Archive for May, 2015

Ongoing Efforts to Measure and Document on Mobile Wireless Competition

Friday, May 29th, 2015

The Communications Function requires the submission to Congress each year of reports analyzing their state of competition in the mobile wifi industry.

The 17th Mobile Wireless Competition Report was released in December 2014. This report covered data from 2013 and the 1st half of 2014 and looked at factors such as market shares among companies, coverage, and pricing trends. Whenever we released the Seventeenth Mobile Wireless Competition Report, we noted that people would update many of the charts and tables in that report when new data became available.

These days, we are updating many of those charts and tables based on recently collected information relevant to competition in the mobile wifi industry. For example , we are providing home elevators total wireless connections by provider segment; overall mobile voice and mobile broadband coverage; and provider-specific coverage. And, we have also added user-friendly interactive coverage maps. This mid-year update reflects our recently focused efforts to capture essential details in the evolving mobile wifi marketplace.

Among other things, the particular updated information shows:

  • Total wireless connections increased by 23. 5 mil from 2013 to 2014, along with 14. 7 million connections added between the 2nd and 4th quarter of 2014;
  • The post-paid marketplace continues to show noteworthy growth along with 3. 9 million connections added in the 4th quarter 2014; and
  • Quarterly net adds for linked devices almost doubled between the fourth quarter 2013 and 4th quarter 2014.

We have been also releasing a Public Observe seeking input as we prepare the particular Eighteenth Mobile Wireless Competition Document. The Public Notice, about half as long as the previous report’s PN, reflects a more efficient approach to seeking such input. Particularly, the Public Notice seeks public insight to update the information and metrics used in the Seventeenth Annual Cellular Wireless Competition Report.

Please visit the Mobile Wireless Competitors Report website to see the updated information. We encourage all interested stakeholders to respond to the Eighteenth Mobile Wireless Competition Report PN to inform us how we can enhance our analysis of competition in the mobile wifi marketplace.

The Lifeline for Low-Income Americans

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

The Lifeline program was established in 1985 to help low-income Americans afford access to important communications. Our nation’s enduring guarantee is opportunity for all, and assisting financially struggling Americans access fundamental communications empowers individuals to pursue new opportunities and build better lives. This principle has remained constant since Lifeline’s inception. Within 1996, Congress ratified the goal of access to advanced communications for low-income consumers in the Communications Act. Over a period of three decades, the program has helped tens of millions of Americans afford fundamental phone service. But as communications technologies and markets evolve, the Personal assistant program also has to evolve to stay relevant. As I told Congress earlier this year, it is time to overhaul Lifeline to make sure it is still performing the critical functionality for which it was formed.

Today, we take the first step in that process. I am circulating new proposals to “reboot” Lifeline for the Internet age.

First, we propose to make Lifeline more efficient plus impactful by establishing minimum standards of service for voice plus broadband, so both beneficiaries and those who pay into the fund can know that they are getting the best value.

Broadband is key to Lifeline’s future. In 2015, broadband entry is essential to find a job: more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 job openings are online. Americans require broadband to keep a job, as companies increasing require basic digital literacy skills. We rely on broadband to control and receive healthcare, and to assist our children do their homework. The 2012 study estimated that broadband helps a typical U. S. consumer saves $8, 800 a year by giving access to bargains on goods and services.

But nearly 30 percent of Americans still haven’t adopted broadband at home, and low-income consumers disproportionately lack access. While more than 95 percent of households with earnings over $150, 000 have broadband, only 48 percent of those making less than $25, 000 have program at home. A world of broadband “haves” and “have-nots” is a world where none of us will have the opportunity to enjoy the full fruits of what broadband has to offer.

But setting up minimum service levels is not enough to ensure that this program is serving the core mission. We also propose an overhaul of the way we determine eligibility for Lifeline. Presently, Lifeline providers are responsible for ensuring eligibility, a situation that invites waste plus fraud while burdening those providers who do want to comply. All of us also ask about ways to target the Lifeline subsidy to those low-income consumers most in need of the support, that is one of the reform principles advanced simply by my colleague Commissioner O’Rielly.

We also seek discuss how to encourage more providers to participate in the program, increasing competition plus consumer choice on price plus service offerings.

Getting Lifeline reform right won’t be easy. Fortunately, Lifeline reforms followed in 2012 put the program on stable footing and laid the foundation for a comprehensive overhaul. I look forward to working with my colleagues to resolve the difficult questions before us. In particular, I want to commend Commissioner Clyburn for driving the important effort to further eliminate waste materials in the program and re-focus this program to better serve those who need it many.

Another Win for Consumers

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Few things rankle customers as much as unwanted calls and texts. Thanks to the passage of the Telephone Customer Protection Act, consumers can choose which calls they want and do not want. Yet, in order to maintain those protections, we have to continue to close loopholes and enable consumers. The responsibility to protect consumers from robocalls that can be both costly and intrusive does not expire with adjustments in technology.

That’s why I am proposing today the Commission crack down on robocalls, robotexts, and telemarketing calls – the number one source of consumer complaints at the FCC.

Last year alone, we received a lot more than 215, 000 complaints related to undesired and intrusive calls and texts. The filer of one complaint detailed receiving 4, 700 unwanted texts over a 6-month period. We’ve furthermore seen reports of 27, 809 unsolicited text messages over 17 a few months to one reassigned number, despite demands to stop the texts.

The Commission provides received numerous petitions from businesses – including bankers, debt collectors, app developers, retail stores, and others – searching for clarity on our consumer rules. I actually intend to use these petitions as an opportunity to empower consumers and stop these intrusive communications.

I am proposing how the Commission rule on more than 20 pending petitions related to consumer protection and send one clear information: consumers have the right to control the particular calls and texts they get, and the FCC is moving in order to enforce those rights and defend consumers against robocalls, spam texts, and telemarketing.

We will empower and defend consumers in a number of ways.

First, we are offering the green light for robocall-blocking technologies, declaring that these market-based solutions can be offered without violating our call-completion rules. The FCC wants to inform you: telephone companies can – and in fact should – offer customers robocall-blocking tools.

Second, we close several potential loopholes. For example , we clarify the definition of “autodialers” to include any kind of technology with the potential to call random or sequential numbers. This ruling is true to Congress’s intent when passing the law, and would ensure that robocallers cannot skirt consent requirements through changes in technologies design. We also close the particular “reassigned number” loophole, making apparent that consumers who inherit a telephone number will not be subject to a barrage associated with unwanted robocalls OK’d by the previous owner of the number.

Third, we make it easier for consumers to say “no” to robocalls. People won’t have to fill out a form and mail it in to stop unwanted calls and texts. Any reasonable way of stating “no” is allowed.

We will allow very limited and specific exceptions, such as alerts to possible fraud in your bank account or a reminder to refill important medications. But these exemptions do NOT include practices like debt collection and marketing, and consumers will have the ideal to opt-out of such phone calls.

In the FCC, we see consumer protection as one of our most fundamental missions.

We now have acted consistently to uphold this responsibility from ensuring the Internet remain fast, fair and open to using action to make certain consumers get the actual pay for and companies follow the guidelines. With today’s proposal to limit unwanted robocalls and spam texts, we seek to secure yet another win for consumers.

Traveling Lifeline Updates With Data

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

As you may know, Lifeline was launched in 1985 to help ensure that traditional phone service was affordable for low-income consumers. Congress ratified the program in 1996 and codified the principle that low-income consumers should have entry to “advanced telecommunications and information providers. ” In 2008, as consumers snapped up cell phones, the FCC opened up the door to Lifeline support for mobility – and then updated the rules in 2012 to protect against the waste, fraud and abuse. Having discovered our lesson, in the same purchase that made huge steps in cleaning mobile support, the Commission attempted to think ahead about gathering the information to consider Lifeline support for high speed, which has become essential to modern life.

Specifically, the particular FCC launched the Low Income Broadband Pilot Program to study what policies might overcome the barriers to adoption of broadband by low-income households. I’m happy to say that the information are now in from these 14 varied pilots, and we’re releasing the information to the public for analysis, along with our own short report with a few immediate takeaways:

  • First, consumers respond well to having a choice of plans. Households have different needs for data speeds, usage amounts, service type and devices. The pilots demonstrated low-income consumers do not all really want or need the same products.
  • Second, whilst price is not the only barrier to broadband adoption, price matters.
  • Third, companies aren’t necessarily the best at dealing with other barriers to broadband use – lack of digital literacy and relevance to one’s life.

The pilots possess helped staff begin to understand the challenge of tackling low-income broadband use. For starters, there is no silver bullet. Plus, while the pilots were focused on various approaches for adoption, let’s end up being clear that Lifeline is focused upon ensuring services are affordable, to not solve the broadband adoption challenge. As the Commission moves forward to consider how to restructure the Lifeline plan for the digital age, the pilot statement will help provide useful data for your Commission and public to consider.

Standing up Down for Tower Climber Protection

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Over the past fourteen days, millions of workers across the country have took part in a National Safety Stand-Down to avoid Falls in Construction. This voluntary annual event, coordinated by the Section of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is an chance to take time out of busy work schedules for training to ensure the safety of those basically at heights and to prevent harmful falls.

In this year’s Safety Stand-Down, companies involved in tower system climbing work across the country, from Texas to South Dakota, Michigan in order to Maine, New Jersey to New York and Pennsylvania to Florida, used the Protection Stand-Down as an opportunity to have devoted training on safety. We applaud the companies that participated and we encourage the entire tower climbing industry in order to refocus on safety given what is at stake.

To put this particular in perspective, let’s take a look at the particular numbers. According to OSHA, there were twelve fatalities in 2014 involving focus on communications towers, following 14 deaths in 2013. Although the trend series in fatalities is currently declining, one fatality is one fatality too many.

For our part, the FCC has been working with a variety of parties to improve tower climber safety. Last Oct, the FCC and OSHA with each other hosted a widely attended course at FCC Headquarters focused on tower system climber safety, and announced the particular formation of a working group in order to encourage best practice adoption through the entire industry. Our working group can be continuing to work with stakeholders on publicizing practices that improve safety.

The Safety Stand-Down was an ideal time to redouble efforts to deal with the preventable breakdowns in safety techniques that result in fatalities and injuries. To this end, we expect and encourage the industry to implement guidelines that identify and address particular risks, both ongoing and job-specific. Working together with climbers and regulators, the industry can make progress on this critical issue so that our ongoing deployment associated with newer and faster wireless networks can be as safe as it is robust.

Using Technology to Enhance Rail Safety

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Like the rest of the nation, we are deeply saddened by this particular week’s fatal Amtrak derailment within Philadelphia. We send our condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and our gratitude to the initial responders for their efforts.

As National Transportation Safety Board investigators seek answers to queries about the crash, some questions regarding Positive Train Control (PTC) were raised. I thought it would be helpful to clarify what it is and give an overview of the FCC’s role in its implementation.

PTC systems are intended to reduce the risk of rail accidents caused by human mistake, such as derailments caused by excessive acceleration. PTC technology is designed to enable real-time information sharing between trains, rail wayside devices, and control centers, which, for example , would notify the train engineer about dangerous speeds. If an engineer does not decrease speeds to a safe level, the PTC system is designed to slow it down automatically to a safe degree.

In 2008, Our elected representatives passed a law requiring Amtrak and other commuter and freight railroads to deploy interoperable PTC techniques by December 31, 2015, yet did not designate spectrum, a finite resource, for PTC use or even make funds available for railroads to acquire access to spectrum.

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration has primary authority to make sure PTC systems are activated and work properly. As the nation’s marketing communications agency, the FCC helps assist in spectrum acquisition by freight and commuter trains. We also handle the mandatory historic preservation and environment reviews of PTC system facilities.

The railroads are seeking commercial spectrum to deploy PTC, which – by law – must be acquired at auction or through third parties. Since Congress transferred the law in 2008 requiring PTC, the FCC has been working closely with railroads and Amtrak to distinguish available spectrum on the secondary market and to approve transactions quickly.

We continue to be actively involved in helping freight and commuter teaches such as Amtrak acquire spectrum. Actually the FCC approved Amtrak’s app for spectrum for the Washington M. C. to New York corridor right after an expedited review and just two days after Amtrak submitted a final variation to the agency in March 2015.

Rail safety is really a top FCC priority. Be assured that the FCC will continue to work closely with the nation’s railroads to enable the rapid application of Positive Train Control.

Liability for Enforcement Penalties & Penalties

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

The Commission’s enforcement procedures and actions are actually receiving attention of late, but there exists a deficiency in the process that has not been mentioned. To the extent that the Fee has rules in an area, applicable parties are required to comply. Those who don’t are subject to enforcement actions, with due process rights for claimed violators, including the option of settling the matter through a consent decree. For the enforcement process to work, however , all of its steps must be carried out efficiently plus swiftly from beginning to end. Issue with the current process – plus another area for the newly formed Process Review Task Force and/or Congress to examine – is that the Commission does not have any idea whether parties are actually satisfying the terms of its enforcement activities, particularly those that go to the forfeiture phase.

Under the current structure, the Commission does not have a process in place to know whether entities actually pay out the fines or penalties evaluated pursuant to an enforcement action. Put simply, once a Forfeiture Order is completed, it somehow seems to drop off the particular FCC’s radar. This came like a surprise to me as I prepared regarding recent Congressional hearings. I required that Enforcement Bureau provide a comprehensive spreadsheet of the 75 most recent Updates of Apparent Liability (“NAL”) plus Forfeiture Orders. Disappointingly, the bureau answered that it didn’t track series resulting from Forfeiture Orders as a matter of course.

This entire situation reminds me of an early episode of the sitcom Seinfeld. Inside it, Jerry has a dispute with a car rental agent over whether the car he or she reserved is actually available. One of television’s most classic exchanges went as follows:

Jerry : I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?

Agent : Yes, we do, unfortunately we sold out of cars.

Jerry : But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you possess the reservation.

Broker : I know why we have reservations.

Jerry : I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation plus that’s really the most important part of the booking, the holding. Anybody can just take them.

To be fair, one particular reason for the lack of information on forfeiture series is due to the distribution of responsibilities between the Commission, the Department from the Treasury, and the Department of Justice. Under the statute and current treatments, the Forfeiture Order is the final official step in the Commission’s workload. Under section 504 of the Marketing communications Act, violators that accept their own forfeitures are required to make payments to the U. S. Treasury. To the level that an entity does not pay a forfeiture that has been upheld by a courtroom of competent jurisdiction, DOJ is responsible for pursuing restitution via a civil match on behalf of the U. S.

Needless to say, I would think that the particular Commission can build a sufficient romantic relationship with the Departments of Treasury plus Justice, without undermining our self-reliance as an agency, to receive ongoing updates on the status of our forfeitures. Monitoring such information is important for making certain the American people are compensated beneath the law. Violators should actually pay out fines and penalties as needed to rectify their past illegal procedures and prevent reoccurrences. Additionally , our Enforcement Bureau actions are a deterrent to others and prevent future incidences associated with rule violations. The communications community at large and the public must be up to date of our actions and know that every time a fine or penalty is issued, it is collected.

Similarly important, the Commission’s fines plus penalties are sometimes used as preceding or guideposts for determining the size of other enforcement fines and fees and penalties. If our past work is used as the basis for future decisions, consideration must be given to what was in fact collected. For instance, the Commission has issued a number of NALs and ultimate forfeitures against purveyors of banging and cramming. It would be extremely useful to know whether those entities in fact paid the amounts assessed, or just closed down shop to reopen under a new name.

Moreover, it would be helpful to know the amount and types of cases and the situations in which the U. S. Justice Division has sought collection over the years regarding unpaid Commission forfeiture orders. The particular FCC could use this information to analyze potential procedural improvements to its items which would invite greater DOJ involvement. In other words, are there are a high portion of cases not being pursued and is there a way can all of us increase the likelihood that DOJ may seek collection? This needs to be taken into account when determining the most effective enforcement activity, including whether to seek settlements in a lower figure or earlier along the way.

Even if the Commission’s enforcement fines and penalties are appropriate, when the collection remains unknown, overall enforcement will suffer. The potential discrepancy between providing an enforcement action and gathering any financial fine or penalty needs to be addressed. To the extent the fact that Enforcement Bureau needs assistance facilitating the necessary relationships with the Treasury plus Justice Departments, I would be happy to help in any way I can.

In case you Reform It, They Will Come

Monday, May 11th, 2015

E-rate is the country’s largest education technology program, and contains helped to ensure that almost every school plus library in America has basic Web connectivity. In the 18 years since E-rate was established, technology offers evolved, the needs of students plus teachers have changed, and simple connectivity has become insufficient. That’s why, a year ago, the FCC took steps to restart and modernize how we connect our own schools, libraries – and most importantly, our students – to 21st century educational opportunity.

We improved the program’s cost-effectiveness, arranged specific, ambitious goals for the high speed capacity delivered to schools and your local library – a short term target associated with 100 Mbps per 1000 students, and a longer term target of 1 Gbps per 1, 000 students – and re-purposed funding for Wi fi and robust broadband connections able to support cutting-edge, one-to-one digital learning.

These reforms will only get their intended impact if schools plus libraries step up to take advantage of new opportunities. Early indications are they are up to the challenge. Applications are in regarding E-rate funding for the coming school year, and schools and your local library have responded to the FCC’s E-rate reforms by seeking a total associated with $3. 9 billion in assistance, including more than $1. 6 billion for internal Wi-Fi networks.

These requests reflect long pent-up demand. It is the first time in three years that E-rate has had any funds available for Wi-Fi at all. Previously, many schools and libraries failed to bother to apply for Wi-Fi funding because they had no hope of getting funds. That is no longer a problem. As forecasted last year, we will be able to fully account eligible Wi-Fi applications thanks entirely to fiscal and programmatic reforms that freed up more than $1. 5 billion for Wi-Fi. No additional dime in ratepayer costs will be needed. Then, we made our allocations more equitable therefore all schools and libraries would get a shot. Finally, we prioritized high speed by phasing out support regarding phones, and outright eliminating assistance for pagers and other non-broadband services that don’t directly benefit students and library patrons.

The bottom line is that E-rate is dedicating its resources to where educational institutions and libraries need the most help: getting access to robust broadband. This can open up new educational opportunities regarding students across the country.

For example , in Kindred, North Dakota, the E-rate provided no help in obtaining schools onto the fast lane of the information superhighway. With last year’s reforms, the Kindred School Region has been able to apply for funding in order to expand broadband Wi-Fi access all through its system.

As well as the School District of Philadelphia offers applied for E-rate funding to boost Wi fi capacity that can address exponentially growing demands of mobile learning plus bring-your- own -device programs that are currently in place at multiple educational institutions, with plans to implement in many others. All told, students plus teachers at approximately 165 educational institutions will enjoy improved Wi-Fi networks, which usually, operating in conjunction with the District’s E-rate-supported Broad Area Network, will provide teachers plus students with seamless high-speed access to the Internet.

Through their dependable requests, schools and libraries have told us E-rate reform has been needed and appreciated. Work is underway preparing for next year’s launch of other changes we designed to the E-rate program to support the expansion of high-speed fiber contacts. But for now, we’re thrilled that will modernization is working as forecasted, and grateful that we can play our part in educating the following generation of Americans and telling life-long learners by supporting strong broadband in schools and your local library.

The particular Accessible Technology Challenges Facing Millennials

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Last week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced plans to move the Commission forward on two important communications access problems for Americans with disabilities. This is a primary objective of the Commission in order to strive toward better access to information and communication technology for people with afflictions.

To that particular end, the FCC recently cohosted a forum focused specifically on accessibility issues facing young adults along with disabilities. From this event, the Commission’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative discovered many lessons about the daily issues facing this community.

The Community Forum on Accessible Information and Communication Technologies was cohosted by the Washington City Disabled Students Collective and happened at the U. S. Access Table. A panel of young adults along with disabilities discussed their experiences concerning the accessibility of information and communication systems. During the small group breakout classes, students discussed the challenges they face. A representative from each group presented the top challenges discussed associated with proposed solutions.

A panel of young adults with disabilities shown discussing their experiences regarding the accessibility of information and communication technologies.

We learned that obtaining training materials in braille in a timely fashion continues to be a challenge for blind students. Just for deaf students, the challenge is accessing online videos with quality captions, regardless of whether for educational or social media purposes. People with cognitive disabilities frequently encounter websites that are difficult to understand or even navigate. Deaf-blind persons have difficulty choosing access to TV programs with captioning and description that is presented as electronic text readable with a braille display.

Young adults face various accessibility issues, but they also agree that developments in information and consumer systems have given them easier entry to tools and materials that boost their educational, professional, and personal lives.

During the occasion, Access Board staff members explained learn how to file comments in its proposed rulemaking proceeding to update regulations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation React. The Act makes sure that federal firms use accessible technologies, whether developed or procured. In addition , FCC staff members gave a presentation on the legal rights and procedures under the 21st Century Marketing communications and Video Accessibility Act.

Thanks to this particular forum, we gained a better understanding of information and communication technology accessibility challenges young people face today along with a deeper appreciation of how the FCC’s work matters in the real world.

Problems with FCC Advisory Committees

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Through this blog, I’ve elevated quite a few issues with the current operations of the FCC, especially the workings of the so-called 8th Floor, and the crucial need to improve transparency and accountability. Let me add another area looking for review and reform: the Commission’s advisory committees (and councils). Particularly, I believe changes are necessary in such areas as the appointment process, internal functions, work assignments, reporting requirements, staff involvement, and implementation of suggestions. In other words, a top-to-bottom examination plus overhaul is in order.

Let me be clear: advisory committees can be a good thing – if founded and used properly. Seeking outside expertise and input should be encouraged, and it’s why I have advocated that all interested parties should weigh-in on our proceedings. It makes all the feeling in the world to seek advice and specialized knowledge from those integrally associated with developing, deploying or using a particular technology or set of technologies, or those who are active users of stated technology.

A fundamental problem with the current workings of the non-statutorily arranged advisory committees, however , is that the Chairman’s office has absolute and complete strength over every aspect of their existence. Certain, individual Commissioners are invited to state a few words to open a meeting or congratulate their good works, which I often do, but not much otherwise. The membership, selection of the committee chairs, timing of any reviews and/or recommendations, and all other aspects of their operations are determined solely by the Chairman. If all of the decision-making is in the hands of the Leader, how can a committee’s outcomes actually be considered bipartisan, or better-yet, nonpartisan and independent?

Given our recent practices, I also worry whether participation by some outside parties is actually truly voluntary. Naturally , members must go through the application process, but failure to be involved means that the committee may proceed down a path that is against the party’s interest. The only way to know what is going on or potentially mitigate any damage from an advisory committee is to be on the inside. Participation, however , risks perpetuating the belief that any “consensus” outcome from the committee is actually fully supported simply by every advisory committee member, which is not always the case. Plus, it is not lost on the Commission if particular businesses or advocacy groups decide not to seek membership. In some regards, it is kind of a damned if you do, darned if you don’t situation. That means there are users who are forced to take defensive postures in our advisory committees, rather than supplying the best or most appropriate recommendations.

The independence of the advisory committees must also be examined. I have watched a number of committee meetings on this closed-circuit network only to see exactly what appears to be a heavy hand from Percentage staff. Since each advisory committee already has a Commission staff designee, why would bureau chiefs or other Commission staff need to be involved at all? It seems inappropriate and possibly caustic to the proper functioning of the committee, and the ultimate realization of solid recommendations, if non-designated staff question the committee’s decisions, influence the agenda, pose questions of members, judge the possible suggestions, or potentially declare specific results. In sum, shouldn’t the advisory committee be allowed to conduct its function without such oversight?

There is also a problem with preordaining the outcome of the advisory committees’ work. In some instances, the duties come with a guarantee of future Percentage action. In other words, the committee has been asked to tell the Commission exactly how best to regulate in an area (i. e., how best to hang itself). But shouldn’t the instructions for an advisory committee make clear that committee members have the option of recommending that will no action is necessary or permitting industry to voluntarily resolve a problem or institute best practices? Sometimes the very best regulatory action is no action. Moreover, advisory committees should not be used as a way to stamp an industry blessing on the predetermined agenda (especially if it consists of areas outside the Commission’s authority). We need to approach the assignments to advisory committees in a more neutral way.

Along those lines, advisory committees’ suggestions should not be twisted to justify brand new rules and requirements. This was highlighted in a debate in one of the advisory committees last year over the use of the word “voluntary, ” within the context of new Web security requirements. It became crystal clear that the Commission staff did not imply voluntary in its traditionally defined feeling – i. e., the individual company had a choice whether or not to adopt the particular burdens. Instead, it meant only that the entity would get some state as to how exactly the burdens will be imposed. Even under the most generous understanding that is about as far from voluntary as can be. Additionally , if ultimately an advisory committee recommends voluntary industry action or guidelines, the Commission should not turn around and codify them as requirements. Voluntary should mean voluntary.

Moreover, there seems to be confusion regarding the role of the advisory committees and the scope of their authority. For instance, the formerly constituted Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) adopted a resolution to require the Commission to develop a plan on Personal assistant accessibility and report back to the CAC on implementation of such a plan. But the job of an advisory committee is not to assign the Percentage research projects or work assignments. Somewhere along the line, the basic mission of an advisory committee got misconstrued. In order to clarify, the Commission, which is accountable to Congress, should ask this kind of committees to look into certain areas or issues and report back again with recommendations, if any. Do not ever should it be the other way around.

In the end, the opinions and operations of the Commission’s advisory committees are only valid if the Commission allows them to offer impartial, unbiased recommendations on the issues they consider. Failure to fix the problems identified over affects the integrity of these committees and raises unnecessary questions regarding their input.