July 13, 2020 — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai praised the role of broadband tower workers in facilitating a recent “broadcast repack” as part of the agency’s broadcast incentive auction. The repack saw several television broadcasters change their frequencies to make room for wireless broadband services in the spectrum.
“I think it’s fair to say that no group has done more on the ground and in the air to make the benefits of the broadcast incentive auction a reality,” Pai said in an American Consumer Institute webinar Monday. “So, a hat tip to the tower workers of America.”
The repurposed spectrum was especially important considering how the coronavirus pandemic laid bare the necessity of increased broadband access, Pai explained.
“During the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen a spike in consumer demand for broadband services,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude to broadcasters for complying with the repack and making the transition an easy one.
“Thank you to America’s broadcasters, not only for your role [in the change], but also for your partnership during the repack,” he said.
Additionally, Pai commended his counterparts in the agency, emphasizing their dedication to making the challenging project successful.
“I can’t say enough how proud I am to call myself a coworker, and I fully support all of their efforts over the past couple of years,” he said.
In the latter portion of the webinar, Jean Kiddoo, chair of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, said that the auction was an interesting concept that was at times difficult to perform.
“It was an auction where we essentially did not know what we were selling,” she said. “…This was a market-based mechanism to reclaim spectrum to fuel the growth of mobile broadband services and 5G services, but we needed to incentivize broadcasters to voluntarily relinquish spectrum, and then turn around and auction that to wireless carriers.”
FCC Announces Largest Approval Yet for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund: $1 Billion
The agency said Thursday it has approved $1 billion to 69 providers in 32 states.
WASHINGTON, December 16, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced its largest approval yet from the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, greenlighting on Thursday $1 billion from a reverse auction process that ended with award announcements in December but that the new-look agency has been scrutinizing in recent months.
The agency said in a press release that this fifth round of approvals includes 69 providers who are expected to serve 518,000 locations in 32 states over 10 years. Its previous round approved $700 million worth of applications to cover 26 states. Previous rounds approved $554 million for broadband in 19 states, $311 million in 36 states, and $163 million in 21 states.
The agency still has some way to approve the entirety of the fund, as it’s asked providers that were previously awarded RDOF money in December to revisit their applications to see if the areas they have bid for are not already served. So far, a growing list have defaulted on their respective areas, some saying it was newer FCC maps that showed them what they didn’t previously know. The agency said Thursday that about 5,000 census blocks have been cleared as a result of that process.
The FCC also said Thursday it saved $350 million from winning bidders that have either failed to get state certification or didn’t follow through on their applications. In one winning bidder’s case, the FCC said Thursday Hotwire violated the application rules by changing its ownership structure.
“This latest round of funding will open up even more opportunities to connect hundreds of thousands of Americans to high-speed, reliable broadband service,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Today’s actions reflect the hard work we’ve put in over the past year to ensure that applicants meet their obligations and follow our rules. With thoughtful oversight, this program can direct funding to areas that need broadband and to providers who are qualified to do the job.”
Local Government Advisors Concerned by Delay in Sohn Confirmation Process
They also believe Alan Davidson will be viewed more favorably to head the NTIA.
WASHINGTON, December 14, 2021 – Local government advisors are concerned by delays in the confirmation process of Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the Federal Communications Commission, and what those delays will mean for broadband services in local communities.
At the moment, there are reportedly not enough votes from Democrats to confirm Sohn.
The panel of local advisors at a National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors on Monday said the FCC would likely remain split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans until at least February, when the panel says Sohn’s confirmation will probably pass the Senate.
Such a split would prevent the agency from making some major decisions that would ramp up programs to expand broadband access for Americans. For this reason, several civil society groups have asked the Senate for a swift confirmation process of Biden’s nominees.
The panel also said that Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Association, Alan Davidson, will likely be reported favorably out of committee.
Logistical problems for the Affordable Connectivity Program
Panelists also spent significant time discussing what current regulatory agency efforts mean for connectivity.
The panel critiqued the FCC’s transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit to the Affordable Connectivity Program provided for by the newly-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to continue providing students with internet access for e-learning. The program provides monthly subsidies for connectivity and devices for eligible students.
This transition is planned to take place with the start of the 2022 new year, and the agency is fielding comments on how to transition.
The panel stated that because this transition takes place during the school year, it has the potential to strand students without connectivity services. Panelists noted that they have been trying to communicate these concerns to the FCC.
The FCC recently eliminated an enrollment freeze in the EBB that was planned to take place during the transition to the ACP.
FCC Takes Stock of Telehealth Successes, But Acknowledges a Long Way to Go at Agency Event
Procedural hurdles lie ahead for the commission’s telehealth efforts.
WASHINGTON, December 6, 2021 – Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr and several leaders in healthcare said Monday the agency’s efforts to expand telehealth programs for Americans face procedural hurdles before Congress.
The cost of government telehealth expansion efforts is among key factors that create congressional hesitance to rubber stamp the FCC’s telehealth initiatives.
During panel discussions moderated by Carr at a commission event on Monday, experts also remarked that the commission’s efforts would require a good deal of regulatory flexibility that many members of Congress may not be willing to grant it.
Panel guest Deanna Larson, CEO of virtual health network Avera eCARE, testified before the Senate on the matter in October, urging Congress to extend or make permanent its regulatory flexibility toward telehealth.
The panels also spent time discussing the substantial success the FCC has had in expanding telehealth over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts emphasized accomplishments such as the employment of remote monitoring devices by physicians to physically examine patients when they cannot come into the office.
The panel stated that the move from fully in-person healthcare to telehealth can be compared to the significance of the move from “Blockbuster to Netflix,” referencing the at-home experience of the streaming platform.
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