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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.


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.



Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

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.

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FCC Commissioner Simington Says Universal Fiber to the Home Can Wait

Simington also raised idea of Big Tech contributing to Universal Service Fund.



FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington.

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.

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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.



Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA

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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