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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Questioned on Net Neutrality, Rural Broadband, During Re-Confirmation Hearing



WASHINGTON, July 20, 2017 – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai came to his re-confirmation hearing Wednesday with a message that network neutrality regulations were hurting infrastructure investments.

The hearing joined Pai, current FCC chairman, with Jessica Rosenworcel, who had been an FCC commissioner until her term lapsed at the end of last year, and Brendan Carr, a Pai ally at the FCC who has now been appointed to take the seat previously held by Obama’s FCC chair.

During the hearing Senate Commerce Committee, Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, introduced Pai and called him a friend and person of integrity. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, introduced Rosenworcel. Blumenthal said she has served well and that she has been a champion of issues on a bipartisan basis.

Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, introduced Carr and said that Carr has spent his life in telecommunications and would make a great commissioner.

Pai thanked President Donald Trump for his re-nomination. FCC commissioners serve for staggered five-year terms, but the president appoints the chairman. In the case of recent Republican presidents, the president has named a sitting commissioner to be chairman, as was the case with Pai, and with former Chairmen Kevin Martin and Michael Powell under President George W. Bush.

Pai also highlighted stories about broadband availability from around the country. He also praised his coworkers at the FCC.

“The choices we make today about communications technology, infrastructure and access are an inheritance for the next generation,” Rosenworcel said. “How we grapple now with the disrupting and democratizing effects of digitization will play no small role with determining America’s success in the future.”

She said the FCC’s values must be guided by four principles: public safety, universal access, competition and consumer protection..

Carr, who currently works at the FCC as the general counsel, touted bipartisanship, public safety, how broadband can harness the talents of every American.

Chairman John Thune, R-South Dakota, said the FCC has failed to get broadband to rural areas in a timely manner. When he asked the three nominees if they would work on this problem, all three said yes.

When Thune asked what could be done to speed up broadband deployment, Rosenworcel said all federal actors should use the same contracts to facilitate deployment on federal property.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, asked Carr if he would think independently from Pai when making decisions, and Carr said he has disagreed with Pai before. Nelson repeatedly asked Carr to give an example, but Carr refused to give one.

Nelson asked Carr if he would wait before making changes to the E-Rate program, a school and library program in the Universal Service Fund. Carr said he would approach the topic with an open mind.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, probed the impact of the FCC 2015 net neutrality order, and asked whether it had discouraged companies from investing in broadband in rural areas. Pai agreed that it was a concern.

But Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, countered that the net neutrality rules didn’t impose burdens on companies. He asked Pai what he is trying to fix. Paid replied that the regulations had dampening infrastructure investment.

Markey kept asking Pai if he would commit to not reducing the E-Rate funding, and while Pai said E-Rate is worth fighting for, he would not commit. Rosenworcel said she wouldn’t reduce the E-Rate funding.

Pai also said the deployment of 5G is important, but did not provide a timeframe for deployment or for FCC action.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, asked Carr what weight millions of comments on net neutrality had on him. Carr said the comments show how passionate people are on the issue.

Blumenthal asked the nominees if the price of broadband was going up across the country, and Rosenworcel replied that her own broadband cost was going up.

Pai also said the FCC is taking steps to make sure that broadband mapping is accurate in the future.

(Photo of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at the time of their first confirmation hearing in 2012, by the FCC.)

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FCC Proposed Rules Will Harm Legitimate Text Messages, Say Commenters

The rules would ban the practice of marketers purporting to have written consent for numerous parties to contact a consumer.



Photo from robotext lawsuit

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2023 – Commenters claim that the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rules that would require mobile wireless providers to ban marketers from contacting a consumer multiple times based on one consent will harm legitimate communications. 

The new rules will set additional protections that would require the terminating provider to block texts after notification from the FCC that the text is illegal, to extend the National Do-Not-Call Registry’s protections to text messages, and to ban the practice of marketers purporting to have written consent for numerous parties to contact a consumer based on one consent. Comments on the proposal were due in May and reply comments on June 6.

“Robocall campaigns often rely on flimsy claims of consent where a consumer interested in job listings, a potential reward, or a mortgage quote, unknowingly and unwillingly ‘consents’ to telemarketing calls from dozens – or hundreds or thousands – of unaffiliated entities about anything and everything,” read the comments from USTelecom trade association.  

Wireless trade association CTIA cited that Medicaid text messages that alert customers to critical health updates may be blocked by the ruling despite the FCC’s acknowledgement that these texts are critical. Many providers are unbending in enforcing robotext policies that mandate agencies must “satisfactorily demonstrate they receive prior express consent from enrollees to contact them.” 

CTIA’s comments claimed that the proposed rules would “do little to enhance existing industry efforts to reduce text spam or protect consumers.” 

Competitive networks trade association INCOMPAS claimed that the current framework is not well suited to allow the industry to universally resolve text messaging issues. “In the absence of standardized, competitively neutral rules, the current dynamics create perverse incentives that allow gamesmanship and arbitrage schemes as well as fraudulent behaviors to thrive.” 

USTelecom commended the FCC for taking these steps and suggested that it expressly ban the practice of obtaining single consumer consent as grounds for delivering calls to multiple receivers by issuing a decisive declaration rather than a rule change. Providing clear guidance will deprive aggressive telemarketers of the plausible deniability they rely on to put calls through, it said. 

The new language proposed in the notice is unnecessary and runs the risk of introducing new ambiguity by not eliminating perceived loopholes through a decisive declaration, read its comments. 

The Retail Industry Leaders Association claimed that the notice would “primarily and negatively impact those who send legitimate text message solicitations, not scam senders and bad actors.” The well-intentioned measures will sweep in legitimate text communications, it claimed, by reducing consumer control and making assumptions on their behalf. 

“Consumers use the DNC list to prevent unwanted telephone call solicitations. They do not expect that the DNC List will prevent normal and desired communications from legitimate businesses like RILA members,” it wrote.

In the event the FCC moves forward with the proposed rules, the RILA urged that the rules include “clear carve-outs or safe harbors” for legitimate solicitations. 

This comes as the FCC considers additional proposed rules that will strengthen consumer consent for robocalls and robotexts by allowing consumers to decide which robocalls and texts they wish to receive.

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Proposed Rules to Limit Unwanted Calls Will Not Protect Consumers, Says CTIA

The proposed rules will not protect consumers and will limit consumer’s ability to receive important messages from carriers.



Image from DFT Communications

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2023 – Wireless trade association CTIA expressed concerns with provisions in the Federal Communications Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released in May that would strengthen consumer consent for robocalls and robotexts by allowing consumers to decide which robocalls and texts they wish to receive.  

The draft proposals will not protect consumers and instead will “limit the ability of consumers to receive important, time-sensitive information about their wireless service,” said CTIA. These time-sensitive messages can include bill reminders, international roaming alerts, and fraud alerts, among others.  

The notice as currently written does not acknowledge any record support, policy reason or benefits that the proposed limitations to the current framework would deliver, read the report by CTIA. 

CTIA urged the FCC to add questions to the notice to clarify the unique relationship between wireless service providers and their consumers and the substantial consumer benefits that have resulted under the current framework. 

The action is a response to the rising number of telemarketing and robocalls, stated the Notice. “We believe the rules the commission adopts here strike an appropriate balance between maximizing consumer privacy protections and avoiding imposing undue burdens on telemarketers,” read the Notice. 

The Notice seeks to revise the current Telephone Consumer Protection Act rules and adopt new ones that would provide consumers with options for avoiding unwanted telephone solicitations. The ruling would include a national do-not-call registry for all telemarketing calls. 


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Former FCC Commissioner Says FCC Not Best Suited to Distribute Affordable Connectivity Program Funds

The FCC’s expertise does not translate to a social distribution mechanism.



Photo of Michael O'Rielly, former FCC Commissioner

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission is not well suited for distributing the funds in the Affordable Connectivity Program, said former FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly at a Brookings Institution event Monday. 

The ACP is currently subsidizing broadband access for over 17 million Americans with a discount of up to $30 and $75 a month for low-income and tribal households.

Although O’Rielly did not suggest an alternative solution, he indicated that social service offices could be better suited to distributing ACP funds than the FCC. 

The FCC can and should provide technical advice and insight on technical components of the program, he said, but it is “not well suited” to act as a social distribution mechanism. The FCC should participate in the umbrella structure of the ACP program provided another entity deals with the distribution process, he said. He assured the panel that doing so will not reduce the quality of broadband products to the end user. 

The FCC is responsible for managing the ACP Outreach Grant Program that provides funding to increase awareness of and participation in the ACP among eligible households. The program is made up of four grant programs: the National Competitive Outreach Program, the Tribal Competitive Outreach Program, the Your Home Your Internet Pilot Program and the ACP Navigator Pilot Program.  

A total of $70 million is available for the NCOP and TCOP grant programs. Grants through the YHYI and ACP Navigator program will offer up to $5 million in grants. The FCC has awarded $66 million in grants to date. 

Some of the large telecommunications companies have urged Congress to extend the ACP for the long-term, as they say there is a real concern that the $14-billion program could run out of funds by the first quarter of next year.

O’Rielly praised the ACP program as the “best structure we have to date” to achieve digital adoption goals. He expressed his support that the program be funded through congressional appropriations, which increases the level of control Congress has on the program.  

“Congress being involved is the only way to ensure the program is sustainable,” he said.  

In response to concerns that congressional appropriations will not support the program in the face of looming debts and the recent debt ceiling deal, O’Rielly said that the ACP program deserves appropriate scrutiny on its effectiveness but that it “can be defended” and “deserves additional funding.” 

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