FCC Breach Notifications, More 6 GHz Testing?, Alaskan Middle Mile Options

FCC looks to strip time to notify and expand definition of breach for telecom reporting.

FCC Breach Notifications, More 6 GHz Testing?, Alaskan Middle Mile Options
Screenshot of Kevin Robinson, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance

January 9, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to modify its breach reporting requirements for telecommunications companies, including expanding definitions for what to disclose and shrinking timelines on when notifications need to be made.

In the proposal released Friday, the commission is proposing to expand the mandatory breach reporting requirement to “inadvertent disclosures,” whereas previously the rule was specific to intentionally access to customers’ personal information.

The proposal also asks whether the commission should eliminate reporting waiting periods. Currently, breaches are reported to law enforcement within seven days of knowledge of the breach; they are then reported to customers after those seven days are up. The proposed rules would require providers to notify law enforcement and affected customers “as soon as practicable” and “without unreasonable delay.”

Comments are due 30 days after the proposal is published in the federal register, with reply comments due 30 days after that.

The proposal comes after telecommunications companies suffered a number of breaches over the years. In 2015, AT&T settled with the FCC to resolve three data breaches at call centers in other countries. In 2017, Verizon confirmed a leak of personal data of six million customers after a security misconfiguration on a cloud server. And in 2021, T-Mobile said that the personal information of over 50 million customers was stolen by hackers.

T-Mobile settled a class action lawsuit for $350 million last year.

Wi-Fi Alliance says calls for more 6 GHz unlicensed testing ‘groundless’

The Wi-Fi Alliance is asking the FCC to ignore “groundless requests” asking for the commission to do further testing to validate the opening of the 6 Gigahertz spectrum band for unlicensed use.

In November, the commission approved 13 spectrum coordination systems to test unlicensed devices on the spectrum band, which was opened up by the FCC for unlicensed use in April 2020 and then withstood a legal challenge.

But in a series of letters to the commission, 6 GHz license holders have asked that the FCC conduct field tests to validate unlicensed operations in the band. The National Spectrum Management Association has previously alleged that the opening of the band to a possible one billion portable WiFi devices was done without proper testing.

But in a letter from Thursday, the Wi-Fi Alliance has said that these requested field tests are not required.

“Mandating such testing would disrupt the introduction of new spectrum uses and technology to the market, delaying Americans’ ability to realize their benefits and harming American competitiveness,” the letter said. “The Commission must continue to reject this lose-lose proposition.”

The alliance points to the court’s decision, which did not require field tests for the band.

“Indeed, the Court has routinely upheld other Commission spectrum decision in which potential interference concerns were raised without finding that the Commission was required to conduct testing before making its decision.

“Accordingly, the 6 GHz Incumbents now insist on the Commission satisfying a higher bar than the Court itself has imposed,” the letter added.

Alaska seeking middle mile build options

The trade group Alaska Telecom Association has told the FCC that current options for low earth orbit satellite broadband service in the region are not meeting requirements for the state’s broadband plans.

“Starlink is offering broadband service in Alaska, but the service is being offered exclusively as a retail consumer service and is not available to carriers as middle mile transport,” the group said in a meeting summary letter on Friday.

“It is our understanding that all capacity of the OneWeb constellation in the northern region of Alaska is dedicated to existing contracts, and additional capacity is not available at this time,” the letter said, adding the company is meeting requirements of the contracts it is currently supporting but, “based on performance testing to date, the service is unlikely to meet the performance testing requirements applicable to the Alaska Plan.”

Alaska is known for having rough terrain and cold weather that make some broadband builds difficult. The group said in the letter it continues to seek the construction of on-the-ground middle mile infrastructure “wherever economically possible.”

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