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FCC Chairman Attempts to Assuage Local Government Anger Against the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee

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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

Proposed Rules to Improve National Alert System Unnecessary, Say Critics

Proposed rules to improve EAS security and operational readiness are unnecessary, say commenters.

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WASHINGTON, January 18, 2023 – Participants to the national public warning system claim that the Federal Communications Commission’s October rulemaking to improve its security and operational readiness will unduly increase resource and monetary burdens on participants. 

The national warning system is composed of the Emergency Alert System, which transmits important emergency information to affected areas over television and radio, and the Wireless Emergency Alert System, which delivers that information to the public on their wireless devices. Participation in the system is voluntary for wireless providers, but radio and television broadcasters are required to deliver Presidential alerts via the EAS. 

In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC sought comment on ways to strengthen the operational readiness of the warning system by requiring EAS participants to report compromises of equipment and WEA participants to annually certify to having a cybersecurity risk management plan in place. It further asked that commercial mobile service providers “take steps to ensure that only valid alerts are displayed on consumer devices,” citing several instances where false alerts were given following a system hack. 

Measures are unnecessary 

Participants argued that such measures are unnecessary in reply comments to the Commission.  

The proposals in the Notice are “unnecessary and will not meaningfully enhance operational readiness or security of EAS,” stated the National Association of Broadcasters in its comments, claiming that the Notice “presents only scant evidence of EAS equipment failures and new security threats, and thus does not justify the myriad measures proposed.” 

Furthermore, NAB claimed, the notice fails to present a clear rationale for how the Commission’s heightened situational awareness would improve EAS readiness. 

ACA Connects, a trade association representing small and mid-sized telecom and TV operators, added that the Notice identifies only two EAS security breaches in the past ten years, which, as the company said, is “hardly an epidemic.” 

Participating mobile service providers have cyber risk management plans in place already, making any separate cyber certification requirement for WEA unnecessary and likely to cause fragmentation of service-specific plans, claimed wireless trade association, CTIA. 

Increased participant burden 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for national-level activation and tests of the systems, stated in its comments that it is concerned about the potential increased burden placed upon participants. 

EAS participants voluntarily and at no cost provide state and local alerts and mobile service providers voluntarily participate in WEA without compensation. FEMA argued that some stakeholders may “have difficulty justifying additional resources necessary to comply with increasing regulation.” 

The proposed reporting, certification, and cyber management obligations are far too complex for many EAS participants to implement, stated NAB, claiming that the Commission’s estimation of costs are “wildly unrealistic,” not considering additional hires such a plan would require. 

Mobile provider AT&T added that requirements for updating cybersecurity plans would divert valuable resources from the ongoing, broad cybersecurity efforts that participants engage in daily. The proposed authentication would inhibit the timely release of critical emergency alerts without completely eliminating false WEA messages, it continued.  

The Center for internet Security, however, supported the FCC’s proposed actions, claiming that it moves forward with “critically important” measures to protect the nation’s alert systems from cyber threats. 

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CES 2023: Commissioner Starks Highlights Environmental Benefits of 5G Connectivity

Starks also said federal housing support should be linked to the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (left) and CTA’s J. David Grossman

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – Commissioner Geoffrey Starks of the Federal Communications Commission spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show Saturday, touting connectivity assistance for individuals who benefit from housing assistance as well as the potential environmental benefits of 5G.

The FCC-administered Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes monthly internet bills and one-time devices purchases for low-income Americans. Although many groups are eligible – e.g., Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollees – Starks said his attention is primarily on those who rely on housing support.

“If you are having trouble putting food on your table, you should not have to worry about connectivity as well,” Starks said. “If we are helping you to get housed, we should be able to connect that house,” he added.

Environmental benefits of 5G

In addition to economic benefits, 5G-enabled technologies will offer many environmental benefits, Starks argued. He said the FCC should consider how to “ensure folks do more while using less,” particularly in the spheres of spectral and energy efficiency.

“This is going to take a whole-of-nation (approach),” Starks said. “When you talk to your local folks – mayors – state and other federal partners, making sure that they know smart cities (and) smart grid technology…making sure that we’re all unified on thinking about this is exactly where we need to go to in order to drive down the carbon emissions.”

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FCC

FCC Commissioners Tout 5G, Spectrum and Permitting Reform

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks argued that expanding connectivity would enable sustainable, environmentally-friendly technologies.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2022 – High-level Federal Communications Commission officials addressed the 40th Annual Institute on Telecommunications Policy and Regulation on Thursday, touting 5G technologies, increased spectrum access, and permitting reform as the broadband industry braces for what promises to be an action-packed 2023.

In his keynote, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks argued that expanding connectivity would enable sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies such as 5G-enabled precision agriculture. During a subsequent panel, Joel Taubenblatt, acting chief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, predicted robust innovation in 5G-powered technology sectors including transportation, energy and finance.

Starks, Taubenblatt, and Commissioner Brendan Carr each voiced support for robust spectrum availability. Carr reiterated his outspoken opposition to popular social-media app TikTok, and earlier in the day, Commissioner Nathan Simington proposed raising cybersecurity requirements on wireless device manufactures.

The Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act allocated $65 billion to broadband, the largest single investment to date. Policymakers and industry leaders have voiced concern that regulatory mismanagement could blunt the funds’ impact. Testifying before a U.S. Senate subcommittee Tuesday, representatives from trade groups US Telecom and NCTA – The Internet & Television Association warned lawmakers against onerous regulation, especially opaque permitting processes on federal lands.

To ensure the efficient use of unprecedented broadband funding initiatives, federal and state authorities should streamline permitting processes, Carr said. The commissioner told Broadband Breakfast he supports expanding small cell infrastructure reforms, such as approval shot clocks and limitations on unreasonable fees, to the wireline sector.

Carr, in his featured remarks, said regulators should craft policy to avoid overbuilding and prioritize building to the least unserved communities. He once again advocated tech-neutral policies that allow fixed-wireless and satellite broadband to fairly compete with fiber.

Permitting and access barriers at multiple levels of government

Representatives from broadband industry groups detailed potential regulatory barriers to deployment in a webinar held Wednesday.

At the local level, providers must obtain access to utility poles, which can be owned by a range of entities including municipalities and utility companies. State broadband offices could likely coordinate with providers and regulators to ease this process, suggested Teresa Ferguson, senior director of broadband and infrastructure funding at the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative.

At the federal level, Congress has signaled interest in streamlining permitting processes, said Angela Simpson, general counsel and vice president of legal and regulatory affairs at the Competitive Carriers Association, noting the body introduced 28 reform bills this session. Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of senators wrote to the U.S. Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce, urging them to update federal permitting guidelines.

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