Tag Archives: FCC

With 2 Weeks to Go, the Net Neutrality Battle Heats Up


Protesters march past the FCC headquarters before the Commission meeting on net neutrality proposal on May, 15, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Image: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images

With less than two weeks until the end of the comment period on proposed Internet regulations, both sides of the debate are pushing publicity campaigns aimed at swaying the net neutrality debate.

The battle has coalesced around a particular issue: the reclassification of broadband Internet, a move that would either maintain an open and equal web or destroy it, depending on which side of the debate is lobbying. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has publicly stated that it could vote to reclassify broadband as a utility, bringing Internet providers under more stringent regulations.

A new “don’t break the Internet” campaign launched on Tuesday with a website that seeks to push back against calls for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify. Drawing on the words of net neutrality advocates like Tim Wu, Lawrence Lessig and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the site makes plain its stance at the top.

“Dear Mr. Chairman, don’t break the Internet! Cat videos aren’t megawatts and the net’s not a series of tubes, so don’t treat it like a utility,” the post states alongside Photoshopped images of the FCC chairman with cats.


The FCC is currently considering new regulations about how data flows on the Internet, an issue that has sparked debate about the role or regulation and Internet providers. Advocates of net neutrality — which dictates that all data should be treated equally so as to maintain and open and competitive Internet — have called for the FCC to consider the Internet a utility, which would bring it under more stringent regulation. The deadline for comments on the FCC’s proposed Internet regulation and replying to earlier comments is Sept. 15.

The initial draft of the rules built in allowances for “commercially reasonable” deals between content providers and Internet companies. This allowance caused a flood of concern from net neutrality advocates who worried this could lead to “fast lanes” that would make the Internet more similar to cable television.

Those concerns led to calls for the FCC to change how it regulates the Internet by switching to “Title II,” which would treat it similar to utilities.

The “don’t break the Internet” campaign is backed by TechFreedom, a nonprofit think tank that says it is backed by Internet providers as well as content providers. It is calling for congressional action to limit FCC power and explicitly detail how it can regulate the Internet.

“Democrats and Republicans should join in a bipartisan compromise that sets out clear, but specific and narrow, authority over core net neutrality concerns. Congress should bar the FCC from ever applying Title II to the Internet,” the site states.

There is no shortage of advocates of reclassification. Democratic Senator Carl Levin is the most recent politician to back reclassification, stating it is “the best and clearest way to ensure an open and free Internet.”

Fight for the Future, another nonprofit think tank “dedicated to protecting and expanding the Internet’s transformative power,” has organized an “Internet slowdown” on Sept. 10 to bring attention to the issue.

“On Sept. 10th, sites across the web will display an alert with a symbolic ‘loading’ symbol (the proverbial “spinning wheel of death”) and promote a call to action for users to push comments to the FCC, Congress, and the White House,” the site states.

The final push over net neutrality comes after a particularly active comment period, including a John Oliver video that went viral and sparked thousands of comments through the FCC’s online system.

The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for government accountability and transparency, found that around two-thirds of comments were against allowing content providers to pay for better service and about the same number supported reclassification.

The study found that those against some effort to ensure an open and fair Internet were in the extreme minority.

“We estimate that less than 1 percent of comments were clearly opposed to net neutrality,” the organization wrote in a post.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/09/02/dont-break-the-internet/

Sandy Prompts FCC Hearings on Communications Outages


The Federal Communications Commission announced on Wednesday it will hold field hearings examining ways to keep communications systems up and running during natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

Lawmakers called for probes into communications outages after Sandy left as much as 25% of cell sites in its path inoperable when it hit the East Coast in October.

“This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications networks,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

The hearings will start in 2013, with the first round in New York and continuing in other disaster-prone areas of the country.

In the wake of Sandy, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for the FCC to determine where system weaknesses exist and develop plans to make communications networks more resilient.

“Field hearings will increase our understanding of the problems encountered during Superstorm Sandy and harvest the best ideas to ensure that mobile phone service doesn’t fail after future storms,” he said in a statement after the FCC announced the hearings. “Mobile communication has become an essential part of our lives, and increasing its reliability must be a top priority.”

Several House Democrats have also called for a congressional hearing on the issue.

Harold Feld, senior vice president at the consumer group Public Knowledge, said he hopes the outages will lead to federal standards for communications networks.

“Hopefully, the experience with Sandy underscores how dependent we as a nation have become on these networks, and that the federal government does indeed have a role in setting minimum standards for preparedness and response,” he said.

Image courtesy of Flickr, edenpictures

This article originally published at National Journal

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/21/sandy-fcc-outages/

FCC: Communications Outages Could Get Worse


Communications outages caused by Sandy could get worse before they get better, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski warned on Tuesday.

Flooding, snow and other dangerous conditions could slow efforts to restore electricity and communications networks, he told reporters. Wireless communications are especially vulnerable to sustained outages, Genachowski said.

Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast, has had a “substantial and serious” impact on the country’s communications infrastructure, he said. “The storm is not over. Our posture is to expect the unexpected.”

Because of power outages as well as physical damage, as much as 25% of cellphone sites in the storm’s path were not operating as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to an FCC monitoring system. Roughly a quarter of broadband, home phone or cable services also experienced widespread outages, FCC officials said. The agency’s system monitors 158 counties in 10 states.

Genachowski also said that a “very small number” of 911 call centers were down, while some centers were rerouting emergency calls to other centers.

FCC officials are in contact with telecommunications companies, which say they are working to restore service.

Image courtesy of Flickr, TalAtlas

This article originally published at National Journal

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/30/fcc-sandy-outages/

Technology Can Fix the Budget Crisis


A pair of Clinton-era telecom regulators and “card-carrying Democrats” want to bring back some of the economic magic of the go-go 1990s with an ambitious plan to accelerate growth, shrink the national debt while revolutionizing the delivery of government services and help slow global warming.

The plan from former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt and his former chief of staff, Blair Levin, is outlined in an e-book called The Politics of Abundance: How Technology Can Fix the Budget, Revive the American Dream, and Establish Obama’s Legacy. It modestly proposes that huge economic growth can be spurred through reconfiguring the way energy is produced, purchased, and consumed. At the same time, the government can generate new efficiencies and savings using broadband applications in health care and education.

All it’s going to take is a grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats in which revenue from a big new emissions tax that targets energy generated by nonrenewable sources and from utility regulation reform is swapped for lower personal and corporate tax rates and a reduction in taxes U.S.-based multinationals pay on repatriated foreign profits.

It sounds like a pipe dream, but Hundt and Levin think it’s possible. “We did not put one thing in that we thought Republicans would overwhelmingly oppose,” Hundt said Tuesday morning at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

The two are shopping their plan to policymakers, lobbyists, industry leaders, and think tankers. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., recommended it to his caucus in a letter, calling the book, “a thoughtful, forward-looking, and optimistic prescription for President Obama’s second term, and I commend it to your consideration.”

On the technology side, the plan calls for raising $45 billion thorough a spectrum auction and spectrum management fees. Some of these funds will go to an effort to digitize all government information and move it to a cloud-based system. “The government should not be the last institution in the social landscape to know which way the digital wind is blowing,” they write.

They offer a laundry list of recommendations for executive actions to push government services online, including the elimination of paper from government, creating a secure system for digital voting, new standards for making online medical records interoperable, new telemedicine rules that allow for delivery of services across state lines, and rewarding school districts that use digital course materials including electronic textbooks. They would also centralize all government spectrum leasing through the Office of Management and Budget, taking that role away from the military and government agencies that currently hold the spectrum.

Hundt said he and Levin wrote the book in anticipation of an Obama victory in the November elections. He offered another prediction — that the Obama administration and Congress will come to terms on a compromise to avert the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. He expects a deal to include tax hikes on top earners, and a postponement of a reckoning on taxes and entitlements. As Obama pivots to his second-term agenda, Hundt said that the president will find a Congress “that will want accomplishments.”

The two faced a skeptical audience. Seth Bloom, general counsel on the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, said that such transformative legislation faces strong headwinds in Congress. Filibuster reform, he said, “could be the most important thing in getting stuff like this to move.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, BotheredByBees

This article originally published at National Journal

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/27/technology-budget-crisis/

Obama Wants Federal Agencies to Share Wireless Spectrum


Share more of your precious wireless spectrum with private businesses, President Barack Obama told government agencies in a Friday memo.

What’s the deal? All wireless communications require spectrum, a government-regulated finite resource that’s limited to one larger-scale “user” at a time, like a radio station, cellphone provider or even a local wireless router. As the number and variety of wireless devices continue to skyrocket, the government is scrambling to find novel ways to allow private businesses the access they need to thrive economically while preserving access for public agencies such as NASA and law enforcement.

One idea to curb the problem is spectrum sharing, wherein User A would get spectrum while User B isn’t busy with it and vice versa. Example: Say you’re cruising down the highway next to a military base. If that base isn’t using its allocated wireless spectrum at the moment for military base things, your cellphone could use that spectrum so you could tweet a picture of that cool military base you just found (Just don’t get too close).

After years of pushing from advisors and outside commentators, Obama’s gone all-in on spectrum sharing. His wordy and technical order boils down to this: The White House Chief Technology Officer and the Director of the National Economic Council will co-chair a Spectrum Policy Team to work with the Secretary of Commerce, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and a variety of other players to research and then issue policies on federal spectrum sharing.

Importantly, the Spectrum Policy Team will also be charged with coming up with market-based financial incentives for federal agencies to share or relinquish their spectrum, giving them more of a reason to do so. The order also directs the FCC to find spots where private businesses and the government could share spectrum and to find areas where government agencies could move to free up spectrum for commercial uses.

Public Knowledge, a technology advocacy group, praised Obama’s spectrum sharing decision.

“Today’s directive requiring agencies to work on new ways to share our public airwaves more efficiently — with each other and with the private sector — will promote this wireless economy and allow it to continue to thrive,” said Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld.

“The federal grants for next-generation sharing technology will maintain America’s leadership for spectrum sharing technologies in an increasingly competitive global market.”

Obama’s order is a follow-up to his 2010 directive to make 500 MHz of spectrum available for wireless broadband in the next 10 years. The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees spectrum allocation, has since been reorganizing federal agencies’ access to spectrum and then auctioning off the newly freed blocks. But FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who advocates for spectrum sharing, argues that process “is reaching its limits.”

“That is why since my first days in office I have endorsed building our federal spectrum policy on carrots, not sticks,” Rosenworcel said in statement on Obama’s memo. “I strongly support the initiatives outlined in the Presidential Memorandum, especially using incentives as a catalyst for freeing more federal spectrum for commercial use.”

Is spectrum sharing the right thing to do? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy Flickr, Pete Souza/The White House

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/14/obama-spectrum-sharing/

Outgoing FCC Chairman Leaves Behind Unfinished Agenda


Julius Genachowski is out as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Capping off a four-year stint as the country’s top telecom regulator, Genachowski was responsible for pushing network-neutrality rules as well as killing the T-Mobile/AT&T merger of 2011.

But he also leaves a lot for his successor to do. Here’s what’s ahead, over the short, medium and long terms:

Net Neutrality

Although the commission passed a rule in late 2010 prohibiting Internet providers from giving priority to certain kinds of Web traffic, the decision is in the middle of a legal challenge, and a ruling is expected to come down this spring. If the verdict goes against the FCC, service providers will have another opportunity to enact rules on traffic discrimination.

The IP Transition

The FCC is overseeing a gradual process in which telecom operators are replacing much of their backbone—the infrastructure responsible for connecting phone calls—with fiberoptic cables. Major service providers have argued that this new system, which operates on Internet protocol, deserves a new set of rules and regulations. Smaller companies, meanwhile, want older copper networks to be preserved to some extent. Whomever succeeds Genachowski will have a large role to play in this battle.

The Spectrum Auction

In 2014, television broadcasters will be selling off unused parts of the wireless spectrum to the government. Because there’s only so much of the airwaves for companies to send their data over, spectrum is incredibly valuable.

Once the auction is complete, Washington plans to turn around and sell some of the spectrum to wireless carriers. They’ll use the new spectrum to build out their cell-phone infrastructure, while the parts the government keeps will be opened up for anyone to use. Exactly how those proportions break down is something the FCC will do a lot to determine.

Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This article originally published at National Journal

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/03/22/julius-genachowski-unfinished-agenda/