Connect with us

FCC

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to Step Down on Inauguration Day, Saying ‘It’s Time for a New Adventure’

Published

on

Screenshot of Ajit Pai at the Columbia University Federalist Society event

November 30, 2020 — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday announced today that he would step down from his current role when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20, 2021.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission,” said Pai of his eight years working at the United States’ telecommunications regulatory agency, in a statement issued Monday morning.

See what industry groups have to say about “Broadband in a Biden Administration” on Wednesday, December 2, 2020, during Broadband Breakfast Live Online

Pai was appointed to the FCC as a commissioner in 2012 by President Barack Obama and was promoted to chairman in 2017 by President Donald Trump.

The soon-to-be former chairman made an appearance in a webinar hosted by Columbia Law School’s Federalist Society on Monday, during which he expanded on his written notice and his time spent at the FCC.

Pai noted the tumultuous political environment he was thrust into, detailing what it was like to serve under two very different presidential administrations.

“With the exception of a few high profile matters, the FCC has been immune from the political partisanship” that effects other spheres of government, said Pai, who stood by his 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality, claiming that a market-based framework serves consumers best.

According to Pai, the day-to-day tasks of the agency have remained largely the same through fluctuations in government.“ The bread-and-butter work that we do has generally not been something that is politically affiliated,” said Pai, adding that the progress the agency has made on bipartisan matters is what he is happiest to consider a part of his legacy.

Pai touts his work on the digital divide

Pai said he was most proud of the agency’s efforts to close the digital divide, expressing it was the number one way he felt he impacted society. He recalled connecting tribal lands in the middle of a low-income region of Wyoming to high-speed gigabit broadband service.

Pai noted that under his leadership the United States set consecutive records for new fiber deployment in 2018 and 2019, with the number of homes passed by fiber increasing by 5.9 million, and then by 6.5 million the following year.

Spectrum auction accelerated

He further recalled that the agency has held five successful spectrum auctions in the past four years, after only holding one in the four years Pai served as a commissioner under the Obama administration.

Pai recognized that the work he and his fellow commissioners did to designate ’988’ as the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. He also touted his efforts to ensure that rates for interstate and international phone calls are reasonable for incarcerated individuals, will be some of his most impactful.

Pai recognized a change in the communications landscape over the course of his career at the FCC, adding that he believes communications regulation must change to meet the moment.

Social media enters the FCC maelstrom

As the first member of the FCC on Twitter in 2012, Pai watched social media sites develop into what they have become today, recalling that in 2012, “no one could criticize social media corporations.”

Yet today there is bipartisan recognition that change is needed. Pai said “it will be interesting to see what Congress will do to regulate big tech.”

Pai detailed the personal thought process behind his October statement on Section 230, which claimed that the FCC does have the legal authority to interpret the terms of Section 230, saying that “there is currently no transparency about how social media companies are making decisions when it comes to content regulation.”

Pai said “the rule making would have allowed the FCC to question broader things, like what it means for social media sites to regulate sites in terms of ‘good faith.’”

Pai offered advice to his successor, whomever it might be, urging that the future FCC chair make efforts to spend time with the FCC’s staff.

“I’m proud to say I’ve done that, and it enabled us to work better as a unit,” said Pai, who referred to the FCC’s staff as the agency’s best asset.

As for what lies ahead, Pai said he is still considering his options and “taking time to think about it.”

“It’s been a great run but it’s time for a new adventure,” said Pai, who joked about potentially replacing Judge Judy or becoming a slot receiver for Kansas City Chiefs.

Plaudits received from industry groups

“Throughout his tenure, and never more so than during these challenging days of the pandemic, Chairman Pai has prioritized bridging the digital divide and connecting all Americans everywhere to 21st century communications networks,” said Jonathan Spalter, US Telecom CEO. “Our nation’s broadband providers who invest in innovation, dig the trenches, pull the fiber, and climb the poles share that commitment.”

“We commend Chairman Pai for his exceptional stewardship of the Federal Communications Commission,” said NCTA CEO Michael Powell, himself a former FCC chairman. “He set a clear vision for his tenure and the industry and pursued it with purpose, transparency, scholarly rigor and courage.

“During his time as chairman he frequently faced overheated criticism and personal attacks that have become sadly common in the sphere of policymaking,” said Powell of NCTA, which also goes by the name of Internet and Television Association. “During his tenure, Chairman Pai pushed for policies that spurred investment and innovation in our nation’s communications networks while also expanding the benefits of broadband to all Americans.”

“Chairman Pai has been a huge champion of the fixed wireless industry, with his FCC’s tireless efforts to identify, free-up and share spectrum that would otherwise have gone fallow,” said Claude Aiken, CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association. “He helped keep regulation low, and worked to remove other related burdens, which was especially helpful for our small WISP members.  And his dedication to reducing the digital divide, in particular in rural America, is without parallel.” 

See what industry groups have to say about “Broadband in a Biden Administration” on Wednesday, December 2, 2020, during Broadband Breakfast Live Online

FCC

FCC Encouraged to Limit Data Collection on Affordable Connectivity Program, Others Want More

One trade group warns about providers leaving the program if data collection too onerous.

Published

on

Photo of Jonathan Spalter, CEO of US Telecom, from ISE

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is being warned not to overly burden internet service providers with its Congress-mandated order to collect pricing and subscription rates data from participants in the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Under the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the FCC is required by November 15 to adopt rules to collect annual data relating to the price and subscription rates of each internet service offering by a provider participating in the broadband subsidy program, which offers up to $30 per month for low-income households (up to $75 per month on tribal lands) and a one-time $100 off a device.

But a number of submissions are warning the FCC against rules that require any additional data collection efforts beyond the scope of the law so as not to unduly burden providers and, at least one other trade group said, push providers away from participating in the program.

Telecommunications company Lumen, for example, recommended the commission limit the scope of the annual reporting to monthly pricing and to exempt “excessively granular” requirements, such as promotional rates, grandfathered plans, or subscriber-level data, which the commission is proposing to collect.

Communications companies and industry groups want to limit data collection

T-Mobile said in its submission that Congress told the FCC to rely on the broadband consumer labels, which are due this November, for pricing. The commission asked for comment on the interpretation of the IIJA requiring a reliance on price information displayed on the consumer labels.

For subscription information, T-Mobile urges the commission to look at data collection from the Universal Service Administrative Company – which administers high-cost broadband programs for the Universal Service Fund – to avoid “adopting a largely redundant collection that would impose additional burdens” on all parties.

“The IIJA leaves the Commission no discretion to collect any additional price information, and the statute does not require collection of data on other service plan and network characteristics,” such as speed and latency and data allowances, the submission said.

“Collection of this additional data would create additional burdens and is unnecessary,” the submission added.

Similar limitations were also proposed by telecom Starry Inc., which pushed for privacy protection by collecting data at a higher level (such as the state) and working with information collected in other transparency efforts, such as the consumer labels.

Industry association IMCOMPAS, which represents internet and competitive communications networks, told the FCC in a submission that data collection should be limited to the state level to protect consumer privacy and proprietary information of the providers; streamline other data collection, including the consumer labels; and provide instruction on how to providers to better understand the data collection rules.

Concurring with this position is the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, which said data collection must be simple and should not go to a level of detail that goes beyond what the IIJA calls for. The trade group, which represents small providers, said such data collection beyond that required in the law could burden companies with small teams.

The included data, WISPA said, should be an annual aggregate of items including broadband plans subscribed to by ACP customers, number of subscribers for each plan, and pricing minus promotional rates, taxes, discounts or pricing breakdowns for bundled services. Any additional onerous collection could see providers leave the program, it added.

Industry groups US Telecom and NCTA – Internet and Television Association similarly urged a simple annual report that captured undiscounted monthly pricing of each broadband service offering and the number of customers subscribed. The Competitive Carriers Association and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association also recommended a limited data collection approach.

ACA Connects, a trade group representing small and medium-sized independent operators, said the FCC should direct providers to report numbers of ACP households “that are applying their benefit to each speed tier along with the standard price of each tier on a state-by-state basis” – rather than the FCC-proposed continuous collection of subscriber-level data via the National Lifeline Accountability Database, it said, adding the commission should be mindful of the time it takes for completion, as smaller providers have limited resources.

Others pushing for subscriber-level, more data

The cities of New York and Seattle, in their submissions, said the FCC should collect subscriber-level information to assess different service adoption rates on different plans over time – publishing categories based on price, plan and performance by the zip code. It added it is not seeking information about the households itself, and said this would not be a privacy concern as others have pointed out.

Similarly, the Connecticut Office of State Broadband said the commission should go beyond the IIJA requirements by mandating information including performance of the plans and whether a device is offered.

For the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, data collection on the ACP should include data beyond what’s included in the consumer labels, and should include other items such as installation, equipment, service, miscellaneous, data and usage fees, and state and local taxes.

In a joint submission, non-profit media group Common Sense and internet advocacy group Public Knowledge recommended data collection that is necessary to monitor the ACP, which include promotional rates, taxes, overage costs and device and equipment costs. This way, they say, the FCC can get a better idea of how much is going toward internet access after applying the subsidy. They are also asking for the commission to collect information on whether the subsidy is being used to upgrade or discount current service, and how customers are becoming aware of the program.

The commission is currently trying to get more Americans on the program, which has over 13 million households signed up. That number, the commission said last week, should be much higher. As such, it ordered the development of an outreach program to market the subsidy.

Continue Reading

FCC

Former Commissioners Commend FCC in Absence of Fifth Commissioner

But there’s concern a Senate vote on a fifth FCC commissioner will not happen before midterms.

Published

on

Screenshot of Former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2022 – Former chairs of the Federal Communications Commission commended the current FCC administration at a symposium on Wednesday for working together on important issues with a 2-2 party split, but expressed increasing uncertainty about the fate of a fifth commissioner.

The Senate vote to confirm Gigi Sohn, a Democrat and net neutrality advocate, has stalled for months. And former FCC commissioners were wary of her prospects before the midterm elections in November. Some Republican critics are concerned that Sohn, nominated by President Joe Biden in October, won’t be able to remain non-partisan on the issues she would encounter as a commissioner.

“Confirmation is still possible, but with the extended August recess and looming midterm election, there aren’t a lot of legislative days to get the job done,” said former FCC Chair Richard Wiley. With each passing day, the confirmation becomes more difficult, agreed panelists, as the Senate could flip to a Republican-controlled chamber come November.

In the meantime, the former commissioners praised the efforts of the current staff. “A lot of credit should go to the Chairwoman [Jessica] Rosenworcel and indeed to all the commissioners for maintaining a robust agenda over the last year and half and really getting decisions made,” said Wiley. “Two Democrats, two Republicans have worked together to serve the public interest.”

William Kennard added that, “this is an energetic commission, they want to get things done.”

Some initiatives that have received unanimous FCC votes include spectrum-sharing initiatives and robocall enforcement.

Editor’s note: The comments in this story were quoted from and attributed to a July 20, 2022, symposium. That symposium was hosted by the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. 

Continue Reading

FCC

FCC Adopts Spectrum-Sharing Incentives, Proposal on Call Traffic Arbitrage

The agency voted to incentivize the sharing of underutilized spectrum to increase connectivity in the nation.

Published

on

Photo of Nathan Simington, Brendan Carr, Jessica Rosenworcel of FCC (left to right)

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted at its July open meeting Thursday to adopt spectrum-sharing incentives and to crack down on the practice of driving up revenue from call traffic inflation.

The commission voted to adopt a program that will build incentives for larger spectrum holders to make underutilized spectrum available to smaller carriers, tribal nations and entities serving rural areas. The program, called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program, will have incentives including longer license terms, extensions on buildout obligations, and more flexible construction requirements.

The commission is also seeking comment on whether to expand the program eligibility to non-common carriers serving non-rural areas.

“I’m excited to see the new deployments this program will foster,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “I think it will help expand wireless deployment in rural and tribal communities… to make sure we reach 100 percent of us with high-speed service.”

Experts have advocated for more carve-outs for unlicensed spectrum to tackle the growing demand for connections and relieve congestion on existing frequencies. The Rural Wireless Association applauded the FCC Thursday on the vote, saying it believes that program can “encourage the necessary transactions that can expand telecommunications and broadband service in rural America.”

Cracking down on call traffic arbitrage

The commission also proposed rules to address the practice of telephone companies inflating traffic to generate more revenue, which raises costs for long-distance carriers.

Intercarrier compensation is the system of regulated payments that sees carriers compensate each other for cross-carrier call traffic. Some companies, however, continue to take advantage of the system by inflating traffic to extract additional revenues, the FCC identified. As a result, the FCC proposes to adopt monitoring rules to identify illegal arbitrage practices.

“This rulemaking is designed to shut down the loopholes these companies are exploiting,” said Rosenworcel. It would require providers to tally and report call traffic volumes to the FCC to verify its compliance with access stimulation rules, which were adopted in 2019 to clarify financial responsibility for calls.

Other actions

The FCC also proposed a $116 million fine against ChariTel Inc. for a robocall scheme that made nearly 10 million robocalls to toll-free numbers, which then generated revenue for the company from payments by the toll-free service provider.

FCC commissioners further voted to open an inquiry to evaluate how the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program can be modified to support the connectivity needs of domestic abuse survivors.

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending