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FCC Proposes 100 Megahertz Mid-Band Spectrum, NTCA on 800 Numbers, WISPA’s 10 Takeaways from Auction

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Photo of WISPA CEO Claude Aiken from October 2019 by Drew Clark

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shared his plan Tuesday (PDF) to make the 3.45-3.55 GigaHertz (GHz) band available for commercial use in the United States, setting aside 100 megahertz for commercial 5G use.

“With this 3.45 GHz band proposal, the upcoming C-band auction of 280 megahertz of spectrum, and the recently completed auction for Priority Access Licenses in the 3.5 GHz band, the Commission is on track to make a wide swath of 530 megahertz of continuous mid-band spectrum available for 5G,” said Pai, who heads the Federal Communications Commission.

This plan would also work to fulfill congress’s MOBILE NOW Act, which calls for the agency to “make new spectrum available for flexible use,” and work with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to determine the feasibility of this band’s commercial use.

The law also calls for new rules “to enable commercial use and coordination between federal and non-federal users.”

The White House and Defense Department on August 10 announced operations in the band could make space for commercial 5G operations.

NTCA discusses intercarrier compensation for 800 numbers

The rural broadband association NTCA raised concerns to the FCC (PDF) about the intercarrier compensation rates associated with 800 numbers.

The association is concerned about additional costs on rural local exchange carriers.

NTCA therefore urged the FCC “to make explicit in any upcoming order with respect to 8YY traffic that, in the absence of mutual agreement, no party may force a change to any RLEC’s existing interconnection points that define financial responsibility for interconnection and transport of calls pursuant to any tariff, contract, or other arrangement even if the intercarrier compensation rates applicable under such vehicles may be altered by a Commission order.”

If the FCC did decide to make changes to interconnection responsibilities, reductions in access revenues would follow.

WISPA’s 10 takeaways from CBRS auction

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association touted its members success in winning more than 3600 license bids in the Federal Communication Commission’s Auction 105, the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. Claude Aiken, CEO of WISPA, detailed his 10 lessons learned for fixed wireless broadband providers and their communities: 

  1. Size matters. WISPA’s success challenges the idea that the most efficient way to auction-off limited spectrum is through large geographic license areas.
  2. Competition matters. Everyone benefits from competition in spectrum licenses. The US Treasury makes more money and the diversity of applicants result in innovation. “The FCC should work to include licenses that can better accommodate small innovators in all its future auctions.”
  3. Consumers win.  More useable spectrum equals more consumer benefits.
  4. The auction solidifies the “wireless play” as a model for broadband deployment. To successfully connect Americans with broadband infrastructure, all the resources in the broadband sector need to be used.
  5. The CBRS model of spectrum sharing – with some form of SAS or AFC – is not going away.  The strength of the bids give confirm that the system works. “With little or no ‘greenfield,’ mid-band spectrum available, the CBRS auction model proves new spectrum can be ‘found’ and then better utilized via a more diverse range of actors than previously allowed.”
  6. Rural areas win.  91% of all licenses sold were in rural areas, showing the significant interest and investment in rural America. Almost 70 members of WISPA won bids for over 3600 licenses in over than 1350 counties, which represented over 17% of all the licenses won.  Considering the fixed wireless industry’s reliance on Part 15 unlicensed spectrum to serve its customers, the $100.4 million they spent in Auction 105 was unprecedented.
  7. The spectrum for which WISPs placed winning bids will be rapidly used to serve rural communities in the digital divide. This will improve current services by combining with access to 80 MHz of GAA spectrum and working to open new high-speed services for areas that did not have them before.
  8. WISPs are maturing, evolving, and growing through reduced regulation, better access to capital, and aggressive market entry.  In areas with good infrastructure available like CBRS spectrum, WISPs have taken advantage of opportunities to serve areas that legacy providers rate “too unprofitable to their bottom line.”
  9. WISPs (and their communities) are not waiting for Big Mobile to deploy 5G.  They’re growing broadband where it’s wanted and needed right now. CBRS and good fixed wireless spectrum in general that growth. It would benefit Policymakers to identify and free-up spectrum for those who are working to bridge the digital divide.
  10. The $4.5 billion investment in the 70 MHz of the licensed portion of the CBRS band will aid growth of the GAA spectrum, which will invite the ecosystem to craft solutions to make the entire 150 MHz of the CBRS band useable for licensed and license-by-rule players. “This success should encourage the FCC to allocate the neighboring 3.45 – 3.55 GHz with a similar sharing model and auction process.”

Reporter Liana Sowa grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She studied editing and publishing as a writing fellow at Brigham Young University, where she mentored upperclassmen on neuroscience research papers. She enjoys reading and journaling, and marathon-runnning and stilt-walking.

Broadband Roundup

Democrats Frustrated with Biden Inaction on FCC, Comcast Gets 10 Gbps, Louisiana Wants Widespread Broadband

Democrats frustrated with Biden’s delay on FCC, Comcast tests 10 Gbps speed, Louisiana wants 75% more broadband in six years.

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

October 14, 2021 – Democrats in Congress have grown increasingly frustrated at President Biden’s slow pace in naming a permanent commissioner to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, according to a report from Politico.

Nearly ten months after President Biden’s January inauguration, congressional Democrats worry that the president’s progressive telecommunications agenda is at risk, the report said.

Senator Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, told Politico that “there’s no good excuse” for Biden’s delay in nominating an FCC chair. Luján added that he is “absolutely fearful that what the administration is setting up is a 2-1 Republican majority FCC under a Democratic administration. That is unacceptable.”

Pressure on Biden to nominate an FCC chair arrives as Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel gains support from members of Congress and stakeholders.

Earlier this month, former FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly said he is “perplexed” by Biden’s inaction to formalize Rosenworcel as chair. Seventeen education groups wrote a letter to Biden in September urging him to make her the permanent chair, while over two dozen senators signed their own letter asking for the same. Senators Elizabeth warren and Bernie Sanders did not sign onto the letter, signaling a possible disconnect amongst Democrats about who is the best person for the job.

Politico reports that, for comparison, former President Donald Trump named Ajit Pai as FCC chair only three days after being sworn in. No previous president has taken this long to name an FCC chair, the story said. Biden’s delay is alarming to Congressional Democrats who have been eager to confirm Biden’s nominees for the position.

Comcast says it has achieved 10 Gbps internet speed in test

Comcast said it has achieved internet speeds of 10 Gigabits per second on a test using new DOCSIS 4.0 technology.

A Thursday press release claimed it is the world’s first test of a “10G” connection, 10 times faster than the gigabit internet speeds that in many areas are the fastest speeds money can buy. Such speeds using the latest DOCSIS 4.0 technology was already predicted.

The cable company conducted the test at the Virtual SCTE Cable-Tec Expo from its network to a modem. The promise, according to Comcast, is that because the process is virtualized, it will be able to deliver these speeds to existing connections already in homes.

Louisiana to boost broadband by 75% in six years using FCC funds: report

Louisiana will use $342 million it received from the Federal Communications Commission to close 75 percent of the state’s broadband access problems in six years, according to a report from the Louisiana Illuminator.

“[W]e have to work with a sense of urgency” said Veneeth Iyengar, executive director of the Broadband Development and Connectivity Office.

Iyengar said he believes the state’s estimate that 500,000 households do not have broadband access is a “lowball estimate.” However, Iyengar struck an optimistic tone when discussing the possibilities for the funding.

The FCC granted Louisiana the $342 million last year. The office’s goal is to serve 100 percent of Louisiana households with broadband access by 2029.

Republican congressman Luke Letlow from Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District told the Louisiana Illuminator that he does not have high speed internet at his home in Start. Letlow compared broadband infrastructure to our physical roads and bridges. “There’s no difference, in my mind, in putting investments in the information superhighway,” Letlow said.

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Broadband Roundup

AT&T Hurricane Survey, FCC Announces $1.1B from Emergency Connectivity Fund, Comcast’s Utah Plans

AT&T copper facilities suffered significant damage after Ida, FCC’s second round of ECF, and Comcast’s expanded plans for low-income Utahns.

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AT&T CEO John Stankey.

October 13, 2021 – AT&T has reported that its copper facilities suffered “significant” damage in parts of Baton Rouge, Louisiana following Hurricane Ida this summer, but said it is pivoting to different technologies to restore affected areas.

On Wednesday, the company told the Federal Communications Commission that a survey of the damage from the Category 4 hurricane “revealed numerous facilities significantly damaged, including copper cables and terminals that have been temporarily repaired to restore service to the impacted customers.”

The company has said that it is using existing technologies, including its gigabit passive optical network and its fiber to the premises infrastructure to “mitigate all affected customers previously served on copper cables in the affected distribution areas.”

FCC announced another $1.1 billion from Emergency Connectivity Fund

The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday another $1.1 billion in a second round for its $7-billion Emergency Connectivity Fund program, which provides funding for schools and libraries to buy connected devices and connectivity.

The latest funding round will toward 2.4 million devices and 1.9 million broadband connections, the agency said.

“This new round of funding will connect even more students and library patrons with new tools for online learning and communicating with teachers in our ongoing work to close the Homework Gap,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release.

“We are providing resources for schools and libraries across the country, from tiny communities in Delta Junction, Alaska supporting Delta Community Library, to large school districts like New York City.  Together with the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, the Commission is investing more than $10 billion to support America’s critical broadband needs.”

The second wave of funding follows the $1.2 billion the agency said last month it will be disbursing, which will go to 3,040 schools, 260 libraries and 24 consortia. The FCC said in a press release Tuesday that it has so far processed 60 percent of applications.

The two waves of funding will so far go toward connecting eight million students.

Comcast announces expansion plans for low-income Utahns

Alongside state and city leaders, Comcast announced Tuesday additional plans for its 10-plus year mission to connect low-income residents of Utah and to close the digital divide in the state.

Those plans, part of the company’s “Project UP,” include engaging state, county and city leaders to open more free Wi-Fi zones, “connect more families to the Internet at home, and increase speeds for businesses and families across the state,” it said in a Tuesday press release. The Internet Essentials program has connected 10 million people to the internet at home, the company said.

“Comcast’s expanded eligibility for Internet Essentials, now including all Federal Pell Grant recipients within its service area, will enable even more students to stay connected as they continue to pursue degrees at colleges, universities, and technical schools,” the release said.

“Comcast’s top priorities are connecting people to the Internet at home, equipping safe spaces with free WiFi and working with a robust network of nonprofit community organizations, city leaders, and business partners to create opportunities for low-income Americans.”

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Broadband Roundup

Facebook Changes and Second Whistleblower, Comcast’s Spam Call Feature, AT&T Picks Ericsson for 5G

Facebook is nudging teens away from harmful content, Comcast’s new spam call blocker, AT&T goes with Ericsson for standalone 5G.

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Sophie Zhang from NBC news interview earlier this year.

October 12, 2021 – Following testimony from a whistleblower claiming Facebook can’t be trusted with research that shows its photo-sharing app Instagram is harmful to teens’ mental health, the company said it is making changes to the content people see even as another whistleblower said she is willing to testify in front of Congress.

The company has been under pressure since the release of a Wall Street Journal story that reported Facebook knew about the negative impact of Instagram on the mental health of teens, which triggered a call by lawmakers for the company to suspend the development of an Instagram for kids to which it obliged.

The company announced this weekend that it is making changes to its Instagram platform, including promoting teens to take a break from it and “nudging” teens away from the same content that they deem not good for their health.

But the company is now facing a possible second whistleblower, who said she provided to a U.S. law enforcement agency “detailed documentation regarding potential criminal violations.” Sophie Zhang, a data scientist for Facebook, said she is willing to testify before Congress about her experience, according to CNN.

As for the first whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who testified in front of Congress on October 5, will meet with Facebook’s Oversight Board, an independent panel the company set up to review executive decisions, according to reports.

Comcast introduces feature for customers to block spam calls

Comcast Corp. on Tuesday announced a new feature that will allow the company’s Xfinity Voice customers to block inbound calls based on risk levels that the company’s systems flag as possible spam.

The new feature will categorize calls as low, medium and high risk of being a nuisance call and will give customers the ability to choose, through the Xfinity Connect portal, what the company should do with which level of risk.

By default, the company blocks high risk calls, sends medium risk calls to voicemail and allows low risk calls to go through. “Customers will receive notifications of the call’s risk rating on their Caller ID as well as on the largest screen in their home – the TV – and can easily manage their preference settings using the Xfinity Connect portal,” the company said in a Tuesday release.

The company said the new Spam Blocker feature will give customers “added control over unwanted spam, spoofing and robocalls to their home.”

The new feature follows another the company released last March, called Verified Caller ID, which made visible on caller ID calls that were verified by the company as not spoofed – in other words, that the number is where the call is actually coming from and not faked.

The two features are part of the company’s efforts to meet the regulatory requirements for the STIR/SHAKEN regime, which requires telephone companies to put in place measures to limit and restrict spam and illegal robocalls and that has been in place for large carries since June 30. These companies have been working with analytics companies to help them sift through what’s a legitimate call and what isn’t.

Smaller telephone service providers have until June 2022 to implement similar measures, but some in the industry are asking that facilities-based carriers – which are said to let through much fewer spam calls – to be given until 2023.

AT&T partnering with Ericsson for 5G network

AT&T has selected Sweden’s Ericsson for a standalone 5G network using C-band spectrum, the company said Monday.

The five-year deal will go toward covering 70-75 million people with 5G over the C-band spectrum by the end of 2022, with a plan to reach 200 million people by the end of 2023, according to a Monday press release. A standalone network does not rely on a 4G backbone.

“Ericsson will help AT&T to bring its 5G network to more consumers, businesses and first responders across key industries – including 5G use cases in sports and venues, entertainment, travel and transportation, business transformation and public safety,” the release said.

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