WASHINGTON, July 12, 2018 – In advance of the Federal Communications Commission’s open meeting on Thursday, agency Chairman Ajit Pai announced a local government representative as the new vice chair of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.
The announcement may be one more volley in the back-and-forth feud between local governments and the agency over a perceived lack of municipal representation on the important advisory committee.
Particularly significant in the dispute have been the role of the FCC, versus local government, over the deployment of broadband infrastructure that may pertain to greater 5G deployment.
A new vice chair for BDAC, who manages rights of way for Lincoln, Nebraska
The July 2 appointment of David Young to serve as the new vice chair is perhaps in response to outrage over the lack of local government representation on the BDAC board. The FCC said that he would represent the National League of Cities on BDAC.
He is the fiber infrastructure and right of way manager for Lincoln, Nebraska. Previously, he served on a working group of BDAC devoted to proposing a “model code” for municipalities on infrastructure.
Fears that the BDAC is falling apart were sparked after two local government officials left, and a series of letters filed through March and June were issued from local officials, protesting the FCC’s treatment of municipalities.
Criticism of the FCC’s approach to local government from Next Century Cities
In March, the non-profit group Next Century Cities, which advocates for broadband on behalf of localities, sent a letter to the FCC from 36 mayors and municipal government leaders. The letter voiced concerns that the FCC would harm the public by removing local zoning and regulatory authority.
FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly has been particularly critical of municipalities. In September 2017, he said there were “bad actors” on 5G development from the local level. He went on to describe how the FCC needs to “preempt” localities from purposefully obstructing broadband deployment efforts.
“We are going to need to preempt those localities that are either trying to extract a bounty in terms of profit that they think there’s an opportunity to extract from wireless providers and therefore consumers, or that has a process that will delay and belabor the deployment of technology,” O’Rielly said.
Next Century Cities strongly refuted the idea that localities would try to seek a “bounty” or “delay and belabor” technological development.
“Our residents and businesses appropriately balk at the placement of a 100-foot monopole on their lawn with no recourse, or to having their local government’s hands tied when it comes to the public recovering just compensation for the use of the public’s right of way,” wrote Next Century Cities.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo resigned from the BDAC in protest of its approach to local government
The cities’ letter is part of a larger trend of local government officials voicing opposition to and even resigning from federal committees in protest against the FCC’s skewed priorities.
On June 14, a group of organizations including National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors and the National League of Cities filed a similar letter criticizing the FCC for disregarding municipalities’ concerns in BDAC decision-making processes.
The letter accused BDAC of holding “the presumption that local governments are a barrier to broadband deployment.” The group argued that the presumption, combined with a lack of local representation, casts doubt on the BDAC’s ability to make balanced decisions about matters that will heavily impact localities.
Only one of the 29 of the original members of BDAC represented a local district: Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose, California. In contrast, the report cites BDAC and working group representatives as “overwhelmingly members of the telecommunications industry.”
Liccardo resigned from the BDAC in January 2018, leaving the position as vice chair on the model code working group.
In his resignation letter, Liccardo accused the BDAC of “advancing the interests of the telecommunications industry over those of the public” and therefore furthering the digital divide, despite how Chairman Pai claimed it was a priority to close the divide.
“The apparent goal is to create a set of rules that will provide industry with easy access to publicly-funded infrastructure at taxpayer-subsidized rates,” Liccardo said, “without any obligation to provide broadband access to underserved residents.”
Another representative of local government – from New York City – followed in Liccardo’s footsteps
On March 28, another local government representative on the BDAC followed in his footsteps.
Miguel Gamiño Jr., who had been added subsequent to the original announcement of members, resigned citing similar criticisms. Gamino is chief technology officer of New York City. He, too, said that BDAC was favoring private industry over public interest.
“In our own working group, there have been no efforts to add more voices familiar with city operations or to replace the former working group Vice Chair San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo,” Gamino Jr. said in his letter of resignation.
There would be no replacement for Gamino Jr. after he left the position, based on the complaints he submitted in the letter.
A partisan divide on the FCC over local government issues
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, currently the lone Democrat on the FCC, hasn’t been silent in the face of O’Rielly’s disparagement of municipalities over 5G deployment.
In a June 11 speech to the Conference of U.S. Mayors, Rosenworcel explained that in the FCC’s discussion around broadband development, the setting often is a “fictional city” constructed to cast local governments in a negative light. The city officials of the fictional city quickly become obstacles standing in the way of 5G development.
“The group was loath to admit that cities and towns could be something other than impediments to broadband deployment,” Rosenworcel said of the BDAC that Liccardo resigned from.
Commissioner Rosenworcel backed Liccardo’s decision to leave the BDAC, praising him for pushing his real city – and not the imaginary city fueling 5G imaginations – towards 5G by securing relationships with carriers and gathering funding without BDAC’s assistance.
(Photo of FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.)
FCC Votes on Proposals Ranging From Emergency Response to SIM Swap Fraud in Open Meeting
The agency held an open meeting Thursday to hammer out votes on a range of issues.
WASHINGTON, September 30, 2021 — The Federal Communications Commission voted in an open meeting Thursday on several items, including expanding the E-Rate program and addressing SIM swap fraud and robocalls.
The commission voted to increase backup power to networks in case of emergencies and natural disasters and update outage reporting requirements. This follows an aggressive response from the agency during Hurricane Ida. The federal government lost $284 million of productivity during the winter storms last year.
Targeting robocalls from overseas, the FCC passed a set of rules for gateway voice service providers. Gateway providers will be asked to block calls from numbers the FCC lists, to authenticate caller ID and to submit to the FCC a certification of the practices they are using to block robocalls. This follows the June 30 deadline for large voice service providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN regime, which requires telecoms to work to limit robocalls and ID spoofing or face fines and penalties.
In an effort to reduce SIM swapping and port-out fraud, rules were proposed which would require carriers to adhere to a set of secure methods of authenticating the identity of a customer before moving a customer’s phone number to another carrier or device.
SIM swapping is the act of identity theft whereby a person convinces a wireless carrier to transfer a victim’s cell service into the thief’s possession. Port-out fraud is when the thief creates an account with a new carrier and convinces the victim’s carrier to port out the victim’s service to the new carrier.
The notice also proposes that customers be alerted immediately whenever a SIM change or port request is made under a customer’s identity and account. FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel quoted senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, stating that “consumers are at the mercy of wireless carriers when it comes to being protected against SIM swaps.”
The FCC also updated the definition of library to include tribal libraries for use with their E-rate program, following a 2018 law from Congress. Many tribal libraries under the law were excluded from the program, which subsidizes broadband for schools and libraries, for over 20 years. Only 15 percent of tribal libraries reported having received E-Rate support.
The FCC also adopted and made transparent a series of questions that will be asked of foreign-owned companies wishing to participate in the US telecommunications market.
Questions include whether the applicants or investors have been charged with felonies, been subject to penalties for violating regulations of the US government, have undergone bankruptcy, are on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list and more.
FCC Commissioner Simington Says Universal Fiber to the Home Can Wait
Simington also raised idea of Big Tech contributing to Universal Service Fund.
WASHINGTON, September 29, 2021 – Federal Communications Commissioner Nathan Simington said Tuesday that adoption issues for fiber is delaying the need to make universal fiber to the home a priority right now.
“I think we can push back on fiber to the home universally, at least in noting that there are edge cases and adoption issues there and that some degree of wireless is going to have to be part of the broadband future,” Simington said in a one-on-one conversation with the Internet Innovation Alliance.
A large part of the discourse surrounding the future of broadband expansion in the country is what kinds of technologies are most prudent to ensure connectivity now and scalability in the future. The Wireless Industry Association has pressed the fact that multiple technologies, including wireless, have a play in broadband’s future, while the Fiber Broadband Association and others have said fiber buildout is the best, most scalable technology.
The last mile, where the cable physically attaches to the home or business, was said at the Digital Infrastructure Investment conference this week to be a goal for broadband expansion.
But Simington said that while fiber is a “robust technology,” there’s a chunk of Americans that may not want it.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there are some users who are not particularly interested in fiber,” Simington said. “That might be people who are, for example, device-only users and they don’t want a home broadband connection — that’s about 20 percent of the national population (of broadband users), although the question of want is sort of up in the air.
“Obviously to a person who is device-only, the only use that fiber would have would be to provide hotspot. And if you’re spending your entire day out and about working, what matters to you is having adequate wireless coverage in your area,” he added.
Simington touches on Universal Service Fund
Modernizing the Universal Service Fund has been one of the hot topics for broadband this year. The fund, which extends basic telecom services to all Americans, has been called unsustainable due to its reliance on shrinking voice revenues.
Some have suggested that the fund’s reliance be wholesale replaced with general taxation from Congress, while others have said that the fund’s revenue base should be extended to include the increasing broadband revenues.
Simington prefaced his comments by saying he didn’t want to get ahead of Congress, which would set the parameters of a new regime, but raised previous recommendations – including from FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr – that part of the money can come from big technology companies, like Facebook and Google.
“We might also say that there are companies that have built their model on there being universal broadband and have been the beneficiaries of the buildout without having to do much to contribute to it…that’s something that has been raised on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
He added that another approach “would simply be to say that broadband is essentially the equivalent of a telephone service back in the day and therefore we are going to put it on everyone’s broadband bill instead of on the relatively small installed base of phone line subject to the USF. That would certainly be one approach. It would smooth things out somewhat, it would presumably broaden the base very substantially.”
In any case, Simington said the USF is “absolutely vital” and that it’s failure would be “at minimum…immensely disruptive.”
Spectrum strategies and future technologies
In his roughly hour-long chat, Simington touched on a myriad of other issues before the FCC, including the future of satellite technologies, spectrum strategies, and funding for programs to deliver telecommunications services to all Americans.
The commissioner noted that the FCC is prioritizing clearing spectrum for technologies including the next-generation 5G networks, and that the agency is looking to “squeeze every drop” of mid-band frequencies for that end. The FCC has already held a number of auctions for mid-band spectrum, including its massive C-Band auction.
FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said earlier this year that the mid-band spectrum is a priority for the agency over millimeter wave spectrum to close the digital divide.
Simington also said spectrum sharing will increase as technological advances are made. The FCC is fielding comments about how to handle the 12 GHz spectrum band, which is effectively pitting satellite providers who say it can’t be shared and 5G providers who say that it can.
Cable Group NCTA Says Deny Exclusive Multitenant Access, But Not Wiring, Agreements
NCTA said the FCC should deny exclusive access to these buildings, but not exclusive wiring agreements.
WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – The internet and television association NCTA is suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission deny all broadband providers exclusive access to multitenant buildings, but to continue allowing exclusive wiring agreements.
On Tuesday, the FCC opened a new round of comments into its examination of competitive broadband options for residents of apartments, multi-tenant and office buildings.
In a Tuesday ex parte notice to the commission, which follows a formal meeting with agency staff on September 2, the NCTA said the record shows that deployment, competition, and consumer choice in multiple tenant environments “are strong,” and that the FCC can “promote even greater deployment and competition by prohibiting not just cable operators, other covered [multiple video programming distributors], and telecommunications carriers, but all broadband providers from entering into MTE exclusive access agreements.
The organization, whose member companies include Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, also said it should continue to allow providers to enter into exclusive wiring agreements with MTE owners. Wiring just means that the provider can lay down its cables, like fiber, to connect residents.
“Exclusive wiring agreements do not deny new entrants access to MTEs. Rather, exclusive wiring agreements are pro-competitive and help ensure that state-of-the-art wiring will be deployed in MTEs to the benefit of consumers.”
The NCTA also told the FCC that there would be technical problems with simultaneous sharing of building wires by different providers and vouched for exclusive marketing arrangements, according to the notice.
The FCC’s new round of comments comes after a bill, introduced on July 30 by Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-New York, outlined plans to address exclusivity agreements between residential units and service providers, which sees providers lock out other carriers from buildings and leaving residents with only one option for internet.
Reached for comment on the filing, a spokesman for NCTA said they had nothing to add to the filing, which was signed by Mary Beth Murphy, deputy general counsel to the cable organization.
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