Archive for August, 2014
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Today we are pleased to release our first update to the FCC E-rate Maps of Fiber Connectivity to Schools and Libraries reflecting feedback we have received from stakeholders. These valuable data from state programs, school districts, and Internet providers across the country have assisted us turn the gray, not known, parts of the map to a identified fiber connectivity status.
We are grateful for the interest these types of maps have already received and are pleased to release an updated version of the maps today, just one week right after our initial release. This edition of the maps includes comments obtained and verified as of 3: 30p EDT on 8/18/14 and changes the weighting schemes to give a stronger preference to data submitted expressly for the purposes of this E-rate proceeding.
The E-rate maps will continue to evolve and improve, along with the underlying data, available on the E-Rate Modernization Data web page. We hope that stakeholders in the E-rate process will continue to stay involved with our team by submitting comments to schoolfibermap@fcc. gov for institutions and libraryfibermap@fcc. gov for your local library.
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Last 30 days the Commission took a major step forward in modernizing E-rate by tackling the school and library Wi-Fi space, maximizing cost-effective purchasing, and phasing down support for non-broadband solutions. In addition , the item includes a Further Discover of Proposed Rulemaking that looks for comment on, among other things, the long-term financing needs of the program in light of the overall broadband goals and the annual $1 billion target for Wi fi adopted in the E-rate Modernization Purchase.
Chairman Wheeler made clear that data will generate answers to questions about system funding, based on an understanding of present school and library connectivity as well as the projected costs necessary for all institutions and libraries to meet the goals adopted in the E-rate Modernization Purchase.
In support of this goal, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Agency and Office of Strategic Preparing and Policy today released an employee report summarizing what we have learned to date as the result of an extraordinary effort to collect and analyze data, both regarding the current state of communications technology within America’s libraries and schools along with the way the E-Rate program provides support. We also published two maps providing a visualization of present fiber availability for schools plus libraries across the country.
The report is a highly illuminating look over, both for longtime experts within the E-rate program as well as those a lot more broadly interested in the state of schooling technology in America today. A few information from the report really stand out:
- The Commission’s E-rate Modernization Purchase has the potential in order to dramatically expand access to funding meant for Wi-Fi upgrades. Of note, close to half of applicants in Funding 12 months 2012 spent less than $150 per-student on internal connections, the budget followed by the Commission in the E-Rate Modernization Order , however, many applicants spent far more, ensuring that most schools and libraries would not get such support. With the adoption of reasonable budgets, $1 billion within annual support for Wi-Fi needs to be sufficient to ensure Wi-Fi connectivity in most school and library.
- Phasing down support meant for non-broadband services will, over the next five Funding Years, result in a overall of over $3. 5 billion dollars which will be freed up and reallocated to higher priority broadband connections in order to and within schools and your local library.
- The report confirms that while there is work to be done in connecting more schools in order to fiber, the current state is relatively better than expected. With a large set of data indicating that approximately two-thirds of schools have access to fiber infrastructure, the most crucial barrier to high-speed connectivity towards the school premises appears to be service pricing, rather than access to infrastructure.
- At the same time, many rural schools as well as the vast majority of your local library lack physical facilities necessary to meet the broadband goals followed in the E-rate Modernization Order . This rural high speed gap must be addressed.
- One of the more striking takeaways from your report is how vividly it illustrates the variability in prices being paid for similar services by similarly situated schools and your local library seeking E-rate support.
The intent of the report is to help stakeholders and the community navigate the large and data-intensive record in the E-rate Modernization proceeding, particularly as parties respond to the parts of the E-rate Modernization Further Notice regarding long-term funding needs.
We hope the report is a useful tool for stakeholders as you think about additional steps that should be taken in the modernization process. As always, we desired your feedback and we encourage all of parties to submit additional information and analysis into the record. Technologies and the needs of schools plus libraries continue to evolve quickly, plus staff will continue to develop the record in this proceeding to help a fact-based, data-driven modernization of the program.
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
The particular Federal Communications Commission has long played a unique and pivotal part in reviewing communications transactions. Our own review is prescribed by the Marketing communications Act and is separate from (though complementary to) the analysis carried out by our sister, antitrust organizations under Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
Three factors about the Commission’s review of transactions are important to understand: First, the nature of the substantive review that Congress has instructed the Commission to apply. Second, the process that the Commission has instituted, in line with that statutory standard, to provide an open and fair means of reviewing dealings. Third, the manner in which the complementary approaches of the Commission and the antitrust organizations work harmoniously to serve the public interest in a sector that has traditionally been the subject of careful governmental overview.
The starting point of our own mission—and therefore , our substantive review—is the language of the Communications Act alone.
Congress has focused the Commission to review transactions concerning licenses and authorizations under the Marketing communications Act and to determine whether the suggested transaction would serve “the public interest, convenience, and necessity. ” 1 The particular breadth and importance of the public-interest standard to the review of transactions concerning our nation’s communications networks logically flows from the Commission’s statutory mission, since the conduct of buying other licensees can be as important to the public as the method a licensed company conducts itself in the absence of a transaction. This standard complements, but is different from the antitrust agencies’ standard set forth Section seven of the Clayton Act, which teaches them to challenge transactions that would “substantially lessen competition”.
In my opinion, as the Commission has consistently identified, 2 that the FCC’s actions should be informed by competition principles. These principles turn to the impact of practices upon consumers and the public interest, not merely on competitors. They are designed to be fact-based and data-driven. They reveal a common-law belief that the encounters of the present are, to paraphrase Justice Holmes, as important since the logic of the past. They should be used in a rigorous manner.
But , the “public interest” standard is not limited to purely economic results. It necessarily encompasses the “broad aims of the Communications Act, ” 3 which include, among other things, a deeply rooted preference for preserving and enhancing competitors in relevant markets, accelerating private-sector deployment of advanced services, ensuring a diversity of information sources and services to the public, 4 and generally controlling spectrum in the public interest. Our own public interest analysis may also involve assessing whether the transaction will affect the quality of communications services or even will result in the provision of new or even additional services to consumers. The leading examples may come from broadcast dealings, where the Commission has long used the congressional admonition to promote localism in programming, and especially news development, available to communities. 5 Consider also Justice Breyer’s concurring opinion in Turner Broadcasting v. FCC . 6 That case concerned a challenge to the “must carry” rules that require cable systems to carry local broadcast signals. In agreeing that the statute should be upheld, Justice Breyer expressly relied upon Congress’ goal of “promoting the widespread dissemination of information from a multiplicity of sources. ” seven
The second important principle of the Commission’s transaction-review could be the process by which it carries out the congressionally-mandated functions. Fundamental is the fact that applicants have the burden of demonstrating at the public record that their proposed deal is in the public interest. Oftentimes, the most popular understanding seems to be that the Commission is known as upon in the first instance to give a like this comment or thumbs down. That is incorrect.
As the Transactions Team Webpage explains in detail, the Percentage can approve a transaction or even it can approve a transaction along with conditions designed to ensure the public attention is served. But , if after a thorough review the FCC struggles to find that the proposed transaction acts the public interest or if the report presents a substantial and material question of fact, it must specify that transaction for an administrative hearing. Such an administrative hearing examines the facts of the transaction in the traditional adversary process that is the hallmark of our common-law jurisprudence. Following that hearing, the Commission would render a decision at the merits after which, of course , judicial review is available. Although such hearings happen to be rare, the Commission has been prepared to use them as the statute requires. For instance , at the time that the applicants in the AT& T/T-Mobile merger withdrew their apps, the Commission’s staff had ready a report recommending that the transaction be designated for hearing.
Understanding the process also illuminates the role of conditions. Conditions can be very important because, appropriately constructed and effectively applied, they can remedy public-interest harms that would otherwise occur. This relationship to the remedy of harm is fundamental and it means that not all conditions can serve that part. As I have said before, I realize of the reputation that some attribute to the FCC — that the solution is always “yes, ” and the path to “yes” is by bargaining with all the agency. It is hard to imagine that this type of view can be squared with the way the Commission assiduously applied the law to the facts of the proposed AT& T/T-Mobile transaction, among others.
The third principle concerns the manner in which we work with the antitrust organizations.
The ability of both the Commission and antitrust agencies to use their specialized, and complementary, skills is working well. The Percentage and the Antitrust Division of the Section of Justice cooperated closely to harmonize their approaches (always in line with their respective statutory commands) in the Comcast-NBCU and AT& T/T-Mobile dealings and that continues to be the way we work together today.
Fidelity to Congressional intent, rigor in the application of facts to law through an open up and fair process, and solid working relationships with the sister antitrust agencies — those are the principles that have worked well for the Percentage in the past and, as the Transactions Team Webpage and its materials help explain, will continue to serve the public attention, convenience and necessity.
one 47 U. Ersus. C. §§ 214(a) & 310(d).
2 . See, e. g., Applications of Comcast Corp., Gen. Elec. Co., and NBC Universal, Inc. for Consent to Assign Licenses and Transfer Control over Licenses , Memorandum Opinion and Order, 26 FCC Rcd. 4238, 4248, ¶23 (2011) (“Comcast/NBCU Order”).
3. Applications for Consent to the Transfer of Control over Licenses, XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., Transferor, to Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., Transferee , Memorandum Opinion and Order and Statement and Order, 23 FCC Rcd 12348, 12364, ¶31 (2008); News Corp. and DIRECTV Group, Inc. and Liberty Media Corp. for Authority to Exchange Control, Memorandum Opinion and Order , 23 FCC Rcd 3265, 3277-78, ¶23 (2008); Applications of AT& T Wi-fi Services, Inc. and Cingular Wi-fi Corp. for Consent to Exchange Control of Licenses and Authorizations , Memorandum Opinion and Order, 19 FCC Rcd 21522, 21544, ¶41 (2004).
4. 47 U. Ersus. C. § 521(4); see also 47 U. S. C. § 532(a).
5. Comcast/NBCU Order , 26 FCC Rcd. in 4249-50, ¶26-27.
6. 520 U. S. 180 (1997).
7. Id . at 226.
Thursday, August 7th, 2014
Early in the tenure, Chairman Wheeler launched the laudable effort to reform a number of Commission procedures. Because I was new to the Commission when ideas had been solicited, I generally deferred in order to agency veterans on the proposals which were put forward. But now that I am 9 months into my term, I possess become convinced that there is one substantial change in our overall process that might be incredibly helpful: we should post within the FCC’s website the actual text of the items to be considered at our Open Meetings at the same time they are provided in order to Commissioners.
Section 19. 735-203 of the FCC’s rules prohibits disclosure of the content of items which will be voted on by the full Commission at a meeting or “by circulation” (not at a meeting). Therefore , as soon as bureau staff sends the particular “8th Floor” a draft intended for consideration, the Commissioners are not permitted to reveal the substantive decisions with outside parties. In other words, at the quite moment that I learn the particulars of the important rulemaking upon which I will spend the next few weeks in ex parte conferences listening to stakeholder concerns, I am not really permitted to disclose any details of the particular draft text in order to extract more thoughtful responses.
Under this process, I sometimes find that stakeholders do not know whether their concerns are addressed, put off for a future going forward, are unnecessary given the scope of the item, or if the product has taken a turn against their interests. Debates over more recent items such as E-Rate, E911 Wireless Location Accuracy, and especially Net Neutrality, could have been far more constructive if Commissioners could have had discussions with the open public about the actual text before voting.
Moreover, the inability of the public to obtain a complete picture of what is in a pending proposal or even order leads to routine confusion over what exactly is at stake. In particular, information parties glean from blog posts, comments towards the press, and meetings or briefings with the relevant bureau staff can lead to more questions than answers. Fascinated parties often worry about whether you will find any unintentional omissions or inclusions of new language that they won’t learn about until it’s too late. This barrier to a fulsome exchange can be extremely frustrating for all involved.
To become fair, there is a caveat to our non-disclosure rules, but it has its own complications and is used in limited circumstances. Specifically, the FCC Chairman has the discernment to authorize disclosure of such non-public information. While this exception can kick-start discussions, it is not available to everyone and conversations may only include a portion of an item, which causes info imbalances. In the past, it has also prompted concerns about preferential access.
While I understand the need to secure internal deliberations, there has to be a better way. Some other federal agencies have addressed this challenge and provide options to consider. The Federal Trade Commission, for example , problems Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemakings (ANPRMs) to put out for comment the particular actual text of rules before going forward to a final decision. The potential for delay with this approach may make it a link too far for some in the short term. In the meantime, our proposal would achieve the same goal without any risk of slowing consideration of items. Our Open Meetings would still occur as scheduled, yet interested parties would have the chance to break down the actual text and provide valuable analyze before starting our official Sunshine time period.
As with any written document, the more reviews a regulatory product receives before going out the door, the better. Empowering the public with the actual textual content could push the agency in order to ask better questions (including within the costs and benefits of proposed rules), fine tune its wording to prevent unintentional consequences, and obtain useful suggestions before the final rules are locked within. Greater transparency would also associated with rulemaking process more fair plus efficient and could ultimately reduce the number of petitions for reconsideration and other legal challenges that are filed after the reality and that consume significant staff assets.
For all of these reasons, allowing public access to the draft text of Open Meeting items before a vote is the right thing to do from a good government viewpoint. I hope that the FCC will, as part of its process reform effort, make this common sense update to the non-disclosure rules. And if successful, we could even think about extending it to items considered under our circulation procedures.
Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
It goes without saying that there has been tremendous interest in the FCC’s Open Web rulemaking. As of yesterday, over 1 . 1 million comments were filed in the docket, both through our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) and our special openinternet@fcc. gov email address. We welcome and anticipate many more comments in the weeks ahead. And to be clear, every comment will be reviewed as part of the official record of this proceeding.
Because of the sheer number of comments as well as the great public interest in what they state, Chairman Wheeler has asked the FCC IT team to make the remarks available to the public today in a number of six XML files, totaling over 1 . 4 GB of data – approximately two and half instances the amount of plain-text data embodied within the Encyclopedia Britannica. The release of the remarks as Open Data in this machine-readable format will allow researchers, journalists as well as others to analyze and create visualizations of the information so that the public and the FCC may discuss and learn from the comments we have received. Our hope is that these analyses will contribute to an even more knowledgeable and useful reply comment period, which ends on September 10. We will make available additional XML files covering reply comments after that date.
A few other housekeeping issues: First, mailed comments postmarked prior to July 18 are still being scanned and entered into the ECFS and may even not be reflected in the files. We will post an updated XML document when they are completed, so stay tuned. Second, certain handwritten comments may not be searchable. For this reason, source links to comments are included in the files. Finally, we hope that whatever visualizations are usually developed using this open data will certainly comply with the standards that enable use and access by differently-abled individuals. The Chairman and the FCC CIO are committed to ensuring obtainable web content in multiple forms for many.
We recognize that not really everyone may have the requisite technical skills to build visualizations and evaluate raw XML data. (Members from the public will, of course , still have the option of reviewing and searching the record via ECFS). However , we’re expecting that those who do have the technical know-how will develop and share these tools for your public to use. Open Data is a crucial step towards greater transparency in public deliberations. We look forward to seeing and benefitting from the fruits of your initiatives and welcome your ideas on how to make this data even more useful. With the start of second round of comments, we encourage continued submission to the FCC of insights and perspectives in regards to the first round of comments, either through the ECFS or via openinternet@fcc. gov.
Friday, August 1st, 2014
These days, Chairman Wheeler circulated a offer to open new opportunities for little and growing businesses in the cellular marketplace. Although the proposal may audio technical – updating the Commission’s approach to small business participation in wireless auctions— the purpose is simple: To provide innovative, smaller companies the opportunity to build wireless businesses that can spur additional investment and bring more choices in order to consumers.
Think about the wireless industry today. Consumer demand can be exploding, data usage is growing significantly, and faster 4G networks allow even more data services. That type of growth should naturally lead to a lot more opportunity for more businesses to provide more consumers.
But current FCC rules stand in the manner. The current rules are a by-product of an earlier time— before data services became ubiquitous, before Congress instructed us to make more spectrum accessible to wireless networks, and, equally essential, before consolidation in the wireless business accelerated.
When the rules were first written in the 90s, we believed that bidding credits for spectrum auctions should be used only to acquire licenses by businesses that would engage exclusively in creating their own networks to provide retail or wholesale services – often referred to as “facilities based” service. That made sense when the wireless industry was in its infancy.
But nowadays the standard for economic opportunity need to take a broader, and longer, viewpoint. Considering the significant challenges new entrants face in building wireless networks, we can and should provide smaller businesses— including enterprises owned by women and minorities – a better on-ramp into the wireless business. Here’s one way: smaller sized companies may want to leverage business relationships with larger companies through a lot more flexible leasing arrangements to gain entry to capital and cash flow, not to mention functional experience. Allowing structured entry into the wireless business make sense, especially given the billions of dollars it would decide to try build a new national network from the beginning. With experience in operations and investment, smaller networks will have the prospect associated with progressing into more robust, facilities-based competition, which has been, and remains, a critical goal of the Commission.
Hence, the NPRM being circulated nowadays proposes to update our rules in a way that recognizes – and confronts – the challenges new entrants face in entering the wireless industry. Challenges like raising money to compete in an auction, getting a revenue stream to support business growth, or developing a business model based on marketplace needs rather than regulatory mandates. Maybe most importantly, the NPRM recognizes the challenge of entering into a marketplace in which more than 95 percent of existing customers are served by the top four providers.
Naturally , this policy will have to be policed. A few may try to take advantage of this flexibility to gain a discount for huge incumbents, which we will not enable. We will be on the lookout for such abuse plus enforce our rules vigorously.
Protection will come from the proposal’s focus on who is “calling the photos. ” The small business entrepreneur must exercise independent decision-making authority. If the small company is a stalking horse for another celebration, then the bidding credit will be dropped.
The proposal tackles another important issue – also from the trend towards consolidation in the wireless industry. We must make sure that the biggest companies are not able to limit broad participation in the spectrum auction. As promised in the Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report plus Order, we now seek comment on whether and how we should restrict the ability associated with wireless companies to combine their offers during an auction.
Our goal is to promote the particular participation of as many parties as you possibly can in the auction. If two from the largest companies are able to bid together combined entity in the auction, their own combined resources may have the effect associated with suppressing meaningful competition. Therefore , the item tentatively concludes that joint bidding arrangements between nationwide providers must not be allowed. It also asks questions regarding such arrangements between providers of different sizes.
The Chairman’s goal is to have common sense rules in place before the Incentive Auction, and hope all stakeholders will offer helpful suggestions so we can work together in order to empower small businesses and entrepreneurs in order to participate in the spectrum economy.