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Blog Posts by Michael O'Rielly

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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E-Labeling Deserves Serious Consideration

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
April 25, 2014 - 11:47 AM

Wireless devices have changed substantially over the last two decades.  Consumers have migrated from block-like flip-phones with monochromatic screens to advanced, all-in-one smartphones,[1] tablets, and even wrist devices.  As these devices continue to shrink, their functionality continues to grow.  To keep pace with these technological advancements, I believe it is time for the FCC to consider modernizing our labeling requirements.  Electronic labeling, or e-labeling, could replace the current system of etched labels containing FCC certification information on the outside body of each electronic device.  Instead, this information could be provided through software on device screens. 

There are numerous potential benefits to e-labeling.  Specifically, e-labels can provide more information to consumers than is conveyed today.  Beyond the required FCC certification information, details can be added by manufacturers regarding device warranties, recycling, and trade-in opportunities.  In addition, e-labels can be updated remotely to address any inaccuracies, such as typographical errors. 

Another advantage of e-labeling is cost savings.  As devices have become smaller and more aesthetically appealing, etching the labels requires more design time and expensive equipment.  E-labeling could dramatically reduce or eliminate these costs without sacrificing consumer information.  The Commission has already permitted e-labeling for a small subset of devices.  In 2001, the Commission’s rules authorizing software defined radios (SDR) permitted the voluntary use of e-labeling by device manufacturers.       

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On the Rise: Regulating Through Pilot Programs

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
April 10, 2014 - 12:16 PM

From the good work of my staff, take a look below at the recent trend to fund pilot projects at the Commission.  This upsurge makes it essential that any pilot project have an established and confirmed end date.  I don’t doubt that an occasional pilot project may be of assistance, but I worry they can divert time and effort away from fixing or improving existing programs.  More importantly, we must keep in mind that these projects all come from scarce consumer-provided dollars.

 

 Regulating through Pilot Programs"

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TCPA: It is Time to Provide Clarity

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
March 25, 2014 - 02:10 PM

For those that might not be familiar, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) (47 U.S.C. § 227) was enacted in 1991 to address the issue of unwanted telephone marketing calls and faxes.  It restricts making telemarketing calls, using automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or prerecorded voice messages (often referred to as robocalls), and sending unsolicited faxes.  From most accounts, it appears to have been a general success.   

In enacting the TCPA, the Congress aimed to strike a balance between protecting consumers from unwanted communications and enabling legitimate businesses to reach out to consumers that wish to be contacted.  Over time, as the FCC and the courts have interpreted the TCPA, business models and ways of communicating with consumers have also changed.  As a result, the rules have become complex and unclear.  In addition to prohibiting abusive robocalls and junk faxes, which was the original intent, the rules are creating situations where consumers might not receive notifications and offers that they want and expect, and where new and innovative services and applications that help friends and family members communicate with each other could be restricted.  Clear rules of the road would benefit everyone.    

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Duplication Alert: Broadband Pilot Projects

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
March 6, 2014 - 01:44 PM

January’s IP Trials Order contained a provision to use USF dollars to fund rural broadband “experiments” designed to deliver robust, high-speed, scalable broadband service.  The language put out for comment on this new program potentially gives the FCC latitude to do any number of things in this space, including gigabit communities.

Exactly five days later, Congress spoke to this very same issue.  Included in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (“The Farm Bill”) is a provision that allocates up to $50 million—$10 million per year for FY 2014-2018— to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program.  To be eligible for these funds, a provider must be able to build out “ultra-high-speed Internet service” within three years in rural areas that lack such service.   

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Commissioner O’Rielly’s Thoughts on Broadcast Television JSAs and SSAs

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
February 18, 2014 - 06:38 PM

It used to be that Americans had few choices for watching television—options included a handful of broadcast networks and maybe a cable subscription with 30 channels, if consumers were lucky.  Today, the choices for entertainment and news are seemingly limitless and available on multiple platforms (i.e., free-over-the-air, cable, telco, satellite, wireless).  The Internet and advances in digital technologies have transformed the media marketplace so that Americans can watch whatever they want, whenever they want.  Local broadcasters—once the only content providers in town—must now compete fiercely for viewers.  They must also compete with online entities such as Groupon, Google and Amazon.com for local advertising revenues.  

Generally, other video platforms are free to enter into partnerships, legal agreements, or economic relationships that enable such entities to take advantage of economies of scale.  But, for numerous reasons, the FCC maintains rules that prevent broadcasters from doing the same. 

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Commissioner O'Rielly’s Blog Introduction and Views on E-Rate Reform

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
February 12, 2014 - 02:14 PM

As the newest Commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, it seems only appropriate that I take advantage of all modern communications tools, including the blogosphere.  For my inaugural FCC blog post, I wanted to share my thoughts on the timely and important issue of E-Rate reform.  Before I begin, let me be clear that my postings represent my views and only my views.  I do not speak for the Commission, the Chairman, or my fellow Commissioners.

E-Rate is the federal universal service program that helps schools and libraries obtain discounted access to telecommunications services and the Internet.  I support the program.  It is enshrined in the statute and I appreciate the vast opportunities that connectivity can offer students.  I remember writing book reports in high school based on the World Book encyclopedias my parents bought in 1972.  I also remember our local library and the limitations of the paper Dewey Decimal system files.  The Internet puts all of that to shame. 

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