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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.)


FCC Institutes ACP Transparency Data Collection

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



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.



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 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.’



Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, via

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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