eligible households to know about this important benefit for affordable internet service.”

Although the ACP is highly touted by the FCC, the White House, and industry experts, there is evidence the fund has been exploited by fraudsters, according to a watchdog. In September, the FCC Office of Inspector General issued a report that found the ACP handed out more than $1 million in improper benefits. In multiple instances, according to the OIG, the information of a qualifying individual was improperly used for hundreds of applications, achieving payouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last month, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., contacted 13 leading internet service providers, requesting details on alleged fishy business practices connected to the ACP and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

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Broadband's Impact

Federal Communications Commission Mandates Broadband ‘Nutrition’ Labels

The FCC also mandated that internet service provider labels be machine-readable.

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Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday afternoon ordered internet providers to display broadband “nutrition” labels at points of sale that include internet plans’ performance metrics, monthly rates, and other information that may inform consumers’ purchasing decisions.

The agency released the requirement less than 24 hours before it released the first draft of its updated broadband map.

The FCC mandated that labels be machine-readable, which is designed to facilitate third-party data-gathering and analysis. The commission also requires that the labels to be made available in customers’ online portals with the provide the and “accessible” to non-English speakers.

In addition to the broadband speeds promised by the providers, the new labels must also display typical latency, time-of-purchase fees, discount information, data limits, and provider-contact information.

“Broadband is an essential service, for everyone, everywhere. Because of this, consumers need to know what they are paying for, and how it compares with other service offerings,”  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. 

“For over 25 years, consumers have enjoyed the convenience of nutrition labels on food products.  We’re now requiring internet service providers to display broadband labels for both wireless and wired services.  Consumers deserve to get accurate information about price, speed, data allowances, and other terms of service up front.”

Industry players robustly debated the proper parameters for broadband labels in a flurry of filings with the FCC. Free Press, an advocacy group, argued for machine-readable labels and accommodations for non-English speakers, measures which were largely opposed by trade groups. Free Press also advocated a requirement that labels to be included on monthly internet bills, without which the FCC “risks merely replicating the status quo wherein consumers must navigate fine print, poorly designed websites, and byzantine hyperlinks,” group wrote.

“The failure to require the label’s display on a customer’s monthly bill is a disappointing concession to monopolist ISPs like AT&T and Comcast and a big loss for consumers,” Joshua Stager, policy director of Free Press, said Friday.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association clashed with Free Press in its FCC filing and supported the point-of-sale requirement.

“WISPA welcomes today’s release of the FCC’s new broadband label,” said Vice President of Policy Louis Peraertz. “It will help consumers better understand their internet access purchases, enabling them to quickly see ‘under the hood,’ and allow for an effective apples-to-apples comparison tool when shopping for services in the marketplace.”

Image of the FCC’s sample broadband nutrition label

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FCC

FCC to Establish New Space Bureau, Chairwoman Says

‘The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head.’

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, via fcc.gov

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission will add a new space bureau that will modernize regulations and facilitate innovation, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday.

The new bureau is intended to facilitate American leadership in the space economy, boost the Commission’s technical capacity, and foster interagency cooperation, Rosenworcel said, speaking at the National Press Club.

“The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head,” Rosenworcel said. “But the organizational structures of the [FCC] have not kept pace,” she added.

The space economy is “on a monumental run” of growth and innovation, the chairwoman argued, and the FCC must remodel itself to facilitate continued growth. Rosenworcel said the commission is currently reviewing 64,000 new satellite applications, and she further noted that 98 percent of all satellites launched in 2021 provided internet connectivity. By the end off 2022, operators will set a new record for satellites launched into orbit, she said.

The FCC will not take on new responsibilities, Rosenworcel said, but the announced restructuring will help the agency “perform[] existing statutory responsibilities better.” In September, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R–Wash., warned the FCC against overreaching its statutory mandate and voiced support for robust congressional oversight – a position reiterated by House staffers Wednesday.

“The formation of a dedicated space bureau within the FCC is a positive step for satellite operators and customers across the United States,” said Julie Zoller, head of global regulatory affairs at Amazon’s satellite broadband Project Kuiper, on a panel following Rosenworcel’s announcement.

“An important part of [Rosenworcel’s] space agenda is ensuring that there is a competitive environment in all aspects of that space,” said Umair Javed, the chairwoman’s chief counsel, during the panel. “So we’ve taken action to update our rules on spectrum sharing to make sure that there are opportunities for multiple systems to be successful in low Earth orbit.

“We’ve granted a number of experimental authorizations to companies that are doing really new…things,” Umair continued.

The FCC in September required that low–Earth orbit satellite debris be removed within five years of mission completion, a move Rosenworcel said would clear the way for new innovation.

In August, the FCC revoked an $885 million grant to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-broadband service. FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington criticized the reversal, and Starlink has since appealed it.

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