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FCC Takes Two Actions Promoting Spectrum Sharing, Also Implements 988 as Suicide Hotline



WASHINGTON, December 13, 2019 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday took two actions to open up the “mid-band” of radio frequency spectrum, freeing up 5.9 GigaHertz (GHz) spectrum for Wi-Fi, and beginning the process of opening up more spectrum at 3.1 GHz.

Spectrum in these “mid-band” zones is increasingly-coveted because it allows wireless transmitters to send data at a higher capacity, and yet still penetrate walls and foliage that otherwise limits transmitters to line-of-sight technologies.

The decision regarding the 5.9 GHz band takes the lower 45 megahertz of the 75 megahertz currently slotted for the Dedicated Short Range Communications service (at 5850-5925 MHz) and devotes it exclusively to Wi-Fi technology.

Two decades have passed since the 5.9 gigahertz band was designated for short-range communications, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said at the agency’s December meeting on Thursday. The remaining 30 megahertz (from 5895 MHz to 5925 MHz) is an ample amount for vehicular safety applications and handling interference issues, he said.

Under no circumstances should these 30 megahertz be used for anything other than promoting safety, O’Rielly said.

Commissioners Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel reiterated the need to adjust existing spectrum bands to meet future wireless demands.

Rosenworcel strongly urged the FCC to move faster with other mid-band spectrum, as U.S. spectrum policy becomes increasingly divorced from connectivity on the ground and the rest of the world.

For example, the agency’s current prioritization of millimeter-wave spectrum, she said, is detrimental when other countries have already advanced past that point.

Carr also praised the role of “Wi-Fi offloading” from commercial networks because of the strain that is expected from the demands for 5G wireless services.

Future wireless service and augmented reality technology, Carr continued, need a network that can respond quickly and handle a multitude of devices. Unlicensed spectrum will serve as the final link between the consumer and the cloud to effectively power 5G devices, he said.

Wi-Fi airwaves are congested, Rosenworcel added, and autonomous vehicles have moved beyond DSRC to communicate. She and other highlighted that the 5.9-band is adjacent to existing unlicensed spectrum, which is ideal for next-generation gigabit Wi-Fi.

“Thanks to its neighbor, this spectrum would punch above its weight,” FCC Chairman Aji Pai said in his announcement of the 5.9 GHz proposal on November 20, 2019, at the National Union Building. “The adjacent 5725-5850 MHz band is currently available for unlicensed operations, making this 45 megahertz sub-band ideally suited for unlicensed use,” he said

Pai also said he will consider using the upper 10 megahertz of this spectrum for DSRC in addition to Cellular Vehicle to Everything operations. This consideration, he said, was partly based off Japan’s successful use of DSRC for collision avoidance.

Beginning the process of spectrum sharing at 3.1 GHz-3.5 GHz, and other agency actions

In the second action on spectrum, the FCC began the process of facilitating spectrum sharing in the 3.1-3.55 GHz band between federal and commercial users. In particular, the FCC issued a notice of proposed rule making on removing the existing non-federal allocations in this band as a step towards potential future shared use between federal incumbents and commercial users.

The 3.3-3.5 GHz portion of the band, O’Rielly said, provides the ideal combination of geographic coverage for 5G services. The FCC will begin with phasing non-federal incumbents out of the band and re-purposing the upper 100 megahertz for commercial use.

The commissioners also voted to reform cable service change notifications and to simplify the national suicide prevention hotline number.

America’s suicide rate is at its highest since World War II, Pai said. A simple three-digit code for a suicide hotline can reduce the mental stigma surrounding mental health and ultimately save lives.

Rosenworcel added that it’s important for the FCC to use text messages as a form of reaching out to people in critical need of support. About 112 Americans live in areas with severe shortage of mental health providers, she said. It would be a mistake to build upon a system where talk is considered the only starting point of discussion.

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks emphasized that transparency is key for cable service notifications. Regulators should communicate with customers as much as possible whenever a change in service occurs, he said, to avoid confusion should service abruptly drop.

Changing the requirements for cable notices removes a mandate for traditional video providers that doesn’t fit real-world expectations, O’Rielly said. Often, issues with cable service providers resolve within the 30-day period before expiration.

It doesn’t make sense, Pai said, for the FCC to notify consumers of problems that occur between contracts, because they are usually solved quickly and would only confuse consumers about the type of service they will receive.

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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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