January 22, 2021—President Joe Biden appointed Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to be the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission Thursday afternoon, making the lawyer hailing from West Hartford, Connecticut, the second woman to be appointed to that role in the commission’s 96-year history.
Rosenworcel became an FCC commissioner in 2012. She served in a Democratic majority during the Obama administration and in a Democratic minority during Donald Trump’s term.
“I am honored to be designated as the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Biden,” Chairwoman Rosenworcel said in a statement released Thursday. “I thank the President for the opportunity to lead an agency with such a vital mission and talented staff. It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communications opportunity in the digital age.”
Rosenworcel—known for terming the “Homework Gap”— has been a consistent champion for connecting all Americans to reliable communications infrastructure. She coined the term in 2014 to describe a problem facing communities where schoolchildren can’t access the internet because infrastructure is inadequate, their families can’t afford it, or both.
As a commissioner, Rosenworcel has further supported net neutrality rules, common-carrier regulation of broadband providers, and pushed for increasing the FCC’s broadband-speed standard.
As the president’s choice to lead the agency, one of Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s first actions will likely be to reinstate net neutrality regulations, which received overwhelming bipartisan public support before the agency withdrew them, under Trump.
Over 22 million comments were submitted to the agency in response to the proposed removal of the internet traffic regulations, which declare internet service providers cannot block, throttle, or be paid to prioritize certain sites. “Let’s roar. Let’s make a ruckus. Let’s stop this plan in its tracks,” she tweeted in 2017, when former Republican Chairman Ajit Pai released his plan to rescind the net neutrality rules.
Designating Rosenworcel as the acting chairwoman means that she may not be the chair throughout Biden’s four-year term. Biden could upgrade her role to chairwoman on a permanent basis, or he could give the chair role to whomever he picks as the fifth commissioner.
With Pai having left the FCC yesterday, there is currently a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans. To form a 3-2 Democratic majority, Biden will have to nominate a new commissioner and secure confirmation from the Senate, which shouldn’t be difficult now that Democrats control the chamber.
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks Calls for Environmental Sustainability at Summit
Environmental sustainability in telecom has been a key talking point for Starks.
June 27, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Geoffrey Starks raised on Monday the importance of sustainability in telecommunications as a speaker at the 2022 Broadband for All Summit in Stockholm, Sweden.
An important responsibility for agencies in the industry is building infrastructure that is environmentally sustainable, Starks said, suggesting four avenues to improve sustainability.
First, “we must continue to find ways to do more while using less, and that begins with the way we use spectrum,” he said. We need to “squeeze” the most out of the finite spectrum while simultaneously building networks that draw less power.
Second, “we need to realize our full potential to help other sectors consume less, too.”
We are entering an era where we can “collect, communicate, and analyze massive quantities of data to improve decision-making in real-time. Everything from traffic flow to energy transmission to orders of operation on the factory floor can benefit from data-driven efficiencies that were previously impossible,” he said.
Third, “industry-led initiatives must continue to play a significant role, from progressing towards reducing or eliminating the carbon emissions associated with their operations, to increasing renewable energy and minimizing electronic waste.”
Some manufacturers, according to Starks, have gone beyond carbon neutrality and are aiming for net-zero operations.
Fourth, “we must collectively do our part to mitigate climate change’s harmful effects at the network level”. With harsher weather patterns than previous generation, we should invest in networks that will keep communities connected during storms, floods, wildfires, and other disasters.
Starks, who has pitched environmental sustainability in telecommunications on a multiple occasions, advocated for players in the industry to be “as aggressive as possible with our climate commitments, and we should be as comprehensive as possible in our effort to comply with them.” This should include eliminating waste during the production phase, he said.
FCC to Gather Information on Offshore Spectrum, Accurate 911 Call Routing
The FCC is examining the need and use cases for allocating spectrum for offshore use.
WASHINGTON, June 8, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted in an open meeting Wednesday to examine technology that can improve wireless 911 call routing, propose a fine for interrupting U.S. forest service radio communications, and to seek comment on offshore spectrum needs and uses.
The FCC voted to begin gathering information through public comment on the “possible current and future needs, uses, and impacts of offshore wireless spectrum use,” including for cruise ships, oceanography and wind turbine projects. Other options, like satellite-based systems, are available to provide service.
The construction and operation of windfarms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and communication services between at-sea vessels require offshore spectrum. The notice of inquiry asks what other cases exist that require offshore spectrum access that are not being provided for under existing models.
“We seek more broadly to understand the extent of the demand to use offshore spectrum and more generally where that demand is concentrated,” stated the inquiry.
“It is important that the FCC stay ahead of the curve in its consideration of upcoming commercial spectrum needs and this item does just that,” said commissioner Nathan Simington.
911 call routing
The FCC launched an examination into technology that could result in faster response times by more precisely routing wireless 911 calls to the correct call center.
Some wireless emergency calls are made near city or county borders where the closest call center is in the neighboring jurisdiction, resulting in lost time as calls are rerouted to the correct call center.
Since 2018, when the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on feasibility of routing 911 calls based on location of the caller versus location of the cellular tower, there have been many advancements in location-based routing technology. The FCC issued a Public Notice Wednesday seeking updated information on these technologies and the feasibility of adopting them into public use.
Last month, AT&T announced a new technology that would allow dispatchers to get a more accurate location of distressed calls by using the phone’s GPS.
Proposed fine for violating radio interference rules
The FCC also proposed a $34,000 fine Wednesday against Jason Frawley who, in 2021, allegedly interfered with radio communications that were guiding firefighting during the 1000-acre wildfire near Elk River, Idaho.
Frawley reportedly admitted to a Forest Service supervisor that he broadcasted on government frequencies in direct defiance to the Communications Act which prohibits any interference with authorized radio communications.
Neither the allegations nor the proposed sanctions are final FCC actions, said the press release.
FCC Seeks Comment on Higher Broadband Speeds and Increased Security Measures for Certain Carriers
FCC will consider raising the speed standard for certain carriers that receive fixed monthly funding from the agency.
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted at its open meeting Thursday to seek comment on enhancing the Alternative Connect America Cost Model program, which would raise speed deployment obligations and align security goals with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.
The ACAM program, established in 2016, provides fixed monthly funding to certain carriers serving high-cost and hard-to-reach areas in return for commitments to provide broadband service to all eligible locations.
The ACAM broadband coalition requested that broadband deployment obligations be raised from the current federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload to 100/20 Mbps, the standard now set by the IIJA that will then be required of ACAM carriers to deliver.
Baseline cybersecurity proposal
The FCC is also requesting comment on whether it should “require A-CAM carriers and carriers receiving high-cost support to have a baseline cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans.”
Commissioner Geoffrey Sparks indicated that the FCC will focus its efforts on harmonizing ACAM’s modification proposal with cyber security standards indicated in the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment program, which is managed by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and that will be disbursing billions in broadband infrastructure funding.
“Networks that are subsidized or built with federal funds must be secure,” Sparks said. “This is evident in the constant barrage of attacks on American networks from hostile state and non-state actors.”
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who said the FCC is looking to align its goals with the IIJA, concluded that “this is not the only effort we’re making to ensure that new broadband programs are working hand-in-glove with long-standing FCC efforts.”
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