Connect with us

Federal Agencies

FCC Urged to Address Overbuilding and Broadband Tech Neutrality in Agency Coordination

The FCC should incorporate the mapping data from local governments to avoid overbuilding, ensure technology neutrality.

Published

on

Photo of Tom Vilsack, secretary for the Department of Agriculture

WASHINGTON, August 3, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission should incorporate the mapping data from local governments to avoid overbuilding, assure a technology neutrality position, and make more transparent the coordination process with other federal agencies, according to responses to the FCC proceeding on interagency coordination.

Last month, the FCC issued a public notice inviting comment on the interagency agreement between the FCC, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and National Telecommunications and Information Administration on coordinating broadband efforts, known as the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act. The comments received will be reported to Congress as findings and potential improvements to the agreement.

BICA currently outlines that agencies must provide information about project areas, entities that provide broadband services, levels of broadband service provided, and each entity that has or will receive funds to provide service in that area upon request from another agency.

In its submission Monday, NCTA, the Internet and Television Association, called for the agreement to include efforts to ensure that all federal agencies avoid awarding funds to locations that have already been funded, eliminating overbuilding and inefficient use of taxpayer resources.

For example, the USDA’s ReConnect program currently permits funding in areas where a provider has already committed to build out using funds from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

To ensure agencies have a picture of existing funds, the NCTA suggests that the agreement facilitate the development of a comprehensive map of funded locations using local data. It further suggests that the agreement be amended to require the use of both the FCC’s Broadband DATA Act maps and challenge process – which is currently in development – as well as the Deployment Locations Map, which is required through the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.

USTelecom, a trade association representing telecom-related businesses, added its support to avoid overbuilding . “A key policy objective of any federal government support program is that money is not spent twice on the same project… the federal agencies can improve BICA coordination by requiring these state agencies to report where they are making awards once the award is made,” it wrote.

USTelecom has denounced the idea of using funds from federal grant programs to create broadband access to areas that have already been provided access through other federal funds. Other experts, however, suggest that overbuilding may be good so long as funds subsidize newer, better networks, not older technologies.

USTelecom further suggests in its submission that federal agencies can improve coordination by requiring state agencies to report where they are making awards once they are made. Currently, none of the rules for federal programs that support broadband builds require states to report where service will be provided with the funds until after the project is complete. The comment indicated that early reporting will advance the FCC’s ability to access and move forward with critical decisions and avoid overbuilding.

Other submitters want technology neutrality, transparency of information

SpaceX, a low earth orbit satellite service provider, said in its own submission that the agreement should “adopt uniform technology neutrality” in considering broadband services. This would reduce inconsistencies regarding which deployment technologies are funding-eligible under various programs and help avoid exclusive funding toward one type of service, read the comment.

Technology neutral standards would allow states, territories and tribes to compare broadband services and providers to help them determine which is the best option for their needs, the comment added.

The NCTA also suggested Congress release information on coordination between agencies, including issues that are resolved, and how often the agencies meet. “Greater transparency will enable interested parties to better assess the effectiveness of the interagency coordination,” the comment reads.

The submissions come as the FCC and the NTIA agreed on a memorandum of understanding, released Monday, that outlines how often and when they will coordinate on spectrum-related issues.

FCC

Proposed Rules to Improve National Alert System Unnecessary, Say Critics

Proposed rules to improve EAS security and operational readiness are unnecessary, say commenters.

Published

on

Photo of Federal Emergency Management Agency

WASHINGTON, January 18, 2023 – Participants to the national public warning system claim that the Federal Communications Commission’s October rulemaking to improve its security and operational readiness will unduly increase resource and monetary burdens on participants. 

The national warning system is composed of the Emergency Alert System, which transmits important emergency information to affected areas over television and radio, and the Wireless Emergency Alert System, which delivers that information to the public on their wireless devices. Participation in the system is voluntary for wireless providers, but radio and television broadcasters are required to deliver Presidential alerts via the EAS. 

In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC sought comment on ways to strengthen the operational readiness of the warning system by requiring EAS participants to report compromises of equipment and WEA participants to annually certify to having a cybersecurity risk management plan in place. It further asked that commercial mobile service providers “take steps to ensure that only valid alerts are displayed on consumer devices,” citing several instances where false alerts were given following a system hack. 

Measures are unnecessary 

Participants argued that such measures are unnecessary in reply comments to the Commission.  

The proposals in the Notice are “unnecessary and will not meaningfully enhance operational readiness or security of EAS,” stated the National Association of Broadcasters in its comments, claiming that the Notice “presents only scant evidence of EAS equipment failures and new security threats, and thus does not justify the myriad measures proposed.” 

Furthermore, NAB claimed, the notice fails to present a clear rationale for how the Commission’s heightened situational awareness would improve EAS readiness. 

ACA Connects, a trade association representing small and mid-sized telecom and TV operators, added that the Notice identifies only two EAS security breaches in the past ten years, which, as the company said, is “hardly an epidemic.” 

Participating mobile service providers have cyber risk management plans in place already, making any separate cyber certification requirement for WEA unnecessary and likely to cause fragmentation of service-specific plans, claimed wireless trade association, CTIA. 

Increased participant burden 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for national-level activation and tests of the systems, stated in its comments that it is concerned about the potential increased burden placed upon participants. 

EAS participants voluntarily and at no cost provide state and local alerts and mobile service providers voluntarily participate in WEA without compensation. FEMA argued that some stakeholders may “have difficulty justifying additional resources necessary to comply with increasing regulation.” 

The proposed reporting, certification, and cyber management obligations are far too complex for many EAS participants to implement, stated NAB, claiming that the Commission’s estimation of costs are “wildly unrealistic,” not considering additional hires such a plan would require. 

Mobile provider AT&T added that requirements for updating cybersecurity plans would divert valuable resources from the ongoing, broad cybersecurity efforts that participants engage in daily. The proposed authentication would inhibit the timely release of critical emergency alerts without completely eliminating false WEA messages, it continued.  

The Center for internet Security, however, supported the FCC’s proposed actions, claiming that it moves forward with “critically important” measures to protect the nation’s alert systems from cyber threats. 

Continue Reading

Funding

CES 2023: NTIA to Address Broadband, Spectrum, and Privacy, Says Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson asserted that marginalized communities are harmed disproportionately by privacy violations.

Published

on

Photo of NTIA Adminstrator Alan Davidson

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s 2023 priorities will include the funding and facilitation of states’ broadband deployment programs, the development of a national spectrum policy, and actions to protect the privacy of marginalized groups, said Administrator Alan Davidson at the Consumer Electronics Show on Saturday.

The NTIA’s most high-profile task is to oversee the operations of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, a $42.45 billion slush fund for broadband-infrastructure deployments which will be divided among the governments of states and U.S. territories. Those governments will administer final distribution of the BEAD funds in accordance with the NTIA’s guidelines.

“This is our generation’s big infrastructure moment,” Davidson said. “This is our chance to connect everybody in the country with what they need to thrive in the modern digital economy, and we are going to do it.”

Davidson reiterated his agency’s stated intention to develop a comprehensive national spectrum strategy to facilitate the various spectrum interests of government and private industry. To allocate spectrum in a manner that fulfills federal needs and stimulates the growth of innovators, largely in the sector of 5G, the NTIA – the administrator of federally used spectrum – must coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission – the administrator of other spectrum.

Calling for a national privacy law, Davidson asserted that marginalized communities are harmed disproportionately by privacy violations. He stated that the NTIA will, possibly within weeks, request public comment on “civil rights and privacy.”

Continue Reading

5G

CES 2023: Commissioner Starks Highlights Environmental Benefits of 5G Connectivity

Starks also said federal housing support should be linked to the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Published

on

Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (left) and CTA’s J. David Grossman

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – Commissioner Geoffrey Starks of the Federal Communications Commission spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show Saturday, touting connectivity assistance for individuals who benefit from housing assistance as well as the potential environmental benefits of 5G.

The FCC-administered Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes monthly internet bills and one-time devices purchases for low-income Americans. Although many groups are eligible – e.g., Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollees – Starks said his attention is primarily on those who rely on housing support.

“If you are having trouble putting food on your table, you should not have to worry about connectivity as well,” Starks said. “If we are helping you to get housed, we should be able to connect that house,” he added.

Environmental benefits of 5G

In addition to economic benefits, 5G-enabled technologies will offer many environmental benefits, Starks argued. He said the FCC should consider how to “ensure folks do more while using less,” particularly in the spheres of spectral and energy efficiency.

“This is going to take a whole-of-nation (approach),” Starks said. “When you talk to your local folks – mayors – state and other federal partners, making sure that they know smart cities (and) smart grid technology…making sure that we’re all unified on thinking about this is exactly where we need to go to in order to drive down the carbon emissions.”

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts
* = required field

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner

Trending