Archive for November, 2015

Repairing a Problem with the Hearing Aid Compatibility Mandate

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Today’s wireless handsets are immensely effective. By combining advanced communications functionalities with mobility, consumers are able to increase their connectedness and improve efficiency, which eases everyday burdens. These benefits, however , can be limited for all those consumers who face hearing loss or impairment and use listening to aids with their wireless handsets. FCC rules attempt to rectify this. Known as the hearing aid compatibility mandate, the particular Commission’s rules require that electronic wireless telephones function with consumer hearing aids and are available in the marketplace. Although these rules were adopted with the best of intentions, implementation offers raised a number of challenges for wireless service providers.

The Commission’s rules require that each retail wireless provider must offer handsets that meet certain specifications based on the underlying hearing aid technologies. Currently, for hearing aids that will incorporate acoustic coupling (a technology that amplifies all sounds), possibly 50 percent of the total wireless mobile phones or ten particular handsets offered by a wireless provider must exceed a benchmark measurement of M3 or better. For inductive coupling listening to aids (a technology that turns off the microphone and receives only signals from magnetic fields making use of telecoils), the requirement is that either one-third of total handsets or ten particular models offered by a service provider must exceed a measurement associated with T3 or better. 1 And recently, the particular Commission proposed to increase the listening to aid compatibility requirements for both acoustic and inductive coupling to 66 percent within two years and 85 percent within five many years. 2 What this means is consumers with hearing loss will certainly soon be able to choose from a greater collection of compliant handsets on the market.

One significant problem with the hearing aid compatibility require for wireless providers, especially smaller sized ones, and the hearing loss community is that there is currently no definitive list of which wireless handsets really meet or exceed the necessary standards set by the Commission. While it is true that Percentage rules require individual wireless handset manufacturers and providers to make available information on all hearing aid-compatible models presently offered and the associated rating information for those handsets, this hasn’t offered the comprehensiveness needed to aid conformity. In other words, providers are not certain which wireless phones rate at a standard of M3 or T3 or even better.

Such confusion has resulted in unwanted and time-consuming enforcement actions towards wireless providers which, oftentimes through no fault of their own, procured wireless mobile phones that did not meet the Commission’s minimal standards. In fact , hundreds of thousands of bucks have been paid in FCC fines just because available data regarding hearing aid compatibility compliance turned out to be inaccurate. In practice, these providers have had to incur costs for purchasing these mobile phones, marketing materials, training sales employees, preparing and filing compliance reports, only to find out later that certain phones were non-compliant and they were susceptible to Enforcement Bureau action. In my discussions with smaller wireless providers, these penalties have slowed network buildout and jeopardized their workforce, simply because they divert limited resources that could or else be used for deployment, service improvements, and personnel.

It would seem more than reasonable to require the Commission, either through the particular FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau or Office of Engineering and Technology, to maintain an accurate, user-friendly, up-to-date list (or at least updated semi-annually) not only retail providers, but also consumers, can review to inform them of various phone options and to ensure that the particular handsets they intend to purchase are hearing aid compatibility compliant. 3 But such a list doesn’t exist today. And claims have been made that the information on the Accessibility Clearinghouse site might not be completely accurate. Instead, providers are usually potentially liable for penalties if they rely on incorrect information about the compatibility of phone models.

The good news is that establishing this kind of list shouldn’t require many ways or burdensome reporting requirements: it can be done post haste to reduce the likelihood that wireless providers get unnecessarily or even unwittingly ensnared. In fact , the Commission has such information from types already submitted by industry participants (Form 655). The only thing that needs to be performed is format the information and make it available to the public, with the appropriate enforcement safeguards for providers that depend on such a list.

Accordingly, I am pleased that my Commission colleagues agreed to add additional questions as part of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking portion of last week’s item on this precise issue. Particularly, the item added questions about whether or not the Commission’s Accessibility Clearinghouse provides the necessary information to identify compliant phones, the particular format and type of information that should be included in a list or website, whether the data provided by manufacturers and service providers on the Form 655 can and should be used to automatically supplement the info in the Accessibility Clearinghouse, and regardless of whether reliance on such information should be the basis of a safe harbor or even presumption that a service provider is not within violation of our rules. four Without prejudging the comments to be received, the answers to the questions should provide a sufficient platform to address a flaw in our hearing aid compatibility requirements.

1 . Producers must meet at least a M3 or T3 rating for one-third of their handsets, with a minimum of two models, for each interface. Manufacturers and service providers that offer no more than two mobile phones for any air interface are exempt from these benchmarks for those models.

2 . It is also proposed that 100% of handsets should be up to date within 8 years, upon the Commission determination that the 100% standard is achievable. These benchmarks might apply to wireless providers and manufacturers that offer six or more handset models.

3. See, e. g., Indigo Wireless, Inc., Forfeiture Order, 29 FCC Rcd 7404 (EB 2014) (stating that the provider thought that a specific handset was compliant based on Internet sources and that “determining hearing-aid compatibility using official FCC resources is usually ‘difficult to impossible…. ‘”); General Communication, Inc., dba Alaska Digital LLC and Ak Wireless Communications, Purchase, 29 FCC Rcd 3505 (EB 2014) (stating that the provider alleged that it had difficulty in ascertaining the particular hearing aid compatibility ratings from the handsets and that it obtained the information from the handset distributors, the OET Equipment Authorization Database, and the mobile phone manufacturer’s website); Airadigm Communications, Inc. dba Airfire Cellular, Order, 28 FCC Rcd. 8842 (EB 2013) (stating that the provider asserted that it relied upon ratings information provided by a third party vendor).

4. See Improvements to Benchmarks and Related Requirements Governing Hearing Aid-Compatible Mobile Handsets, Amendment of the Commission’s Rules Governing Hearing Aid-Compatible Cellular Handsets, WT Docket Nos. 15-285, 07-250, Fourth Statement and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 15-155, at 39-40 ¶¶ 89-90 (Nov. 20, 2015).

The particular 4th Annual FCC Supplier Variety Conference Post-Event Video Blog

Monday, November 30th, 2015

On August 20, 2015 a host of small-minority and women-owned businesses converged on the FCC for the 4 th Annual Supplier Diversity Conference and Workshop. The FCC’s Office associated with Communications Business Opportunities (OCBO) hosted the event which focused on private sector business opportunities for small-minority and women-owned companies. OCBO invited representatives from private industry, specifically telecommunications and technology firms from across the country, to discuss their organizations’ contracting procedures and to offer insight on how small businesses should navigate the procurement process.

Procurement and diversity executives from Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, Verizon, Sprint, AT& T, and Microsoft, as well as some of the easier suppliers to these companies like A Unity System, The IT Architect, collected to discuss how small businesses can distinguish themselves in the market for lucrative opportunities.

The video clips placed on the FCC/OCBO blog page are designed to introduce viewers to the types of businesses that attended the Provider Diversity Conference. Any opinions or even ideas expressed in the videos tend not to necessarily reflect the views from the FCC, and the videos are not by any means an endorsement by the FCC of any company or individual that appears therein.

Enforcement Fines: The Collection Process

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

The Enforcement Bureau has four guiding mandates: shield consumers, safeguard competition, secure communications networks, and police the integrity of Commission funds, programs and services. To better protect the public plus strengthen accountability, the Bureau has made it a priority to streamline its processes, reduce its backlogs and offer more transparency into its observance activities. Recently, some questions had been raised about the rate at which adjustment fines are collected, so we believed it would be helpful to offer a primer to the enforcement process.

Statutory Authority

While the Bureau generally strives to conclude enforcement cases efficiently—and has made significant progress in doing so over the last two years— the Bureau follows a mandated process for taking and finalizing enforcement actions in order to protect the integrity of the investigations and ensure fairness to the companies included. This process, while lengthy in character, is required by law and ensures because of process by providing notice of probable violations and an opportunity for businesses to respond.

In setting the amount of the proposed fine, the Communications Act needs the Commission to consider specific requirements: “nature, circumstances, extent, and the law of gravity of the violation and, with respect to the violator, the degree of culpability, any good prior offenses, ability to pay, and so on other matters as justice may need. ” In addition , the Commission comes after forfeiture guidelines—established in 1997— that will set base penalties for certain violations and identify criteria that the Fee considers when determining the appropriate penalty in any given case. Under these guidelines, the Commission may modify a forfeiture upward for infractions that are egregious, intentional, or repetitive, or that cause substantial damage or generate substantial economic gain for the violator.

Notice: Issuing an NAL

A proposed fine (technically called the “Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture”) is the first formal step toward a potential enforcement action. This informs the company of the alleged unlawful activity, establishes the maximum penalty that might be assessed for that violation, and provides the business with an opportunity to contest the allegations. At this stage of the process, the Commission rate has notified the company of its proposed good. The proposed fine is not due or due to the Commission.

Review: Due Procedure

Because of process and the fair enforcement of the law demand that companies come with an opportunity to make their case plus fully respond to the NAL. The Bureau takes its responsibility seriously to thoroughly review all responses, carry out any additional investigation necessary, and make any adjustments to the case because appropriate – including reducing or maybe cancelling a fine if warranted.

Complete: Negotiation, Collection, Compliance

In some cases, the Enforcement Agency reaches a mutually acceptable arrangement with the company, which may include customer redress and compliance requirements. In case a settlement is not achieved, however , the particular Commission, after considering the full lawful and factual record, may vote to assess a fine (formally known as a “Forfeiture Order”).

Even after the Forfeiture Purchase, a company may continue to challenge an enforcement action before the Commission. Once it has exhausted its right to problem an enforcement action before the Percentage, however , a company is required to pay the fine imposed in the Forfeiture Purchase. If the company does not do so inside the required time, the fine is known as a debt to the United States and it is referred to the U. S. Division of Justice for a collection activity.

Improving efficiency, Decreasing the backlog

Since 2013, the Commission has steadily improved its efficiency in bringing suggested fines to conclusion, usually through settlement or a Commission-level decision in order to issue a final fine. In fact , the particular Bureau has collected 86 % of the actual fines it has enforced over the last two years, a substantial increase over previous years. During each of the last three years, the Commission has gathered more than 80 percent of the bad debts in imposed fines. By comparison, in 2011, just 54. 9 percent of the money owed in issued fines was collected. In 2015 alone, the Bureau has collected nearly hundred buck million in fines to the U. S. Treasury.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Fines collected $29. 9 Mirielle $8. 9 M $29 M $39 M $98 M
% associated with total 54. 9% 39. 2% 88. 2% 80. 3% 88. 6%

In addition , the Bureau made great strides in providing timely conclusions to cases. For example , NALs issued in 2011 took an average of 19 months to be resolved via forfeiture order, whereas NALs issued within 2014 took an average of eight a few months to be resolved via forfeiture order— a near 60 percent enhancement in speed.

There are, of course , special situations that take more time because they require coordination with other government entities. Recently, the Commission has received questions about the status of a couple of adjustment actions involving proposed fines. For instance , certain proposed fines related to the particular Lifeline program have been referred to the particular Commission’s Inspector General (IG) with regard to review. The IG is also tasked with reviewing potential misuse of Universal Service Funds and works together with the Department of Justice on these matters to ensure similar situations are handled consistently.

Another example is really a proposed fine against a Chinese language company for selling illegal jammers. As an international case, the Payment must comply with international treaties governing legal process between the countries. The Commission is actively working with the Chinese and U. S. government authorities to resolve this matter as precipitously as possible.

American consumers rely on the Observance Bureau to protect them and our country’s networks. Companies rely on the particular Enforcement Bureau to enforce the rules of the road and maintain a consistent and fair system. Whether it’s protecting consumer data, stopping Wi-Fi blocking, enforcing robocall rules or preventing cramming and slamming, the Enforcement Agency will not hesitate to protect consumers’ passions and the networks we all rely on.

Streamlining Rules and Processes: New Steps Forward

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Throughout my career I have witnessed many instances where regulatory delay plus burdensome red tape slowed the speed of innovation and hampered expenditure in the communications sector, which plays such a vital role in our nation’s economic growth. That’s why one of the first steps as Chairman was to launch a comprehensive review of the Commission’s operations, with the goal of streamlining processes, updating or getting rid of outdated rules, and generally improving how the agency conducts its businesses. Next month, the Commission will think about two new initiatives in this continuing effort.

Already, we’ve seen significant enhancements to the agency’s operations. Commission employees have made substantial progress on reducing matters pending for more than 6 months, processing license applications and renewal, disposing of petitions for reconsideration and applications for review, and closing open dockets. One of the most obvious reforms was overhauling the consumer complaint procedure. We opened a new complaint portal early this year, and continue to make enhancements in the data being made available openly regarding the complaints filed here at the particular FCC.

One area of focus had been modernizing Part 25 of the Commission’s guidelines, which governs licensing and procedure of space stations and world stations for the provision of satellite television communications services. Led by our own International Bureau, the Commission has revised or eliminated numerous Part 25 rule provisions.

Last week, I circulated to my colleagues an Order making further changes to our Part 25 rules. This proposal would associated with regulatory approval process for satellite television licenses easier and more efficient, significantly reducing regulatory burdens and costs. The Second Report and Order streamlines, clarifies, eliminates, or amends guidelines to allow for more operational flexibility and better accommodate evolving technology while easing administrative burdens on licensees and Commission staff.

While the Commission is definitely committed to eliminating outdated, unnecessary guidelines to let the marketplace work, we must also preserve rules needed to protect consumers and competition. A second item to be considered at the Commission’s next open meeting strikes that balance.

The Commission will vote on an order partially granting a petition meant for forbearance filed by United States Phone system Association from various rules regulating incumbent local phone companies, specially the three remaining “Baby Bells”. These rules were adopted to protect or expand competition, but technological and market conditions have changed significantly, making many of these rules outdated. Eliminating them will promote the ability associated with local phone companies to build away broadband and invest in modern and efficient networks. At the same time, our action preserves rules that remain essential to protect consumers and competition.

These proposals are just the latest evidence that the Fee takes a common-sense approach to regulation, and will eliminate outdated, unnecessary rules to let the marketplace work, while taking necessary steps to ensure consumers are safeguarded.

A Dialogue on E-rate Pricing Data

Monday, November 16th, 2015

As part of the E-rate Modernization Order adopted last year, the particular Commission decided to increase pricing openness in the E-rate program by making details publicly available regarding services plus equipment purchased by schools plus libraries, including line-item costs. To that end, the Commission directed work of the Managing Director and USAC to make such information available via open APIs and bulk data files posted on USAC’s website:

Assisting schools and libraries obtain the best possible pricing is important for several reasons. Initial, funding for E-rate comes from ratepayers, and we seek to ensure that the public is getting the best value for its money. Second, E-rate does not foot the entire bill for E-rate supported services; schools and libraries share the cost of their E-rate services, which means taxpayers across the nation have an interest in making sure their schools and libraries don’t spend more than necessary. Third, the funding is really a shared resource — every college or library that secures a much better price helps stretch the E-rate budget to serve even more schools and libraries with better, faster service. Finally, by federal law, all telecommunications carriers are to deliver services to schools and libraries “at rates less than the amounts charged for similar services to other parties” (that’s all customers, not only other schools and libraries). As a tool to help deliver on this Congressional objective, however , providing the data to help make comparisons even just between plus among schools and libraries is a great starting point.

Although the power of better details is clear, we recognize that many, if not most schools and libraries, won’t have the data analytics tools necessary to evaluate pricing. And so, with this blog, all of us begin today a public conversation on the pricing data.

In a series of brief blogs, this one and others to come, we will publish the results of queries all of us run on the publicly available pricing data. We will run queries on questions that interest the three people, or other members of the FCC’s E-rate team, or our co-workers at USAC. We will also release data results that others may provide to us in order to further this public dialogue. And finally, we will accept proposals for data queries from the large E-rate community. Even though we can’t promise that we may have sufficient resources to perform every information search, we expect that the questions themselves and the sharing of information will enhance our overall objective of pricing transparency. We’d inquire only that questions for a information query be posed as specifically as possible.

And now, for the results of our first query. The median monthly repeating pricing by state or place for 1 Gbps transport — the bulk transmission of data between a school district’s locations — as well as 1 Gbps access to the Internet.

State/Territory Count of Financing Requests* Median Price
Transport Only Internet Only
National 5688 $1, 210. 70 $3, 320. 00
Alaska 13 $1, 422. 22 $730. 00
Alabama 103 $1, 445. fifty nine $1, 369. 50
United states Samoa 1 $10, 000. 00
Arizona 63 $1, 928. 21 $4, 923. 00
Arkansas 110 $1, 489. 00 $4, 980. 00
California 826 $1, 428. sixty-five $1, 355. 45
Colorado 54 $1, 464. 35 $3, 633. 01
Connecticut 84 $1, 040. 15 $1, 050. 00
Delaware 1 $1, 855. 00
District of Columbia 6 $2, eight hundred. 00 $5, 000. 00
Florida 121 $1, 761. 00 $3, 801. 75
Georgia 133 $1, 200. 00 $4, 500. 00
Guam one $775. 00
Hawaii 1 $6, 000. 00
Idaho 24 $1, 750. 00 $2, 695. 00
Illinois 255 $1, 103. 57 $3, 431. 22
Indiana 197 $1, 337. 90 $11, 417. 14
Iowa 44 $737. 38 $2, 831. 42
Kansas 64 $1, 165. 44 $3, 691. 00
Kentucky 112 $1, 062. 88 $797. 94
Louisiana 78 $1, 387. eighty-five $7, 079. seventy five
Maine 4 $759. 17
Maryland 14 $885. 50 $7, 355. 00
Massachusetts 31 $2, 592. 00 $2, 824. 50
Michigan 108 $998. 55 $2, 535. 53
Minnesota 105 $724. 75 $1, 447. 00
Mississippi 121 $891. 07 $3, 725. 00
Missouri 174 $1, 773. 66 $3, 897. 70
Montana 17 $799. 47 $4, 148. 50
Nebraska 76 $1, 818. 50
Nevada 7 $308. 90 $4, 756. 80
New Hampshire 5 $600. 00 $1, 500. 00
Nj-new jersey 255 $1, 467. 20 $3, 400. 00
New Mexico 19 $2, 820. 64 $7, 548. 70
New York 318 $919. 60 $1, 700. 70
North Carolina 93 $1, 479. 69 $2, 612. 56
North Dakota 7 $322. thirty four $400. 00
Northern Mariana Islands 1 $468. 75
Ohio 248 $867. 17 $2, 044. 16
Oklahoma 135 $1, 512. 56 $4, 209. forty eight
Or 91 $1, 051. 60 $1, 100. 00
Pennsylvania 248 $1, 200. 00 $2, 919. 00
Rhode Island almost eight $3, 000. 00 $3, 000. 00
Sc 9 $1, 626. 86 $11, 997. 48
South Dakota 4 $1, 750. 00
Tennessee 133 $2, 365. 16 $2, 500. 00
Texas 536 $870. 26 $4, 250. 00
Utah 124 $1, 189. 66 $3, 416. 94
Vermont 71 $200. 00 $1, 868. 98
Virgin Islands 2 $4, 316. 00 $39, 235. 00
Virginia 98 $1, 390. 00 $6, 269. 13
Washington 116 $906. 72 $2, 960. 61
West Virginia 50 $1, 581. 63 $1, 646. 00
Wisconsin 166 $1, 023. thirty four $1, 220. 84
Wy 1 $1, 850. 63

*Number of funding demands for Transport Only and Internet Only (that meet the criteria outlined below).
Includes connections with down load speeds of 1000 and 1024 Mbps.
Includes connections with product type of: Dark Fiber, Ethernet,, Lit Fiber, OC-3, OC-12, OC-N, and Standalone Internet Access.

FY15 E-rate Type 471 Data
Extracted through Pentaho on November 12, 2015

Two points of note about these figures. First, as these are statewide median prices in a program where the suppliers have a legal obligation to offer their best prices, one might have expected to observe greater uniformity of pricing. The fact that there is such variation across the country speaks either to the quality of the information that USAC receives from schools and libraries, or the pricing available to schools and libraries, or each. The significant variability in the information on pricing warrants further evaluation and discussion.

Second, in order to meet the FCC’s goals with the current budget, pricing is going to have to get better. Assume the program spends, as budgeted, $1 billion on internal connections within schools and libraries, and also funds required construction in rural areas. This program has less than $1, 750 each month to spend on average for broadband online connectivity to each school or collection, and for every $1, 750 which is spent by the program, participating schools and libraries pay $750. So , to achieve the goals of broadband online connectivity under the E-rate budget, average month-to-month transport and internet pricing combined is going to have to be lower than $2, five hundred. We’re not there yet, but data sharing is a good place to start.

Rethinking Outdated Voice Regulations

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

With old school switched access telephone service on a steep decrease, accounting for an ever smaller proportion of total voice connections, it may come as a surprise that the FCC continues to regulate incumbent telephone companies as “dominant” providers. While it is true that incumbents still account for most of the remaining switched access lines, that’s no longer a useful or relevant way of looking at the voice market. Customers have an abundance of options to choose from when they want to make a call—to the particular extent they are even making calls these days. It is time for the FCC to see market realities and eliminate the specifications associated with this supposedly “dominant” standing.

The waning relevance of switched access phone service within the voice market is well documented, including in the FCC’s own Local Telephone Competition Reports. Since the peak over a decade ago, the number of incumbent switched access lines has dropped by more than 50 percent, and incumbent switched access minutes of use have dropped by more than 70 %. In 2013, less than one-third of American households purchased an incumbent switched access service, and that shape is projected to drop to below 20 percent by the end of this season.

The reason is that consumers can choose from a wide array of competing services. The particular 2014 Local Telephone Competition Survey shows that between December 2010 and December 2013, interconnected VoIP subscribers increased at a compound annual development rate of 15 percent, and mobile telephony subscriptions increased in a compound annual growth rate of 3 percent, while retail switched access lines declined by 10 percent a year.

Indeed, that report marked the first time that the amount of residential VoIP connections exceeded the number of residential switched access lines. More than 80 percent of total VoIP connections are provided by non-ILECs (typically cable). That does not even count non-interconnected or “over-the-top” VoIP service, or the popular voice alternatives like text messaging and messaging.

Wi-fi penetration is another reason for the decrease in switched access service. Based on the latest CDC data, over 45 percent of American homes have cut the cord and no lengthier have a landline telephone at home. Additionally , more than one-half of all adults outdated 18-44 and of children under eighteen were living in wireless-only households. Even consumers that maintain landline service can easily have a cell phone or smartphone too given the high percentage of cellular phone and smartphone ownership. Moreover, the particular CDC reports that among households with both landline and wireless phones, over one-third received all or just about all calls on wireless telephones.

Given these technological and marketplace changes, it is time to rethink rules that single out one class of voice providers for more burdensome rules simply because they account for a larger share of the shrinking slice of the overall voice pie. That’s like regulating typewriters in the modern age of computer key boards, tablets and smartphones.

In 2012, the agency received a petition asking the Commission to undertake such a review, but it remains impending. In other words, it has been sitting in an hades for nearly three years, which is a problem in and of itself. Notably, the request did not seek complete deregulation, which I would argue is worth considering designed for both dominant and non-dominant service providers given the competitiveness of the bigger market as a whole. Rather, it simply requested that carriers currently susceptible to dominant carrier rules be controlled in the same manner as non-dominant carriers with respect to switched access service.

The petition noted three parts of disparate treatment: (i) dominant service providers are subject to price cap or even rate-of-return regulation, and must document tariffs with applicable cost support for services on a minimum observe of seven days or more, while non-dominant carriers are not subject to rate rules and may file tariffs on one day’s notice and without cost support; (ii) dominant carriers are subject to a 60-day waiting period for applications to discontinue, reduce, or impair services to be granted, as compared to a 30-day period for non-dominant service providers; and (iii) dominant carriers qualify for presumptive streamlined treatment designed for fewer types of transfers of manage under section 214 than non-dominant carriers.

When I browse the petition, I was struck by just how narrow the relief would be. This is hardly a major departure from their current burdens but such reasonable versatility may be helpful for providers. To explain, incumbents would still file charges and their services and dealings would remain subject to Commission oversight. Moreover, the petition is limited in order to switched access service and would not impact special access or VOTRE rules.

I fail to see how maintaining additional burdens which are not applicable to non-dominant company competitors, much less to wireless suppliers, VoIP providers, or edge suppliers, serves consumers. The costs of these extra burdens cannot possibly be justified simply by any supposed benefit. All they are doing is make a legacy service actually less attractive for providers to provide and for consumers to buy. It is not astonishing, therefore , that it is the voice providers and applications with little in order to no regulation where we are seeing the most innovation and the biggest development.

Part of the goal from the so-called “tech transitions” proceeding would be to identify and remove regulations that no longer serve a purpose so that suppliers can direct their investments on the new technologies and services that consumers are embracing. Reducing unnecessary rules on switched access telephone program would be a positive step in that path. After nearly three years, it’s time to dust off the filed petition and grant some relief.

Cleaning the Air on Wi-Fi Software Improvements

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

This week notable the closing of the reply remark period in the Commission’s radio device approval modernization rulemaking. The comments plus replies are largely supportive of the Commission’s proposals, but one particular component generated thousands of comments from individuals concerned that the proposal would motivate manufacturers to prevent modifications or improvements to the software used in devices like wireless local area networks (e. g., Wi-Fi routers). I’m pleased this issue attracted considerable attention plus thoughtful submissions into the record plus would like to make it clear that the proposal is not really intended to encourage manufacturers to prevent almost all modifications or updates to device software.

As I published last month, this proceeding has brought on a significance beyond the Commission’s original intent. One of our key goals is to protect against harmful disturbance by calling on manufacturers to secure their own devices against third party software adjustments that would take a device out of its RF compliance. Yet, as the report shows, there is concern that our proposed rules could have the unintended outcome of causing manufacturers to “lock down” their devices and prevent almost all software modifications, including those impacting security vulnerabilities and other changes on which users rely. Eliciting this kind of suggestions is the very reason that we sought comment in an NPRM and we are usually pleased to have received the feedback that will inform our decision-making on this issue.

In my last submit I recognized the need to work with stakeholders – particularly the user community – to address these concerns in a way that still enables the Commission to implement its mandate to protect users through harmful interference. I’m happy to declare the OET staff and I have got spoken directly with some of these stakeholders in the last few weeks.

1 immediate outcome of this ongoing dialogue is a step we’ve taken to explain our guidance on rules the Commission rate adopted last year in the U-NII continuing. Our original lab guidance record released pursuant to that Order inquired manufacturers to explain “how [its] device is protected through ‘flashing’ and the installation of third-party firmware such as DD-WRT”. This particular question motivated a fair bit of confusion – were we mandating wholesale blocking of Open Source firmware modifications?

We were not, but all of us agree that the guidance we provide in order to manufacturers must be crystal-clear to avoid confusion. So , today we released a revision to that guidance to explain that our instructions were narrowly-focused on modifications that would take a device away from compliance. The revised guidance today more accurately reflects our intention in both the U-NII rules as well as our current rulemaking, and we hope it serves as a guidepost for that rules as we move from suggestion to adoption.

There is more hard work ahead of us as we finalize rules, and we welcome ongoing input from manufacturers, users, technologists, and others.