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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 Proposed Rules Will Harm Legitimate Text Messages, Say Commenters

The rules would ban the practice of marketers purporting to have written consent for numerous parties to contact a consumer.



Photo from robotext lawsuit

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2023 – Commenters claim that the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rules that would require mobile wireless providers to ban marketers from contacting a consumer multiple times based on one consent will harm legitimate communications. 

The new rules will set additional protections that would require the terminating provider to block texts after notification from the FCC that the text is illegal, to extend the National Do-Not-Call Registry’s protections to text messages, and to ban the practice of marketers purporting to have written consent for numerous parties to contact a consumer based on one consent. Comments on the proposal were due in May and reply comments on June 6.

“Robocall campaigns often rely on flimsy claims of consent where a consumer interested in job listings, a potential reward, or a mortgage quote, unknowingly and unwillingly ‘consents’ to telemarketing calls from dozens – or hundreds or thousands – of unaffiliated entities about anything and everything,” read the comments from USTelecom trade association.  

Wireless trade association CTIA cited that Medicaid text messages that alert customers to critical health updates may be blocked by the ruling despite the FCC’s acknowledgement that these texts are critical. Many providers are unbending in enforcing robotext policies that mandate agencies must “satisfactorily demonstrate they receive prior express consent from enrollees to contact them.” 

CTIA’s comments claimed that the proposed rules would “do little to enhance existing industry efforts to reduce text spam or protect consumers.” 

Competitive networks trade association INCOMPAS claimed that the current framework is not well suited to allow the industry to universally resolve text messaging issues. “In the absence of standardized, competitively neutral rules, the current dynamics create perverse incentives that allow gamesmanship and arbitrage schemes as well as fraudulent behaviors to thrive.” 

USTelecom commended the FCC for taking these steps and suggested that it expressly ban the practice of obtaining single consumer consent as grounds for delivering calls to multiple receivers by issuing a decisive declaration rather than a rule change. Providing clear guidance will deprive aggressive telemarketers of the plausible deniability they rely on to put calls through, it said. 

The new language proposed in the notice is unnecessary and runs the risk of introducing new ambiguity by not eliminating perceived loopholes through a decisive declaration, read its comments. 

The Retail Industry Leaders Association claimed that the notice would “primarily and negatively impact those who send legitimate text message solicitations, not scam senders and bad actors.” The well-intentioned measures will sweep in legitimate text communications, it claimed, by reducing consumer control and making assumptions on their behalf. 

“Consumers use the DNC list to prevent unwanted telephone call solicitations. They do not expect that the DNC List will prevent normal and desired communications from legitimate businesses like RILA members,” it wrote.

In the event the FCC moves forward with the proposed rules, the RILA urged that the rules include “clear carve-outs or safe harbors” for legitimate solicitations. 

This comes as the FCC considers additional proposed rules that will strengthen consumer consent for robocalls and robotexts by allowing consumers to decide which robocalls and texts they wish to receive.

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Proposed Rules to Limit Unwanted Calls Will Not Protect Consumers, Says CTIA

The proposed rules will not protect consumers and will limit consumer’s ability to receive important messages from carriers.



Image from DFT Communications

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2023 – Wireless trade association CTIA expressed concerns with provisions in the Federal Communications Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released in May that would strengthen consumer consent for robocalls and robotexts by allowing consumers to decide which robocalls and texts they wish to receive.  

The draft proposals will not protect consumers and instead will “limit the ability of consumers to receive important, time-sensitive information about their wireless service,” said CTIA. These time-sensitive messages can include bill reminders, international roaming alerts, and fraud alerts, among others.  

The notice as currently written does not acknowledge any record support, policy reason or benefits that the proposed limitations to the current framework would deliver, read the report by CTIA. 

CTIA urged the FCC to add questions to the notice to clarify the unique relationship between wireless service providers and their consumers and the substantial consumer benefits that have resulted under the current framework. 

The action is a response to the rising number of telemarketing and robocalls, stated the Notice. “We believe the rules the commission adopts here strike an appropriate balance between maximizing consumer privacy protections and avoiding imposing undue burdens on telemarketers,” read the Notice. 

The Notice seeks to revise the current Telephone Consumer Protection Act rules and adopt new ones that would provide consumers with options for avoiding unwanted telephone solicitations. The ruling would include a national do-not-call registry for all telemarketing calls. 


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Former FCC Commissioner Says FCC Not Best Suited to Distribute Affordable Connectivity Program Funds

The FCC’s expertise does not translate to a social distribution mechanism.



Photo of Michael O'Rielly, former FCC Commissioner

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission is not well suited for distributing the funds in the Affordable Connectivity Program, said former FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly at a Brookings Institution event Monday. 

The ACP is currently subsidizing broadband access for over 17 million Americans with a discount of up to $30 and $75 a month for low-income and tribal households.

Although O’Rielly did not suggest an alternative solution, he indicated that social service offices could be better suited to distributing ACP funds than the FCC. 

The FCC can and should provide technical advice and insight on technical components of the program, he said, but it is “not well suited” to act as a social distribution mechanism. The FCC should participate in the umbrella structure of the ACP program provided another entity deals with the distribution process, he said. He assured the panel that doing so will not reduce the quality of broadband products to the end user. 

The FCC is responsible for managing the ACP Outreach Grant Program that provides funding to increase awareness of and participation in the ACP among eligible households. The program is made up of four grant programs: the National Competitive Outreach Program, the Tribal Competitive Outreach Program, the Your Home Your Internet Pilot Program and the ACP Navigator Pilot Program.  

A total of $70 million is available for the NCOP and TCOP grant programs. Grants through the YHYI and ACP Navigator program will offer up to $5 million in grants. The FCC has awarded $66 million in grants to date. 

Some of the large telecommunications companies have urged Congress to extend the ACP for the long-term, as they say there is a real concern that the $14-billion program could run out of funds by the first quarter of next year.

O’Rielly praised the ACP program as the “best structure we have to date” to achieve digital adoption goals. He expressed his support that the program be funded through congressional appropriations, which increases the level of control Congress has on the program.  

“Congress being involved is the only way to ensure the program is sustainable,” he said.  

In response to concerns that congressional appropriations will not support the program in the face of looming debts and the recent debt ceiling deal, O’Rielly said that the ACP program deserves appropriate scrutiny on its effectiveness but that it “can be defended” and “deserves additional funding.” 

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