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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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Connecting All Schools and Libraries – Learning from State Strategies and Data

by Jon Wilkins, Managing Director
September 19, 2014

Outreach to state and school district staff and library leaders has been a critical element of the E-rate modernization process.  Commission staff has been in frequent contact with staff from school districts, state agencies, libraries, and research and education networks (RENs) from across the country.  These outreach efforts provide important insights on the varying approaches that states are taking to the challenge of delivering high-speed broadband to all schools and libraries. 

Much of the knowledge gained from our outreach is compiled in the State Connectivity Profiles released today.   Each State Connectivity Profile lays out an overview of K-12 school and library connectivity in the state, including an explanation of any state network or REN infrastructure and a breakdown overview of how schools and libraries purchase Internet access, wide area network (WAN) connections, and internal connections. 

These profiles provide a thorough summary of connectivity data, purchasing strategies, and broadband deployment policies from a geographically diverse sample of states with differing populations and approaches to delivering high-speed broadband to all schools and libraries.  All connectivity data and narrative descriptions in the State Connectivity Profiles are drawn from conversations with school district, state agency, or REN staff and have been reviewed and verified by the appropriate staff in each state. 

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An Update on the Volume of Open Internet Comments Submitted to the FCC

by Dr. David A. Bray, FCC Chief Information Officer
September 17, 2014

Monday night concluded the second round of comments for the FCC's Open Internet Proceeding. During the last four months, the Commission has received a large number of comments from a wide range of constituents via three methods: (1) the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), (2) the openinternet@fcc.gov email address, and (3) a recently launched CSV file option for large comment uploads.

In July, at the conclusion of the first round of comments, we provided a look at the daily rate of comments we received in ECFS. We are now providing an updated file to show the daily rate of comments submitted to ECFS since the start of the public comment period in this proceeding. Below is a graphical representation of this data.

As an alternative path to submitting feedback, the Commission also has been receiving comments to a dedicated email inbox at openinternet@fcc.gov. We are providing an updated CSV text file providing the weekly submission rates of those comments, and a graphical representation of the data below.

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FCC Celebrates National Health IT Week

by P. Michele Ellison, Chair, Connect2HealthFCC Task Force and Deputy General Counsel
September 15, 2014

At the FCC this week, the Connect2HeatlhFCC Task Force is joining public and private stakeholders in celebrating National Health IT Week, September 15-19:  http://www.healthit.gov/healthitweek/.  Two big events of note:

  • On Tuesday, September 16, Commissioner Clyburn will present at the First Annual National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved Conference: “Connecting for Health Empowerment Using Health Information Technology to Transform Care in Multicultural Communities.”  This conference will present "cutting edge" strategies that use health information technology tools to advance health and eliminate disparities: http://www.nhitunderserved.org/index.html

We’re pleased to contribute to the effort to raise awareness of Health Information Technology’s power to improve the health and health care of consumers across the nation.  And, we salute the health care providers, communications carriers, technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and many others who are using Health IT to transform how care is delivered, health information shared, quality measured, and consumers engaged in their own health and health care. 

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Auction Season at the FCC

by John Leibovitz, Deputy Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau & Special Advisor to the Chairman for Spectrum Policy
September 12, 2014

Preparations for the AWS-3 auction are ramping up. Applications must be submitted before 6pm ET today. The auction begins on November 13.

Several government agencies have worked hard to make substantial information available to potential bidders in advance of this auction about the scope of coordination that will be required with these federal incumbent users of the band. Wednesday, we announced the release by NTIA of a new Workbook and Workbook Information File, prepared by the Department of Defense (DoD). DoD developed the Workbook to provide guidance to potential bidders about their obligation to coordinate with DoD systems in 1755-1780 MHz. This release is unprecedented in terms of the scope and granularity of government data provided to help applicants prepare for an auction. The Wireless Bureau strongly encourages all applicants to delve into this important resource.

Before I go farther, our lawyers remind me that I should provide the following caveat:

As stated in the Auction 97 Procedures Public Notice, an applicant should perform its due diligence research and analysis before proceeding, as it would with any new business venture. In particular, the Bureau strongly encourages each potential bidder to review all Commission orders and public notices establishing rules and policies for the AWS-3 bands, including incumbency issues for AWS-3 licensees, Federal and non-Federal relocation and sharing and cost sharing obligations, and protection of Federal and non-Federal incumbent operations. The Commission makes no representations or warranties about the use of this spectrum for particular services.

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An Additional Option for Filing Open Internet Comments

by Dr. David A. Bray, FCC Chief Information Officer
September 11, 2014

The volume of public feedback in the Open Internet proceeding has been commensurate with the importance of the effort to preserve a free and open Internet.

The Commission is working to ensure that all comments are processed and that we have a full accounting of the number received as soon as possible. Most important, all of these comments will be considered as part of the rulemaking process.  While our system is catching up with the surge of public comments, we are providing a third avenue for submitting feedback on the Open Internet proceeding.

In the Commission’s embrace of Open Data and a commitment to openness and transparency throughout the Open Internet proceedings, the FCC is making available a Comma Separated Values (CSV) file for bulk upload of comments given the exceptional public interest. All comments will be received and recorded through the same process we are applying for the openinternet@fcc.gov emails.

Attached is a link to the CSV file template along with instructions. Once completed, the CSV file can be emailed to openinternet@fcc.gov where if it matches the template the individual comments will be filed for the public record with the Electronic Comment Filing System. When you email this file, please use the subject “CSV”. We encourage CSV files of 9MB or less via email.

The Commission welcomes the record-setting level of public input in this proceeding, and we want to do everything we can to make sure all voices are heard and reflected in the public record.

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USF Contribution Factor Over Time

by Michael O'Rielly, FCC Commissioner
September 11, 2014

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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Updating Old Policies; Pioneering New Ones

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
September 9, 2014

Since becoming Chairman, I’ve spoken often about the importance of reviewing the FCC’s rules and processes, and eliminating or modernizing outdated practices that no longer make sense. There is no better example of an FCC rule that has outlived its usefulness and deserves to be eliminated than our sports blackout rule.

In 1975, the Commission enacted rules barring cable from airing a game that has been blacked out on the local television station because it was not sold out – strengthening the NFL’s blackout policy. Today, the rules make no sense at all.   

The sports blackout rules are a bad hangover from the days when barely 40 percent of games sold out and gate receipts were the league’s principal source of revenue.  Last weekend, every single game was sold out. More significantly, pro football is now the most popular content on television. NFL games dominated last week’s ratings, and the Super Bowl has effectively become a national holiday. With the NFL’s incredible popularity, it’s not surprising that last year the League made $10 billion in revenue and only two games were blacked-out.

Clearly, the NFL no longer needs the government’s help to remain viable. And we at the FCC shouldn’t be complicit in preventing sports fans from watching their favorite teams on TV. It’s time to sack the sports blackout rule.

That’s why today, I am sending to my fellow commissioners a proposal to get rid of the FCC’s blackout rule once and for all. It fulfills a commitment I made in June. We will vote on the proposal at the Commission’s open meeting on September 30. 

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Spreading the Good Word about Lifeline

by Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner
September 8, 2014

Most Americans take their home phone service for granted. But for families who are struggling to pay for food, clothing and shelter, phone service is a luxury that often must be put on hold for better times. Unfortunately, those better times may be elusive without the connection that basic phone service provides to jobs, support from family and friends, and emergency services.

That's where the FCC's Lifeline program fits in. Since 1985, Lifeline has offered a discount on phone service to low-income consumers so that everyone can have access to the jobs, opportunities and security that a home phone provides. This week, the FCC is teaming up with our partners in the states to host Lifeline Awareness Week to get out the word about this vital program. We want to make sure that low-income consumers are aware of the program – and understand the rules for participation.

Together with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, our partners in Lifeline Awareness Week, we have posted on our web site important information about program benefits and the rules for companies and consumers alike. For example, companies must only sign up consumers who are eligible, and consumers must recertify their eligibility annually – or else lose their Lifeline service. This way, we preserve Lifeline for those who need it the most.

The most important point of Lifeline Awareness Week is this: empowering the neediest among us with the benefits of basic communications benefits society as a whole by helping lift families out of poverty and expanding opportunities. Spread the word!

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The Future of FCC.GOV

by Dr. David A. Bray, FCC Chief Information Officer
September 5, 2014

In August the FCC launched a project to improve fcc.gov and unify all of our related subdomains. The project is focused on enhancing our website to allow the FCC to more effectively meet the needs of our site’s internal and external stakeholders.

To ensure optimal usability for fcc.gov users, the FCC has partnered with industry leaders on user experience, search and analytics. Over the next four months, the project team will conduct research, prototyping, and usability-testing to complete a data and stakeholder-driven design for fcc.gov.

The first phase of the project will be completed by mid-January and will include improved search capabilities of the FCC’s current publicly available content and a working prototype of the new fcc.gov. Phase one of the project will focus on four key areas:

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