November 16, 2020 – Officials associated with INCOMPAS, the Internet and Competitive Networks Association, on Thursday predicted that there would be action on net neutrality sooner than expected with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Predicting that the new administration would try to reinstate authority over broadband internet access, Lindsay Stern, attorney and policy advisor at INCOMPAS, said a Democratic Federal Communications Commission would try to classify the internet service as a telecommunications service subject to Title II of the Communications Act, “with the previous forbearance that was granted in the 2015 Open Internet Order” under President Barack Obama.
Stern explained that to do this, the FCC would need to grant a petition for reconsideration of the FCC’s latest remand order which classified broadband internet access service as a Title I service. The agency would also need to issue a separate rulemaking, going a step further from reclassifying to reinstating the net neutrality rules, she said.
With ISP’s implementing data caps more than in the past, Stern predicted that now, there will be pressure to go beyond the 2015 net neutrality rules and address data caps and interconnection fees directly.
Stern postulated that if FCC Chairman Ajit Pai leaves, and with Commissioner Michael O’Rielly gone by the adjournment of Congress this year, and with Nathan Simington’s nomination does not get confirmed, Democrats would end up with a 2-1 vote majority at the agency.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, the two Democrats on the five-member body, are both net neutrality supporters.
Because the remand order of the current FCC action on net neutrality has not yet made it into the Federal Register, which publication starts the timeline an entity to file a petition for reconsideration, it looks likely that Chairman Pai will not have time to respond to a petition for reconsideration by January 20, 2021.
That accelerates the timeline for net neutrality, Stern said.
However, if the FCC takes the Title II approach that former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler took under Obama, that might create momentum for Congress to act.
INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering, a former Republican member of Congress from Mississippi, said that congressional intervention would provide long-term stability and certainty instead of four changes we’ve seen over the past decade with each new administration.
Pickering also projected bipartisan consensus on privacy regulations and Section 230 from the new administration. But coming to an agreement on antitrust enforcement will be much harder, he said, given the endurance of the consumer welfare standard.
Gaming out strategy over the next two months on Section 230 changes
On Section 230 reform, Stern said INCOMPAS thinks with a new Democratic commission, President Donald Trump’s petition by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will be denied or just linger at the FCC: Both Rosenworcel and Starks have repeatedly said that the FCC should not be interpreting 230 and hence be the “president’s speech police.”
That said, the FCC might leave the petition open for the possibility of future action in case there’s no congressional agreement, she said.
INCOMPAS General Counsel Angie Kronenberg said the “pens down” edict recently issued by House Energy and Commerce Committee officials might also affect Section 230 changes.
Stern laid out several scenarios: If Pai wants to move forward with the rulemaking, and if Simington’s nomination does not move forward, the petition would have to be addressed in the commission’s December meeting because Commissioner O’Reilly would still have to vote on it despite his leaving at the end of the year.
If Simington does get confirmed and Pai has the votes for the January open meeting, she said the question would be whether the rulemaking would make it into the federal register before he leaves in order to set off the comment deadline.
Even if that happens, a new chairman does not have to act on the rulemaking at all . Or, the Democratic-named chairman could bring it the matter to a vote and then deny it.
Other broadband matters
INCOMPAS Government Relations Director Andrew Mincheff said Democrats would have an opportunity to shape broadband this administration, especially in light of Pai’s goal to end the agency’s Mobility Fund and move those dollars to the 5G Rural Broadband Fund, from which the FCC would allocate $9 billion over 10 years for reverse auctions.
Chris Shipley, attorney and policy advisor at INCOMPAS, said the new administration would likely look at reform of the Universal Service Fund because the contributions factor has risen steadily over the last few years as accessible revenues have declined around commitments.
He referenced a conference from earlier this week with Mignon Clyburn and Commissioner O’Rielly.
Democrats have an interest in either a connections-based systems or expanding the base of accessible services
By contrast, Republicans seem more interested in addressing the rising contribution factor from general appropriations from Congress, he said. That would be a tough fight given how divided the new Congress will be.
Shipley suggested that reforms could include extending the revenue base and assessing broadband services and other telecommunications services.
Another option might be a connections-based system. Under this approach, either voice ir broadband connections would be assessed a monthly contribution, and a numbers-based system, under which each assigned North American telephone number would be assessed.
Broadband Labels Should Include Practical Applications of Internet Packages: MIT Researchers
The FCC’s broadband label might include the number of movies one can watch at a time with a certain plan.
WASHINGTON, September 19, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming broadband transparency labels should include “interpretive” information that helps consumers understand the practical implications of their internet performance, such as the number of movies they can watch at a time, according to researchers Friday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As directed by Congress in the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the FCC is currently working on a “label” service providers will be required to fulfill that features details of broadband service plans, including monthly price, typical download and upload speeds, latency, packet loss, and other relevant information. The labels, which must be finalized by November, are meant to help consumers make a more informed decision when choosing an internet plan.
Because consumers are often unaware of how aspects of network performance affect the user experience, David Clark and Sara Wedeman of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory said Friday at the TPRC 2022 conference that simply displaying technical metrics – e.g., an average upload speed of 20 Megabits per second (Mbps) – is unlikely to facilitate better user decision making.
The pair recommends the FCC adopt and require of service providers the equivalent of a nutritional label’s daily value field: a “Satisfactory Service Label.” Just as the daily value field makes complicated nutritional information actionable for the average consumer, the SSL will clarify how the technical metrics of an internet package affect performance, Clark said.
“One can propose a somewhat simple SSL for download speed by noting that for each simultaneous HD stream, no more than…about 9 mb/s is necessary. One could probably watch 3 HD streams at once over a 25 mb/s service,” said the paper on which Clark and Wedeman’s TPRC presentation was based.
Difficulties in the labeling process
Paroma Sanyal and Divya Goel of the consulting firm Brattle Group also presented a paper on broadband labeling at TPRC. They argued that mandatory labeling will likely lead to lower prices and higher quality internet plans but also presents economic and legal risks if implemented incorrectly. Sanyal said that the standardized labeling regimes often introduce compliance costs and harm innovation, recommending instead a simple, clear system to minimize the emergence of unintended consequences.
Sanyal’s and Goel’s paper – coauthored with the Brattle Goup’s Coleman Bazelon – argues that the FCC’s current guidance doesn’t provide a specific definition of “typical” network performance, leaving much interpretation to broadband providers.
The paper also notes a multitude of technical factors outside the provider’s control that could affect performance. “For fixed broadband factors such as the vintage of equipment on the consumer premises…for mobile broadband, the vintage and type of handsets, weather, and location of the consumer are important,” the paper reads.
“As an illustration, typical speeds in a DC neighborhood may not be the typical speeds in a Baltimore neighborhood, which begs the question of how geographically targeted such labels should be, and, of course, the associated costs,” the paper adds.
Library and Education Technology Groups Pan FCC Proposal for New E-Rate Procurement
Responders fear that updating the E-Rate process will increase complexity for applicants.
WASHINGTON, August 26, 2022 – Responders to the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rulemaking to force internet service providers to bid for school and library services through a new portal expressed concern that the proposal would needlessly complicate the process.
The FCC’s E-Rate program supplements schools and libraries securing affordable telecommunications and broadband services through the Universal Service Fund. Earlier this year, the FCC released a proposal that would “streamline program requirements for applicants and service providers, strengthen program integrity… and decrease the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse.”
The proposal suggests implementing a central document repository, called a bidding portal, through which internet service providers would submit bids to the program administrator, the Universal Service Administrative Company, instead of directly to applicants at a state and local level. Currently, libraries and schools announce they are seeking services and service providers apply directly to those institutions.
With the adoption of this proposal, applicants would be required to submit competitive bidding documentation that would enable applicants to compare competing bids and the USAC would establish timeframes on when applicants are able to review the bids that providers submit.
The proposal is in response to a September 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office which addressed what the GAO considers the E-Rate program’s key fraud risks. It reported that E-Rate participants could easily misrepresent self-certification statements by violating competitive-bidding rules or processes. These violations could occur without the Commission’s or USAC’s knowledge because they do not have direct access to the bidding information.
The GAO suggested that allowing the USAC direct access to obtain and monitor bidding information would improve security and strengthen program controls.
Proposal widely panned by CoSN and educational technology directors
However, response to the proposal was widely negative, with commenters raising concern that changing the process would needlessly complicate a system that, according to Verizon, is already promoting fair and open bidding on E-Rate contracts.
The Consortium for School Networking, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, and the National School Boards Association claimed that the Commission’s past reliance on state and local procurement requirements has been a success and has not led to an undue amount of fraud and abuse, negating the need to update the process.
Creating a national bidding portal could also interfere with existing state and local bidding requirements and unduly complicate the bidding process, hindering E-Rate participation, said the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors in its comment to the FCC.
“A bidding portal would interfere with existing state and local bidding and procurement processes, which would likely cause significant issues for applicants and may cause some to have to drop out of the E-Rate program,” read NATOA’s report.
The establishment of a national E-rate bidding portal would be “unnecessary, burdensome and will increase the complexity of, rather than simplify the E-rate program,” agreed South Dakota’s Department of Education in its statement.
National level or local level changes
Since the FCC’s announcement in December, the proposed changes have been subject to much debate. John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning, wrote in April that the E-Rate changes would be detrimental, claiming that procurement decisions are best made at the local level, rather than a “one-size-fits-all system.”
Furthermore, John Windhausen, executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, said in December that the proposal will burden applicants, despite the potential benefits of eliminating at least some forms of fraud. Windhausen claimed that there is not enough evidence to show that a new portal is needed.
However, the proposal has not been universally dismissed. In a comment filed last week, the United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, which is responsible for enforcing antitrust laws, expressed support for the proposal saying that it would “enhance the ability of the FCC’s Office of Inspector General to detect and deter fraud in the E-Rate program.”
The DOJ added that the update would allow for more robust enforcement of laws, including investigation and prosecution of antitrust and related crimes that occur during E-Rate procurements. “All responsive service providers and applicants are in a position to complete the additional step,” said the DOJ in response to critics citing undue burden.
The proposal remains in consideration at the 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.
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.
- Tech Against Texas Social Media, Alabama Middle Mile Grant, IP3 Awards Bestowed
- State Broadband Maps Show Significantly Fewer Served Locations than Does FCC’s Map
- As LEO Industry Grows, FCC Adopts Rule to Limit Space Debris
- Shielding Broadband Grants from Taxes, American at ITU, Google Fiber Multi-Gig Speeds
- Public–Private Partnership Model ‘Most Effective Way’ to Address Digital Divide: AT&T Rep
- In Video Session, Christopher Mitchell Digs Into Community Ownership and Open Access Networks
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Broadband Roundup4 weeks ago
AT&T Sues T-Mobile Over Ad, Nokia Partners with Ready, LightPath Expanding
Broadband Roundup4 weeks ago
Promoting Affordable Connectivity Program, Google Bars Truth Social, T-Mobile Wins 2.5 GHz Auction
Broadband Mapping & Data2 weeks ago
Broadband Mapping Masterclass on September 27, 2022
Broadband Mapping & Data3 weeks ago
FCC’s Fabric Challenge Process Important Part of Getting Map Right, Agency Says
WISP3 weeks ago
Wisper Internet CEO Takes Issue With Federal Government Preference for Fiber
Big Tech3 weeks ago
A White House Event, Biden Administration Seeks Regulation of Big Tech
Funding3 weeks ago
NTIA Middle Mile Director Stresses Need for Infrastructure to Withstand Climate Events
Fiber4 weeks ago
In ‘Office Hours’ Sessions, NTIA Addresses Questions of Middle Mile Grant Applicants