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Federal Communications Commission Advisory Council Recommends 5G Vulnerability Changes

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Photo of Lee Thibaudeau, chair of the the Managing Security Risk in the Transition to 5G Working Group, courtesy of Nsight News

June 11, 2020 — The Federal Communications Commission’s Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council voted to accept recommendations addressing how vulnerabilities of 5G infrastructure might impact the integrity and confidentiality of wireless networks Wednesday.

Lee Thibaudeau, chair of Working Group 2, which was tasked with the investigation, presented a summary of the report as well as proposed mitigation practices.

The group found that the transition from 4G to 5G will be unlike previous communications technology advancements, due to the non-standalone nature of 5G architecture.

While the transition from 3G to 4G required a complete replacement of radio networks and core switching technology, 5G non-standalone architecture allows an operator to deploy 5G by leveraging 4G radio networks and core infrastructure.

This means that legacy 4G vulnerabilities will continue to effect 5G networks, prompting the working group’s recommendation the FCC take into account existing 4G security recommendations.

They further recommended that the agency actively participate in supply chain risk management programs, stating public-private partnerships are necessary for developing trusted 5G networks.

The final critical privacy recommendation was to use encryption features to secure user planes, or the communications between devices and base stations.

The group’s recommendations to the tech industry included implementing new workforce training on next generation internet infrastructure and considering higher layer protections for devices to mitigate user plane threats.

The working group will present further recommendations on 5G vulnerabilities to the agency in December.

Contributing Reporter Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide and has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband.

5G

Industry Praises FCC Proposal to Revamp the 5G Rural Fund

The FCC proposed adjusting the $9-billion budget allocated for the fund using updated maps

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington by Bonnie Cash from the Hill

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2023 – Industry associations are praising a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission Thursday to review coverage areas based on updated commission maps so that the 5G Fund can reach more communities without the wireless technology.

Thursday’s vote proposes to help dictate the eligibility requirements for areas in need of support of the 5G Rural Fund for America.

The commission proposed adjusting the $9-billion budget allocated for the 5G Fund, the optimal methodology for consolidating eligible areas into smaller geographic regions for bidding, the feasibility to extend 5G Fund support to qualifying regions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, possibly mandating cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans for 5G Fund recipients, and the possibility of whether the 5G Fund should be utilized to encourage the deployment of Open Radio Access Networks.

“What this means is that as we develop the 5G Fund and build the successor to our existing universal service program supporting wireless networks in rural America, known as the Mobility Fund, we will be able to incorporate this detailed picture of where service is and is not,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. “We will be able to see gaps in coverage and ensure support actually reaches the communities that need it most.”

Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of industry association CTIA, praised the commission’s decision “for recognizing the crucial role that mobile wireless services play in keeping Americans connected.”

“Implementing the 5G Fund and using the FCC’s new maps will help extend the benefits of advanced 5G services to more communities and consumers,” she said.

Tim Donovan, president and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association, also praised the decision, saying the 5G Fund “has been a top priority for CCA, and we will continue to work with the Commission and our members to ensure the final rules preserve and expand mobile broadband access to every American.”

The commission also adopted Thursday new regulations to expedite space applications, the availability of spectrum resources for space launches, old rules to combat robocallers, and handed down over $100 million in fines.

FCC space and spectrum allocations

The FCC unanimously ratified the Expediting Initial Processing of Satellite and Earth State Applications Space Innovation, which is the adoption of new rules to expedite its processing of space and earth station applications.

It also unanimously ratified new rules ensuring that commercial space launches have the necessary spectrum resources for reliable communication. These adoptions will “promote safety, competition, innovation, and continued American leadership in the new Space Age,” the agency said. The new rules will also provide an allocation within the 2025 to 2110 MHz band for ground-to-launch vehicle telecommand which is needed for space launch operations, and make “the entire 2200 to 2290 MHz band available for launch telemetry.”

“I believe that the most important part of streamlining the FCC’s application processing procedures is ensuring swift and efficient FCC action—which will maintain U.S. leadership in the satellite communications service industry. It will also nurture the growth of the broader space sector, which includes new and innovative manufacturing processes, robotics, earth surveillance and exploration and other future innovations,” Commissioner Nathan Simington said.

Robocallers losing access to phone numbers

The FCC also voted in favor of adopting rules that would modernize the commission’s requirements on how Voice over Internet Protocol providers get direct access to telephone numbers.

The adoption sets in motion parameters to limit access to “phone numbers by perpetrators of illegal robocalls, protect national security and law enforcement, safeguard the nation’s finite numbering resources, reduce the opportunity for regulatory arbitrage, and further promote public safety.”

In line with the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, the new rules will require applicants to submit additional disclosures and certifications in regard to their “ownership structures and compliance with the Commission’s rules and state law and takes targeted steps to address the concerns” that were raised in the rulemaking.

These rules consist of making robocall-related certifications that will help ensure compliance with the commission’s rules targeting illegal robocalls; to keep and disclose current information about ownership, including foreign ownership, that will alleviate the risk of providing violators abroad with access to U.S. numbering resources; guarantee their compliance with other commission rules that are applicable to interconnected VoIP providers including particular public safety and access stimulation rules, and requirements to submit timely FCC Forms 477 and 499 filings; and compliance with state laws and registration requirements that apply to businesses in each state where numbers are requested.

FCC fines Dorsher Enterprise $116 million

The FCC additionally adopted a $116,156,250 fine against the Dorsher Enterprise, a group consisting of Thomas Dorsher, ChariTel, OnTel, and ScammerBlaster.

The Commission’s investigation revealed that the group promoted themselves as a crusade fighting against scam robocalls at the same “illegally robocalling toll free numbers” and used credits from their scam “to fund telephony denial of service (TDoS) attacks on other entities.”

The parties in the group, which allegedly made nearly 10 million robocalls to generate toll free dialing fees, are jointly liable for the fine.

“Dorsher’s claim that he was actually trying to ‘shut down scammers’ is meritless in the face of these facts,” Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said. “As I have said repeatedly, there are numerous hurdles to finding these bad actors, and bringing them to account for violations of our rules. I am pleased to see another example of how, by working together, we can untangle these schemes and protect consumers.”

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Rural Mobile Providers Push FCC to Alter 5G Fund Model

If carrier receiving legacy federal funds lose at auction, they could leave areas ‘stranded,’ providers say.

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Screenshot of Carri Bennet, RWA's general counsel

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2023 – Rural mobile providers are urging the Federal Communications Commission to consider an alternative to the reverse auction funding model the agency proposed for a future 5G fund.

The fund has been in limbo since 2020 due to mapping issues. It makes $9 billion available for 5G mobile broadband infrastructure in areas unlikely to be served without subsidies.

With access to newer, granular data on mobile broadband coverage in the U.S., the FCC released on August 31 a notice proposing updates to the program’s methodologies for defining areas eligible for funding and seeking comment on potential new provisions like extending support to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The proposal is slated to be discussed at the agency’s open meeting on September 21. 

Ahead of that discussion, the Rural Wireless Association has met with FCC officials five times in the last month to reiterate the same concerns over the program’s reverse auction model. Under this procedure, providers would compete to develop the cheapest cost structure for serving an area with the minimum required speeds – at least 35 Mbps upload and 3 Mbps download in the case of the 5G Fund.

Rural providers are concerned because some areas served by carriers receiving support from legacy funding programs like the Mobility Fund will be eligible for auction. If those carriers lose at auction, the RWA says, the reduction in federal funds might make them unable to continue operating their infrastructure and leave other areas covered by their networks without service.

“There is no ‘safety valve’ put in place that would protect these networks built with federal dollars and maintained by legacy support mobile carriers,” the association wrote in an ex parte filing on Wednesday.

The RWA has proposed the commission seek comment on allowing these providers to opt out of the reverse auction if they are an area’s sole mobile carrier. In such a scenario, the group also wants the FCC to consider subsidizing 5G upgrades based on predicted costs.

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CTIA Report Says 5G Available in 54% of U.S., 35% of Korea and 27% of China

The wireless association says 5G will add $1.5 trillion in GDP and 4.5 million in new jobs over 10 years.

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Illustration from CTIA–The Wireless Association

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2023 – A report by wireless trade association CTIA showed that the United States is making strides towards 5G development, and that the wireless standard is expected to add $1.5 trillion in GDP and 4.5 million of new jobs over the next decade.

Breaking the benefit down by geography, the study showed that 5G has contributed $139 billion to GDP growth in New York City, $65 billion to the Seattle area, $43 billion to Dallas, and $20 billion to San Diego.

The United States has emerged as a frontrunner among its global counterparts in terms of 5G availability, according to CTIA, with 54% coverage. This percentage appears to position it ahead of South Korea by nearly 20 percentage points, while surpassing China’s rate of 27% and more than three times the United Kingdom’s rate of 17%.

The report draws upon a 2021 study by BCG, 5G Promises Massive Job and GDP Growth in the U.S., February 2021, and supplements additional numbers sourced to prior CTIA reports. The trade group attributed the $275 billion of investment by service providers on infrastructure buildouts and enhancement. About $35 billion was spent in  2021.

5G’s faster deployment rate, increased consumer adoption, and superior performance compared to its 4G predecessor make it a key player in bridging the digital divide and mitigating climate change and strengthening national security, CTIA said.

Despite the progress made, the report reiterated the need to obtain more licensed mid-band spectrum to enable network expansion.

“This required a coordinated effort, starting with Congress re-establishing the Federal Communications Commission’s auction authority and auction pipeline,” urged the report.

The commission’s authority to license spectrum has expired in March and has not been renewed.

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