Archive for May, 2016

Improving the FCC Circulation Process 888011000110888 Several of my prior blogs have highlighted process reforms that will improve both the Commission’s consideration associated with and public input on “meeting items” that are scheduled for a election at the monthly Open Meetings. At this point, I want to draw attention to and recommend process improvements for “circulation items, ” which can either be identified electronically outside of a meeting or put into an Open Meeting. Background Flow items are often lower profile, much less controversial, or more technical proposals that will don’t draw as much public attention as meeting items. They also are generally less time sensitive. For these reasons, circulation products may linger on circulation for a lot of months without receiving votes. ‎ There are two ways to hasten the resolution of circulation items. First, if an item provides three votes in support, it is placed in “must vote” status and the Commissioner(s) who have not yet identified must do so by a set deadline, generally within a couple of weeks. Second, the item may be added to a Commission monthly Open Meeting. That process typically happens three weeks in advance of the particular meeting (the “white copy date”), but can occur as late as one week before the meeting (the “Sunshine date”). ‎ Appropriate Circulation Life ‎Given the intense 8th Floor focus on the monthly conference agenda, it is not surprising that several circulation items are not voted quickly. However , if an item has been on circulation for six months, no matter the main reason, it should automatically be removed from blood circulation. After six months, the draft is often stale, and likely would need more work to reflect the current state of the record. Moreover, in the event that an item has been sitting on circulation for six months with only one or two ballots, it is typically because the item does not have the support of a majority of Commissioners, and is unlikely to garner sufficient support to even trigger the particular must vote procedures. ‎In these instances, the Chairman’s office should pull the item away circulation and work with staff and the Commissioners to find a consensus. If or when one is achieved, the item could be revised and recirculated knowing that it can now be voted in a timely manner. Alternatively, the revised item could be placed on a Meeting agenda. This particular suggestion is similar to how nominations are handled in the U. S. United states senate. All non-confirmed, non-rejected pending nominations are returned to the President in late a session of Congress to allow the particular President to consider withdrawing the candidate selection or nominate the person again. Furthermore, like the differences between circulation plus Open Meeting items, Senate leadership always has the option of calling the nomination up for a recorded vote below regular order. Circulation Items Converted to Meeting Items Under current procedures, long-pending circulation items can be added to a meeting. Sometimes this takes place when it is clear that the current text lacks support and little work has been done to modify the set up. In these instances, the version put into a meeting is an outdated placeholder for some yet-to-be drafted, consensus document that will hopefully emerge in the short time prior to the meeting. The problem using the placeholder process approach is that Commissioners are supposed to use that time to meet with outside parties regarding the proposal. It is hard enough to have productive meetings when outside parties can’t see the textual content of the item that’s being identified. But it is even worse when the Commissioners themselves do not have a clear sense associated with what is actually on the table. While it is true that any meeting item can change in the time leading up to the particular vote, those are changes to a recent and concrete proposal, to not a long pending draft that may not really reflect the current views of staff and the Chairman’s office. ‎‎‎‎Even worse, the current procedures allow for even less notice to the community and less time for consideration by Commissioners. Specifically, an item that is on circulation as of the white copy date could be added to the Commission’s monthly agenda one week prior to the Open Meeting, which is the start of the “Sunshine” period. That is, at the very time that outside parties discover it is finally time to focus on an item, they are no longer able to contact the Commission to express their views because it is prohibited legally and FCC regulations. Keep in mind, any previous views of interested celebrations – and any ex partes conducted – may be completely irrelevant depending on the new text of the item so they can’t necessarily be depended upon as sufficient public input. To fix this process, I suggest that circulation items that are transformed into meeting items should be announced 3 weeks before the meeting (i. e., on the white copy date, which is the regular notification time for all other meeting items). Moreover, converted items which do not reflect the current views associated with staff and the Chairman’s office should be revised and recirculated as standard meeting items no later than the white copy date. I would also argue that a draft that needs substantial rewrites during the white copy time period should be pulled and considered at a later date. Finally, absent extraordinary circumstances, simply no item should be added one week before the meeting, as that all but prevents public input on the item. These simple changes would help make sure adequate input and deliberation upon all items considered by the Fee at its Open Meetings.

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

May 31, 2016 – 3: 58 pm

Michael O' Rielly | Commissioner

Several of my prior blog posts have highlighted process reconstructs that would improve both the…

Giving Consumers Greater Access to FCC Complaint Data

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Greater transparency is one of the goals of our Consumer Help Center, which for over a year now has been the FCC’s primary online destination for learning about consumer telecommunications issues, filing informal consumer complaints and finding out what other consumers are concerned about.FCC Complaint Data Site

In keeping with that commitment, we have made more and more consumer-complaint data publicly available through the Consumer Help Center – publishing weekly updates to a variety of charts, maps and spreadsheets. All the while, though, we’ve had something more in mind: handing the keys to the data directly to the public.

And so today, we’re pleased to unveil our new Consumer Complaint Data Center, which will make available granular complaint data that is automatically updated daily, resulting in more up-to-date data being made available to the public. 

The new Consumer Complaint Data Center will integrate charts, maps and search features with an online database of granular complaint data (see sample illustration, right).

Now, anyone can access this detailed data, create dynamic visualizations and download the charts, graphs and maps.   The new Complaint Data Center also incorporates a responsive design – automatically resizing for display on mobile devices such as phones, tablets and laptops.

By engaging with the data, consumers can better understand telecommunications issues they may be facing as well as how many other consumers share similar concerns.  Researchers and developers can also benefit with the ability to extract and manipulate data, allowing them to identify complaint trends and analyze the data.   

The Data Center is the newest platform extension for the Consumer Help Center, where you can file an informal complaint or learn about a range of issues related to wireless or wireline phone and broadband services, TV, radio, accessible technology or emergency communications.  Reaching this new milestone in transparency will help us raise public awareness about these important issues.

As one of the first government agencies to move data to the cloud, we’ve learned what it takes to integrate capabilities and embrace the new technology created by modern cloud solutions.  We’re excited to see the innovations and analysis that end-users will come up with using this new advanced tool.

We welcome your feedback and comments. Please email us at

Continuing Momentum in the 3.5 GHz band

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Last month, the Commission finalized the regulatory structure for the innovative 3550-3700 GHz (3.5 GHz) Citizens Broadband Radio Service, culminating a regulatory process that will result in 150 megahertz of spectrum made available for a variety of wireless uses.  With the rule structure in place, it’s time to focus on putting this spectrum to use for the American people, moving from concept development to implementation. 

Yesterday marked a major milestone in implementation: parties filed proposals to become certified Spectrum Access System (SAS) Administrators and Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) operators.  These two systems are the lynchpins for the dynamic sharing framework in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, and are incredibly powerful tools that will facilitate access to a significant new spectrum resource and sharing in other bands in the future.

Like much of the 3.5 GHz framework, the SAS is an advance on a well-utilized and established practice in spectrum management – frequency coordination.  The SAS builds on existing frequency coordination approaches by leveraging advanced computing to maximize the number of users that might be able to operate within a given area at a given time, making spectrum available where and when it’s needed, and enforcing protections and rights among use tiers. 

The ESC is the technological solution that will enable new commercial use in coastal areas of the United States (and some inland locations) while still protecting important federal radar operations.  An ESC is a spectrum sensor network that is able to quickly identify the presence of a radar signal, and communicate that fact to an SAS.  An SAS would then instruct Citizen Broadband Service Devices in the area to cease operations or move to a non-interfering channel to protect federal operations.

We are extremely excited about the level of interest from prospective SAS Administrators and ESC operators. We received applications from eight parties, representing a cross section of the wireless ecosystem, including operator representatives, new innovative technology vendors, existing database operators, and others.  Over the coming months, the Wireless Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology will review the SAS and ESC applications.  Applications that we believe meet the requisite qualifications and demonstrate an ability to comply with our rules will be conditionally approved; we will then test the conditionally approved systems. We will coordinate with our counterparts at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Defense to help ensure the proposed systems protect incumbent federal operations consistent with our rules. We intend to conduct this review in a very deliberate, timely, and thorough manner.

There is a significant and growing community of innovative technology developers and potential operators that are invested in the success of the 3.5 GHz band, the SAS and ESC-enabled sharing scheme, and the potential of these new sharing tools.  In February 2016, an impressive group of companies – Federated Wireless, Google, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Ruckus Wireless – committed to jointly develop and promote solutions to using the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service. The Wireless Innovation Forum, an industry-based group of over 75 wireless operators, equipment vendors, technology developers, and other innovators, has led the development of broad-based standards for SAS and ESC operators.These groups are investing substantial resources to get this concept off the ground.  

As Chairman Wheeler stated at the adoption of the Order on Reconsideration and Second Report and Order: “The government is frequently criticized for thinking too narrowly and doing things one way because that is the way they have always been done.  The Citizens Broadband Radio Service is not one of those cases.  Here, the Commission has taken bold steps to pursue a new approach.”

The filing of SAS and ESC proposals is the industry’s bold step toward making this new concept a reality, and takes us closer to proving out this solution for the 3.5 GHz band and others into the future.

Modernizing Wireless Licensing at the FCC

Friday, May 13th, 2016

The FCC is excited to announce the first steps in our effort to modernize our Universal Licensing System (ULS), the system used to license wireless radio services for commercial, private, public safety, and personal use.  The goal of the modernization initiative is to transition ULS to a new, integrated, cloud-based platform that will enable FCC staff, licensees, and other stakeholders to conduct electronic licensing activities with more consistent performance, easier access to information, and enhanced functionality, such as the use of APIs to improve the ability of licensees to utilize information from ULS.

ULS initially was developed in the 1990s to move the FCC’s wireless licensing functions out of the paper world and into an electronic world with a consolidated public interface and 100% e-filing capability.  Today, ULS holds at least two million active licenses, handles approximately 250,000 monthly actions such as application filing, and serves as an important research tool for numerous stakeholders and the public.  Modernizing ULS is one of several major IT initiatives the agency is undertaking to update its technical platforms to provide better, faster, and more agile functionality for internal and external users, and to reduce costs associated with building and maintaining IT infrastructure, consistent with the FCC’s process reform objectives.

ULS is an essential tool for the agency to achieve its core mission as much as it is an essential tool for outside stakeholders to manage their operations effectively.  Given the scope of this initiative, modernization of this system will be a multi-year project and will require considerable planning, commitment, and patience.   We will begin by working to transition to the new platform three services selected to test a range of functions and meet operational needs – General Mobile Radio Services, 3650 – 3700 MHz, and Point-to-Point Microwave.  Additional wireless radio services will be sequenced over the life of the project, and transition of additional licensing systems for non-wireless services will be considered in the future as well.  Further, as part of this effort, we will consider other ways to improve users’ experience over time, such as integrating greater mapping (geospatial information system) functionality and integrating ULS with other FCC databases (for example, National Outage Reporting System (NORS) and Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), with a goal of reducing data entry burdens and improving correlation of data to support advanced analytic methods.

Communication with ULS licensees and end-users is paramount to the success of our modernization efforts.  We will engage licensees throughout our process and will solicit input so we can address concerns and ensure a smooth transition.  Stay tuned as we work with stakeholders throughout the duration of this initiative, and we will be providing ongoing updates as progress unfolds.

Looking Up: Migratory Bird Conservation Presidential Award

Friday, May 6th, 2016

The FCC is often lauded for expanding broadband availability, protecting consumer rights, leading spectrum innovation policies and more. Today, the Commission is equally proud to be recognized for our important work on an issue that’s my focus and one that others may not often read about: migratory bird conservation. This year, we are honored to be selected as the winner of the Presidential Migratory Bird Stewardship Award in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Every year, millions of birds migrate thousands of miles across North America to Central America and elsewhere as seasons change, following the weather from cooler to more temperate climates. Ducks, geese, sparrows, warblers and other North American migratory birds follow these flight patterns annually. The Arctic Tern, for example, migrates the farthest distance annually at approximately 44,000 miles round trip.

The Commission has an important protective role to play.

Communications towers – both wired and wireless – serve as deadly roadblocks on the paths of birds as they travel. Current research estimates that approximately 7 million birds collide with towers in North America every year during their spring and fall migrations. A documented 239 species of birds have collided with towers resulting in fatalities. For more than fifty years, migratory birds have been documented to collide with communications towers, as well as other tall structures. Wildlife biologists have concluded that migratory birds are attracted to lights used at night to warn pilots of a tower or other hazard, and appear to be more attracted to steady-burning (i.e., non-flashing) lights. Their attraction to the tower lights results in collisions with tower guy wires and the tower structure itself.

For the past six years, the FCC partnered with the FAA to protect migratory birds and to address this problem and revise the standards used for lighting communications towers and transition from steady-burning tower lights to flashing tower lights. The publication of revised lighting rules last year marked the culmination of a multi-year effort to significantly reduce mortality rates of migratory birds resulting from collisions with communications towers.

The FAA and FCC worked together to examine alternative lighting configurations and issued new specifications to eliminate non-flashing lights on towers, thereby reducing the attraction to migratory birds without compromising pilot safety. A comparative study of bird fatalities associated with communications towers suggests that these new lighting configurations could reduce bird collisions and resulting fatalities by 70 percent each year. Going forward, new and altered towers more than 150 feet tall may only use flashing lights.  We are also encouraging owners to extinguish non-flashing lights on towers built before the new FAA standards took effect.

These efforts will result in significant reductions in avian collisions with communications towers every year in the U.S. and Canada and prevent millions of avian fatalities each year. And, extinguishing or eliminating the use of non-flashing lights on towers can save industry construction costs, maintenance costs, energy costs, and carbon output. There is little to no cost to tower owners who use the streamlined process of extinguishing tower lights on existing towers above 350 feet.

Learn more about the project to revise lighting standards and reduce migratory bird fatalities. Learn more about the new standards.

Most That’s Old Is New Once again

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

May 4, 2016 — 4: 00 pm

Tom Wheeler | FCC Chairman

All that’s old is definitely new again at the Commission’s Might open meeting. Our agenda will feature many…