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Rep. Anna Eshoo and Silicon Valley Advocates Push Back on FCC’s Net Neutrality Change

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, California, July 6, 2017 – The world looks to the United States to see how the country treats its own inventions, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, said last week at a June 26 roundtable on the subject of net neutrality at Mozilla Headquarters here.

The roundtable is part of a push to combat Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s efforts to reverse public utility regulation of broadband internet access service.

Despite increasing partisan rhetoric on the issue, Eshoo said she still doesn’t think of net neutrality as a partisan issue. And she said she preferred to think of the FCC rules as protections.

Gigi Sohn, counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, said cable providers were able to choose everything that went on television and what time, but then the internet changed everything. Sohn doesn’t want to see the “cable-ization” of the internet, she said, and AT&T, Comcast and other internet providers want to turn the internet into a new form of cable.

Smaller websites won’t get the quality of service they need, and no venture capitalist would invest in a startup if it needs to pay a toll to an internet provider to get preferred carriage to customers, she said.

Nicola Boyd, cofounder of VersaMe, said there will be a decrease in investment and interest in creating new startups if the barriers are continuously increased. She said internet leveled the playing field and was the biggest accelerator of innovation.

Vishy Venugopalan, vice president of Citi Ventures, said there is a need to make sure data rails are mutual and that internet providers don’t peak into the data being sent.

Derek Wolfgram, library director of Redwood City Public Library, said Net Neutrality protects intellectual freedom and access to information for libraries. He said the removal of net neutrality protections would threaten content of all types, such as different points of views. He said he sees students sitting in cars outside the library using its internet to do school work, and that will be threatened too.

Vlad Pavlov, chief executive officer and cofounder of rollApp, said his company offers free tiers and paid tiers. According to its website, rollapp “builds an online application virtualization platform, which allows to run any application on any device with just a web browser.”

Of the more than 500 high schools that use his company’s service, only one of those schools actually uses the paid tier. If his company had to pay extra, it would likely quit offering the free tier.

Eshoo urged everyone speaking at the roundtable to put their opposition to Pai in writing. She said she don’t see anything broken with the current system, as implemented in 2015 by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, and which needed to be fixed.

She criticized net neutrality opponents for pushing the line that net neutrality is killing investment through heavy-handed regulations.

“They’re speaking in headlines that grab people’s attention, and in a split second, they would say, ‘Well, I’m not for that,’” Eshoo said.

She said she thinks Silicon Valley, the heartbeat of innovation, is decisively for net neutrality rules.

And she criticized the Republican Party, which generally opposes net neutrality regulation. Its love for competition is gone, and they want to squash competition like a bug, she said.

(Photograph of the roundtable from Mozilla’s web site.)

FCC

FCC Commissioner Supports Rural Telco Efforts to Implement ‘Rip and Replace’

In remarks at the Rural Wireless Association event on Wednesday, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks reaffirmed the FCC’s goals.

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Photo of Carri Bennet, general counsel of the Rural Wireless Association, leading a discussion at the summit on Wednesday by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 30, 2022 – Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks acknowledged the agency’s goal of obtaining secure broadband networks at an event of the Rural Wireless Association on Wednesday.

“We must ensure that our broadband networks are secure,” Starks said in keynote address at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here, delivered via Zoom. “This is evident in the constant barrage of attacks of American networks from hostile state and non-state actors.”

Starks continued, “insecure networks, by definition, can’t provide the stable, reliable, always on communications we need. Especially during emergencies… Broadband must be secure for the full benefits of broadband to be achieved.”

The issue of ridding American telecommunications networks of equipment manufactured in China was a constant theme during the conference.

In addition to Starks’ presentation, several sessions addressed the dilemma faced by telecommunications carriers, particular rural ones, that had in the past invested heavily in lower-cost equipment from Huawei, a leading Chinese manufacturer.

As the political winds have changed on the topic over the past three years, Congress has allocated funds for a “rip and replace” program. The FCC is expected to announce the providers that will receive nearly $2 billion as part of the program by July 15.

But some fear that number could be more than $4 billion short of needed funds.

“The funds available will cover only a very small portion” of the costs to replace Huawei with non-Chinese manufacturers, said Carri Bennet, general counsel of the Rural Wireless Association.

Potential new requirements imposed on telecom providers

The commission recently sought comment on whether it should require carriers that receive high-cost support to have include baseline cyber security and supply chain risk management plans.

If these plans are included in requirements, Starks said that American communication networks would be protected from bad actors. Moreover, they are consistent with requirements already included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Starks thanked the RWA for its activity and advocacy in the “rip and replace” proceedings, officially dubbed the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Reimbursement Program.

“The threat is real,” called Starks. “Companies that are deemed by the federal government to be a threat to the United States and its people can not have free reign in data centers featuring some of the most sensitive data of Americans.”

This comes only days after Commissioner Brendan Carr called for Apple and Google to remove Beijing-based popular video-sharing application, TikTok, from their app stores in response to the apps’ obligation to comply with the Peoples Republic of China’s surveillance demands.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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FCC

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks Calls for Environmental Sustainability at Summit

Environmental sustainability in telecom has been a key talking point for Starks.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

June 27, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Geoffrey Starks raised on Monday the importance of sustainability in telecommunications as a speaker at the 2022 Broadband for All Summit in Stockholm, Sweden.

An important responsibility for agencies in the industry is building infrastructure that is environmentally sustainable, Starks said, suggesting four avenues to improve sustainability.

First, “we must continue to find ways to do more while using less, and that begins with the way we use spectrum,” he said. We need to “squeeze” the most out of the finite spectrum while simultaneously building networks that draw less power.

Second, “we need to realize our full potential to help other sectors consume less, too.”

We are entering an era where we can “collect, communicate, and analyze massive quantities of data to improve decision-making in real-time. Everything from traffic flow to energy transmission to orders of operation on the factory floor can benefit from data-driven efficiencies that were previously impossible,” he said.

Third, “industry-led initiatives must continue to play a significant role, from progressing towards reducing or eliminating the carbon emissions associated with their operations, to increasing renewable energy and minimizing electronic waste.”

Some manufacturers, according to Starks, have gone beyond carbon neutrality and are aiming for net-zero operations.

Fourth, “we must collectively do our part to mitigate climate change’s harmful effects at the network level”. With harsher weather patterns than previous generation, we should invest in networks that will keep communities connected during storms, floods, wildfires, and other disasters.

Starks, who has pitched environmental sustainability in telecommunications on a multiple occasions, advocated for players in the industry to be “as aggressive as possible with our climate commitments, and we should be as comprehensive as possible in our effort to comply with them.” This should include eliminating waste during the production phase, he said.

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FCC to Gather Information on Offshore Spectrum, Accurate 911 Call Routing

The FCC is examining the need and use cases for allocating spectrum for offshore use.

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Photo of Nathan Simington

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted in an open meeting Wednesday to examine technology that can improve wireless 911 call routing, propose a fine for interrupting U.S. forest service radio communications, and to seek comment on offshore spectrum needs and uses.

The FCC voted to begin gathering information through public comment on the “possible current and future needs, uses, and impacts of offshore wireless spectrum use,” including for cruise ships, oceanography and wind turbine projects. Other options, like satellite-based systems, are available to provide service.

The construction and operation of windfarms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and communication services between at-sea vessels require offshore spectrum. The notice of inquiry asks what other cases exist that require offshore spectrum access that are not being provided for under existing models.

“We seek more broadly to understand the extent of the demand to use offshore spectrum and more generally where that demand is concentrated,” stated the inquiry.

“It is important that the FCC stay ahead of the curve in its consideration of upcoming commercial spectrum needs and this item does just that,” said commissioner Nathan Simington.

911 call routing

The FCC launched an examination into technology that could result in faster response times by more precisely routing wireless 911 calls to the correct call center.

Some wireless emergency calls are made near city or county borders where the closest call center is in the neighboring jurisdiction, resulting in lost time as calls are rerouted to the correct call center.

Since 2018, when the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on feasibility of routing 911 calls based on location of the caller versus location of the cellular tower, there have been many advancements in location-based routing technology. The FCC issued a Public Notice Wednesday seeking updated information on these technologies and the feasibility of adopting them into public use.

Last month, AT&T announced a new technology that would allow dispatchers to get a more accurate location of distressed calls by using the phone’s GPS.

Proposed fine for violating radio interference rules

The FCC also proposed a $34,000 fine Wednesday against Jason Frawley who, in 2021, allegedly interfered with radio communications that were guiding firefighting during the 1000-acre wildfire near Elk River, Idaho.

Frawley reportedly admitted to a Forest Service supervisor that he broadcasted on government frequencies in direct defiance to the Communications Act which prohibits any interference with authorized radio communications.

Neither the allegations nor the proposed sanctions are final FCC actions, said the press release.

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