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Blog Posts by Julie Veach

Exploring New Ideas for Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
September 22, 2014

Last week was a big one in the Commission’s quest for the best approach to protect and promote an Open Internet.

Our public comment period ended on Monday . . . with more than 3.7 million comments and reply comments submitted by a public that is passionate about this issue. Many of these comments focused on potentially harmful effects of paid prioritization on innovation and free expression, among other values. On Tuesday and Friday, the Commission hosted 12 hours of discussions in the Open Internet Roundtables, including dialogue on the threats to an Open Internet and policies to address those threats, the scope of new Open Internet rules, proposed enhancements to existing transparency rules, the application of Open Internet rules to mobile broadband, the best ways to enforce Open Internet rules, and the technical aspects of ensuring an Open Internet.

On Wednesday, Chairman Wheeler testified before Congress and explained that all options are open and that, in particular, Title II is very much on the table. On the same day, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Open Internet.

At the week’s close, Chairman Wheeler emphasized that the Commission is looking for a rainbow of policy and legal proposals, rather than being confined to what he called limited “monochromatic” options.

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Protecting Consumers in the Transition from Copper Networks

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
May 7, 2014

A unanimous Commission held in January that the technology transitions currently underway are a positive development for American consumers—holding promise for innovative new services and unleashing innovation and opportunity.  The Commission also agreed that its role is to ensure that these transitions reinforce and advance the fundamental values found in the Communications Act:  public safety, competition, consumer protection, and universal service.

An important transition is the move away from the old copper-based networks to networks that rely on fiber, wireless, and other technologies.  These technologies can offer benefits for consumers and network providers alike.  For example, copper deteriorates quickly in flood situations, and the broadband speeds it can support have been limited (although some innovative companies offer broadband services over copper at speeds above 50 Mbps).  Fiber can support broadband speeds of 1 Gbps or more; wireless facilities are often less costly to deploy and can support use at multiple locations. 

But customers have come to rely on the features and functionalities of the old copper networks.  Communications systems can fail in different ways and for different reasons depending upon the underlying technology used; this raises questions about consumer expectations, and potential consumer harms, as they transition from one technology to another.  For example, based on their experience with copper networks, consumers may expect their plug-in phones to work during a power outage without any action on their part.  Consumers may also expect a variety of familiar data-based services, such as credit card readers, home alarms, and medical alert monitors, to function in a particular way.  Networks other than copper may not support these functionalities, or not in the ways that consumers have come to expect.

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Moving Forward On the E-rate Modernization Path

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
March 6, 2014

Delivering on the announcement made by Chairman Wheeler in his Digital Learning Day remarks, the Wireline Competition Bureau released today a Public Notice seeking more focused comment on a set of key issues initially raised in the E-Rate Modernization NPRM.  Chairman Wheeler has laid out a timeline for an order in the coming months that would be effective in time for Funding Year2015.  Today’s Public Notice is an important mile marker on the road to E-rate modernization. 

The Notice seeks to strengthen the record on four important issues: (1) how to best structure the program in a way that places a greater focus on connectivity inside the walls of classrooms and libraries in an equitable manner to all eligible schools and libraries; (2) whether and how to establish a one-time deployment initiative within the structure of the existing program providing targeted additional funding for those schools and libraries who remain without access to a high-speed broadband connection; (3) phasing out or reducing support for legacy voice services; and (4) ideas on potential demonstration projects.  Additional focused comment on these topics will help the Commission tackle some difficult issues necessary to accomplishing the program goals laid out in the E-Rate Modernization NPRM.  While we seek answers to these questions, by no means does this Notice represent the full set of issues that may be addressed in a future order.     

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Early Progress in Efforts to Learn About the Impact of Technology Transitions

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
March 3, 2014

In January, the Commission’s unanimously adopted Technology Transitions Order kick-started the process for a diverse set of experiments and data collection initiatives focused on how consumers are affected by the historic technology transitions that are transforming our nation’s communications networks.  Just one month later, providers and members of the public are accepting the Commission’s invitation to participate in that process.

For example, on Friday AT&T filed a proposal for service-based experiments that would explore the transitions to wireline and wireless Internet Protocol-based services in its wire centers in Carbon Hill, Alabama and the other in West Delray Beach, Florida.  The Wireline Competition Bureau then issued a Public Notice seeking public comment on AT&T’s proposal.  Just last week, the Bureau sought comment on a service-based proposal filed by another entity, Iowa Network Services. 

There also is much enthusiasm around the targeted rural broadband experiments that the Technology Transitions Order authorized.  At least 15 parties­ already have filed expressions of interest in conducting a rural broadband experiment with Connect America funding, and we expect to receive many more expressions of interest by the initial March 7 deadline.  We also look forward to the Rural Broadband Workshop that the Commission will host on March 19. 

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Providing Relief for the Families of Inmates From the High Cost of Staying in Touch

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
September 26, 2013

Today, the Commission released an Order that will provide meaningful relief to millions of Americans who have borne the financial burden of unjust and unreasonable interstate inmate calling service (ICS) rates.  These reforms are the right thing to do.  Our actions will increase inmates’ ability to stay in contact with their families and loved ones—including the 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent.  That increased contact reduces recidivism, which benefits all of us through safer communities and by reducing the expense of incarcerating the re-offenders.  In fact, one study notes that a 1% reduction in recidivism would lead to $250 million in annual cost savings.   

The ICS rates that spurred us to act are high.  In one case, the cost of a 15-minute call is $17.50—about $1.15 per minute.  The Order we released today is a major step toward fulfilling our statutory obligation to ensure that rates for all consumers are just, reasonable and fair. 

Let’s take a look at the reforms:

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Setting the Right Incentives for Investment in Rural Broadband

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
May 16, 2013

Today, the Wireline Bureau is seeking comment on a number of issues relating to broadband funding for smaller rural carriers, known as rate-of-return carriers.

One of the problematic results of the Commission’s old Universal Service System was what we called the rural-rural divide: because the system failed to target support where it was needed and provided little accountability, some rural communities received world-leading broadband, while others, often right next door, were left behind.  In part, this problem arose because of the different systems governing smaller, rate-of-return carriers, and larger companies, known as price cap carriers.

About two-thirds of all universal service support for landline service went to rate-of-return carriers, although they serve about 20-30% of the expensive rural areas where no other provider is offering voice and broadband, the areas where support is most likely needed.  In many cases, disparities arose because these smaller carriers serve some of the very hardest areas to reach or because they have been aggressively extending broadband where it wouldn’t otherwise reach.  But to a significant extent, the disparity simply had to do with regulatory distinctions, or arose because the old rules lacked safeguards or accountability. 

In order to help ensure all Americans get access to broadband while increasing efficiency and accountability -- no matter what kind of company serves an area -- we overhauled universal service and created the Connect America Fund.  These reforms required making support for all types of carriers more efficient and accountable. 

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How We’re Investing Smart To Expand Rural Broadband

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
May 16, 2013

The Connect America Fund is the FCC’s 21st Century solution to expanding broadband to unserved areas of rural America.  One reason why the Connect America Fund can stay within a budget as it accomplishes this task – while continuing to support traditional voice service as its 20th Century predecessor program did – is because we are targeting the right amount of subsidies to the right places: places where help is needed the most. The old universal service fund did little to protect against unneeded subsidies. Developing ways to stop this fiscal waste was a major focus of our 2011 Connect America reforms.

We are well on the way to implementing these reforms, including making initial decisions on a Cost Model that will calculate what level of support is needed, down to the Census block level.  Today, we’re adopting another set of policies to make sure that we don’t support providers in Census blocks where another provider is delivering service without subsidies.

It’s fiscally prudent to reserve the Fund for areas where there’s no business case to serve consumers. And it’s common sense that in areas where a provider delivers voice and broadband without subsidies, a business case has been made.  Moreover, giving subsidies to one provider and not the other is unfair.

So accounting for unsubsidized providers is critical as we distribute support for rural voice and broadband in this phase, Phase II, of the Connect America Fund.  Here’s how we are going to do it.

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Charting Broadband Opportunities for Low-Income Americans

by Julie Veach, Acting Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
July 11, 2012

We are delighted by the response last week to our groundbreaking Lifeline Broadband Adoption Pilot competition.  Our Pilot takes aim at a problem that perpetuates poverty in the 21st Century:  the low rate of broadband adoption by low-income Americans.  Providers of all kinds submitted a total of 24 applications proposing innovative programs to help us better understand and tackle that issue.

Over the years, our Lifeline program has helped tens of millions of low-income consumers afford telephone service.  But with broadband as essential today for jobs and opportunities as the phone was in the last century, the FCC in January included in its comprehensive reforms and modernization of Lifeline a Pilot program to explore ways to increase the low rate of broadband adoption among low-income Americans. Using $25 million in savings from Lifeline reforms, we will fund the selected Pilot projects for a year, while collecting valuable real world data about the experience to help the FCC determine how to use our Lifeline program to effectively increase broadband adoption.

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Attorney Honors Program Launches

by Julie Veach, Deputy General Counsel
July 29, 2011

I am delighted to be able to say that the FCC has launched the Attorney Honors Program. Our program is a two-year employment and training program designed to introduce new and recent law school graduates to the field of communications law and policy. We are accepting applications from law students in their final year of study and judicial clerks serving in the 2011-12 judicial term for openings in the Fall 2012 class. Applications must be received by September 23, 2011.

Many prior Honors Program participants are still here at the FCC and have assumed positions of leadership, advised Commissioners, defended the agency before federal appellate courts, and led teams working on some of the most challenging problems before the agency. Others have taken opportunities at private companies, law firms, public interest organizations, and on the Hill. The Program aims to prepare new attorneys for the greatest challenges of communications law practice in the context of doing the work of the agency and serving the public interest. Consider applying. Visit our Attorney Honors Program page for more information, eligibility criteria, and applications instructions.

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