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Official FCC Blog

August, 2014

Adding More Color to the E-rate Maps

by Eric Spry, Acting Geographic Information Officer
August 20, 2014

Today we are pleased to release our first update to the FCC E-rate Maps of Fiber Connectivity to Schools and Libraries reflecting feedback we have received from stakeholders. These valuable data from state programs, school districts, and Internet providers across the country have helped us turn the gray, unknown, parts of the map to a known fiber connectivity status.

We are grateful for the interest these maps have already received and are pleased to release an updated version of the maps today, just one week after our initial release.  This version of the maps includes comments received and verified as of 3:30p EDT on 8/18/14 and modifies the weighting schemes to give a stronger preference to data submitted expressly for the purposes of this E-rate proceeding. 

The E-rate maps will continue to evolve and improve, along with the underlying data, available on the E-Rate Modernization Data page. We hope that stakeholders in the E-rate process will continue to stay engaged with our team by submitting feedback to schoolfibermap@fcc.gov for schools and libraryfibermap@fcc.gov for libraries.

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Moving Forward with a Data-Driven E-rate Modernization Process

by Jon Wilkins, Managing Director
August 12, 2014

Last month the Commission took a major step forward in modernizing E-rate by tackling the school and library Wi-Fi gap, maximizing cost-effective purchasing, and phasing down support for non-broadband services. In addition, the item includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on, among other things, the long-term funding needs of the program in light of the overall broadband goals and the annual $1 billion target for Wi-Fi adopted in the E-rate Modernization Order

Chairman Wheeler has made clear that data will drive answers to questions about program funding, based on an understanding of current school and library connectivity and the projected costs necessary for all schools and libraries to meet the goals adopted in the E-rate Modernization Order. 

In support of this objective, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Strategic Planning and Policy today released a staff report summarizing what we have learned to date as the result of an extraordinary effort to collect and analyze data, both about the current state of communications technology in America’s libraries and schools as well as the way the E-Rate program provides support.  We also published two maps providing a visualization of current fiber availability for schools and libraries across the country.  

The report is a highly illuminating read, both for longtime experts in the E-rate program as well as those more broadly interested in the state of education technology in America today.  A few insights from the report really stand out:

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FCC Transaction Review: Competition and the Public Interest

by Jon Sallet, General Counsel
August 12, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission has long played a unique and pivotal role in reviewing communications transactions. Our review is prescribed by the Communications Act and is separate from (though complementary to) the analysis conducted by our sister, antitrust agencies under Section 7 of the Clayton Act.

Three points about the Commission's review of transactions are important to understand: First, the nature of the substantive review that Congress has instructed the Commission to apply. Second, the process that the Commission has instituted, consistent with that statutory standard, to provide an open and fair means of reviewing transactions. Third, the manner in which the complementary approaches of the Commission and the antitrust agencies work harmoniously to serve the public interest in a sector that has traditionally been the subject of careful governmental scrutiny.

The starting point of our mission—and therefore, our substantive review—is the language of the Communications Act itself.

Congress has directed the Commission to review transactions involving licenses and authorizations under the Communications Act and to determine whether the proposed transaction would serve "the public interest, convenience, and necessity."1 The breadth and importance of the public-interest standard to the review of transactions involving our nation's communications networks logically flows from the Commission's statutory mission, since the conduct of buying other licensees can be as important to the public as the way a licensed company conducts itself in the absence of a transaction. This standard complements, but is different from the antitrust agencies' standard set forth Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which instructs them to challenge transactions that would "substantially lessen competition".

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Post Text of Meeting Items in Advance

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
August 7, 2014

Early in his tenure, Chairman Wheeler launched a laudable effort to reform a number of Commission procedures.  Because I was new to the Commission when ideas were solicited, I generally deferred to agency veterans on the proposals that were put forward.  But now that I am nine months into my term, I have become convinced that there is one significant change in our overall process that would be incredibly helpful: we should post on the FCC’s website the actual text of the items to be considered at our Open Meetings at the same time they are provided to Commissioners.    

Section 19.735-203 of the FCC’s rules prohibits disclosure of the content of items that will be voted on by the full Commission at a meeting or “by circulation” (not at a meeting).  Therefore, as soon as bureau staff sends the “8th Floor” a draft for consideration, the Commissioners are not allowed to reveal the substantive decisions with outside parties.  In other words, at the very moment that I learn the particulars of an important rulemaking upon which I will spend the next few weeks in ex parte meetings listening to stakeholder concerns, I am not permitted to disclose any details of the draft text in order to extract more thoughtful responses. 

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FCC Makes Open Internet Comments More Accessible to Public

by Gigi B. Sohn, Special Counsel for External Affairs, Office of the Chairman
August 5, 2014

It goes without saying that there has been tremendous interest in the FCC’s Open Internet rulemaking.  As of yesterday, over 1.1 million comments were filed in the docket, both through our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) and our special openinternet@fcc.gov email address.  We welcome and expect many more comments in the weeks to come.  And to be clear, every comment will be reviewed as part of the official record of this proceeding.

Because of the sheer number of comments and the great public interest in what they say, Chairman Wheeler has asked the FCC IT team to make the comments available to the public today in a series of six XML files, totaling over 1.4 GB of data – approximately two and half times the amount of plain-text data embodied in the Encyclopedia Britannica.  The release of the comments as Open Data in this machine-readable format will allow researchers, journalists and others to analyze and create visualizations of the data so that the public and the FCC can discuss and learn from the comments we’ve received.  Our hope is that these analyses will contribute to an even more informed and useful reply comment period, which ends on September 10.  We will make available additional XML files covering reply comments after that date.

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Empowering Small Businesses

by Roger C. Sherman, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief
August 1, 2014

Today, Chairman Wheeler circulated a proposal to open new opportunities for small and growing businesses in the mobile marketplace. Although the proposal may sound technical – updating the Commission’s approach to small business participation in wireless auctions— the purpose is simple: To provide innovative, smaller companies the opportunity to build wireless businesses that can spur additional investment and bring more choices to consumers.

Think about the wireless industry today. Consumer demand is exploding, data usage is growing exponentially, and faster 4G networks enable even more data services. That kind of growth should naturally lead to more opportunity for more businesses to serve more consumers.

But current FCC rules stand in the way. The current rules are a by-product of an earlier time— before data services became ubiquitous, before Congress instructed us to make more spectrum available to wireless networks, and, equally important, before consolidation in the wireless industry accelerated.

When the rules were first written in the 90s, we believed that bidding credits for spectrum auctions should be used only to acquire licenses by companies that would engage exclusively in building their own networks to provide retail or wholesale services – often referred to as “facilities based” service. That made sense when the wireless industry was in its infancy.

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