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Blog Posts by Michael O'Rielly

More Data: Pocket Dialing

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
October 30, 2014 - 04:25 PM

In response to my recent blog post regarding the harmful consumer practice of pocket dialing, I received a letter from Kelly Dutra, the Director of the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA) in Beaverton, Oregon.  The letter begins, “I read with interest the Business Week article ‘FCC Commissioner: Butt-Dialing is Taxing 9-1-1’ and let you know you are right on target.  They account for over 30% of our wireless 9-1-1 calls.  In 2005 we installed a system that all wireless calls must pass through to make it to a Calltaker.  The wireless 9-1-1 caller must speak or press any key for the system to recognize it as an actual call to be passed through.” 

Ms. Dutra continued, “I have attached a separate sheet showing numbers from 2012 to current. I’ve also been studying the number of butt calls that make it through the system we just began including in our weekly, monthly, and annual reports.  The device we have in place blocks on average 30% but another 15-20% of the calls that make it through the system are still butt dials with enough noise in the background for the system to treat it as an active call.”

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Harmful Consumer Wireless Behavior and Practices

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
October 14, 2014 - 05:45 PM

Today’s wireless devices are amazing tools that empower people. Our wireless phones, smartphones, tablets, phablets and more allow us to seamlessly communicate, as well as take advantage of all Internet features and functions.  As a result, we have integrated these wireless capabilities into our daily lives. Such increased mobility, however, has led to troubling behavior by some users that deserve everyone’s attention. During my recent trips across our great nation, I was infuriated to hear of continued wireless device misuse. For many reasons, some consumers have yet to see or understand that their risky wireless practices and habits can harm themselves and other people.       

Distracted Driving – The number of people that are killed and injured by distracted driving is staggering. For instance, the National Safety Council estimates that there have been over 810,000 accidents in 2014, or about one every 30 seconds, involving texting on wireless phones by drivers. To put it in more granular form, the Arizona Department of Public Safety found that during a five-month period earlier this year, 10 people died and 380 people were injured because of distracted driving.  And the problem may be getting worse. A 2013 AT&T survey indicated that 49 percent of commuters admitted to texting while driving, up from 40 percent three years ago.

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USF Contribution Factor Over Time

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
September 11, 2014 - 03:22 PM

The chart below shows the steady increase over time in the FCC’s USF Contribution Factor, which is the percentage of interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues that telecommunications service providers must contribute to support the ever growing federal universal service fund. Today, the FCC announced the contribution factor has increased for the fourth quarter of 2014 by .4 percent to 16.1 percent. This means that American consumers will pay a 16.1% fee on a portion of their telephone bills for USF.

While there are a number of factors resulting in this trend line, including moving to a more explicit system and shrinking revenues, this path is clearly disturbing and unsustainable. The chart helps highlight that contribution reform is necessary. Also, I reiterate my call for an overall budget cap on universal service, which can help limit the demand placed on the collection side.

Chart-USF-Contribution-Factor-Over-Time
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Alaska: Lessons Learned

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
September 5, 2014 - 12:49 PM

Fulfilling a commitment I made last year to its congressional delegation, I spent a portion of August traveling throughout Alaska.  I wish to sincerely thank Congressman Young and Senators Murkowski and Begich and their respective staffs for sharing their state with my staff and me.   

Over eight days, I met with many Alaskan communications providers, state and local officials and tribal organizations, and visited several rural health care clinics and schools.  Most importantly, I was able to talk with Alaskans about their communications experiences and future needs, including at community discussions hosted at Old Harbor, Pilot Point and the Bristol Bay Native Association.  From this experience, I came away with a number of valuable lessons learned that I will keep with me in my current role at the FCC.    

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Post Text of Meeting Items in Advance

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
August 7, 2014 - 12:44 PM

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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Most Definitely: Terminate Dormant Proceedings

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
July 8, 2014 - 03:34 PM

Last week, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) released a Public Notice seeking comment on whether to terminate almost 650 dormant proceedings (i.e., dockets that have no planned action and no further comments expected).  I applaud Chairman Wheeler for initiating this item as well as the CGB staff and the individual Bureaus and Offices that worked on this document. 

The charts below, prepared by my great staff, help visualize the scope of the Commission’s recent effort.  As the first chart shows, the agency has over 2,800 open proceedings pending.  The second chart organizes—by Bureau and Office—the specific proceedings contemplated for closure in the Public Notice. 

I’m in the process of reviewing CGB’s recommendations and its corresponding attachment, but in general I believe that closing outdated FCC proceedings makes a lot of sense.  Doing so could help the agency become more organized and focused on decisions that need to be made.  It could also make it easier for both Congress and the public to track what the agency is working on or still considering.  And it could help prevent the Commission from using antiquated information as a basis for regulating. 

In fact, clearing the regulatory decks is something we should probably do more often—maybe even annually.  The Commission may also want to consider creating an automatic closure process.  Perhaps after a year, and with appropriate notice, we could close proceedings that have been concluded and for which no further pleadings are filed.  This could significantly reduce the number of unnecessary open proceedings, while still allowing public access to the documents that were generated. 

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Disturbing Trend in USF Spending

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
July 7, 2014 - 03:51 PM

Image of Chart showing USF and TRS Outlays and Chart showing USF Disbursements

Chart 1 shows the FCC’s actual outlays for the Universal Service Fund (USF) and Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services Fund (TRS) to date and the future spending projections through the year 2024 as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), our nation’s official budgetary scorekeeper.  Chart 2 shows the growth in USF disbursements, which have been the primary driver of the growth seen in Chart 1.[1]

Under the current structure, the programs are scheduled to grow to $10 billion in 2015 and steadily increase thereafter to reach $11 billion in 2024.  Most of that growth will continue to be attributable to USF.[2]  This means that in 2024, the funds will be over 21% larger than they were in 2013 and, in those 11 years, the funds will spend a remarkable $13 billion more than they would have if funding had been kept at 2013 levels.  Importantly, this trajectory just represents present circumstances.  In other words, it does not assume that the Commission will make any programmatic changes that would further increase spending.          

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Introducing the Internet to the FCC’s Contest Rule

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
June 16, 2014 - 02:31 PM

Have you ever listened to your car radio while you were stuck in traffic and heard a super-fast talker rattle off the rules that apply to a contest for a trip to some sunny destination?  Or, maybe you’ve seen the small print displayed at the end of a contest promoted on television.  These detailed disclosures—such as who is eligible for a contest, how to participate, the value of the prizes, and when and how winners will be selected—are efforts to comply with the FCC’s “Contest Rule.”  I agree that it is important to notify the public about the terms and conditions of the contests aired on broadcast stations, but are these fast-talkers and tiny, on-air print the most effective means to communicate this information in the Internet age?  I suggest there is a better way.

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With an Eye Towards WRC 2015

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
June 9, 2014 - 01:33 PM

It is never too early to engage in preparations for the World Radiocommunication Conference, or “WRC,” a meeting hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) every three to four years.  This conference facilitates the international coordination of spectrum usage and satellite orbit allocations, and the next one is scheduled for November 2015 (“WRC-15”) in Geneva, Switzerland.  Although it does not typically generate much fanfare, the conference is critical because the decisions made there can directly affect the future development of all mobile services—key drivers of innovation, economic growth and job creation.

WRC-15 is especially important because it will address many significant issues.  Topping the agenda will be identifying more spectrum bands to meet the ever-growing demand for wireless services.  WRC participants will consider modifying the allocations to allow for wireless broadband operations in the broadcast spectrum, 3.5 GHz, and 5 GHz bands.  The United States has already taken action to open these frequencies to commercial wireless service in this country, but consumers will benefit if we are successful at WRC-15 in reaching international agreement.  Spectrum harmonization helps prevent harmful interference and promotes the seamless use of wireless devices across borders—a growing concern in our increasingly mobile world.  It also enables communications equipment manufacturers to take advantage of the economies of scale as they create devices that can be used and sold internationally, at lower prices.

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FCC Needs to Improve its Internal 911 and IPv6 Compliance

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
June 2, 2014 - 09:58 AM

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets communications rules and policies, as directed by the Congress, and works with providers and organizations as they develop and implement industry standards.  To remain relevant, the agency must stay on top of current technologies and serve as a model both for industry and other federal agencies.  The FCC loses credibility when it seeks to impose rules or standards on the private sector but does not adhere to the same or similar commitments in its own operations.

To this end, I suggest that two important areas are ripe for improvement. 

Direct access to 911.  As has been highlighted in recent regulatory actions, the FCC is responsible for promoting safety of life, via communications technologies and we take that responsibility very seriously.  For instance, the agency has advanced numerous policies to improve the effectiveness of the 911 system with the hopes that one day wireless callers—especially those with hearing or speech disabilities—will be able text their emergencies to First Responders.  In fact, the FCC acted three months in a row to adopt changes to the current 911 capabilities of wireless carriers, comparing the cost of these regulations to the cost of a life or lives. 

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