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Transaction Reviews and the Public Interest

October 7, 2014 - 02:57 PM

Today, in connection with two significant and simultaneous merger reviews, the Media Bureau issued an Order establishing unique protections for the Merger Applicants’ programming contracts, retransmission agreements, and other related materials.

This new procedure balances three important public-interest obligations: (i) the Commission’s need for access to highly relevant information about the Applicants’ business practices, (ii) other parties’ need to express informed views to the Commission about the transactions, and (iii) the need to ensure that sensitive competitive information is used solely for that purpose.

These obligations are supported by the law, which requires that we decide whether a proposed transaction would further the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” That analysis is informed by the Applicants’ past course of conduct, which is critical to understanding the impact of a future merger.  Equally important is the legal command that the Commission’s decision be based on a public record developed through public notice and an opportunity to comment.

The Commission often obtains sensitive commercial information along the way. And it has a long-established method of handling such information. Through a binding Protective Order, third parties can gain access to Highly Confidential Information only after agreeing to restrictions that are based on years of Commission experience. For example, the only people allowed to see Highly Confidential Information are outside representatives who personally acknowledge and commit to abide by these restrictions.  The information may be used only in connection with the proceeding in which it is produced, and no one involved in competitive decision-making is eligible to see it. Individuals also must destroy or return the information when the Commission’s proceeding is over.

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Evolution in the Cellular Service

by Roger C. Sherman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
October 2, 2014 - 11:40 AM

In the 1980s, the FCC launched the 800 MHz Cellular Service, the first “cell phone” spectrum band, sparking a worldwide mobile revolution.  Three decades later, Cellular has been, by any measure, an incredible success.  Using these frequencies, wireless operators have deployed multiple generations of wireless networks covering more than 99% of the U.S. population.  Yet, with the passage of time, it has become clear that many of the rules governing the Cellular Service have not kept pace with changes in technology and in the overall regulatory landscape.  The time has come to upgrade the Cellular Service rules for the 21st Century.

Today, Chairman Wheeler circulated a draft Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that puts forth major changes to modernize and streamline the Commission’s rules and application processes for Cellular Service licensees.   This reform would fulfill a recommendation in the Staff Report on FCC Process Reform by reducing regulatory burdens and fostering the deployment of new generations of Cellular Service across the country. 

Since the Commission first adopted rules governing the Cellular Service, mobile service and mobile devices have evolved from analog-based voice communications using suitcase-style devices, to high speed mobile broadband using pocket sized computers.  The Cellular Service licensing rules have not kept pace.

Over time, many of the Commission’s legacy Cellular rules that were instrumental in developing a successful service have outlived their usefulness and some now burden the timely deployment of the latest technologies.  

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Meeting the Mobile Moment

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
September 26, 2014 - 10:59 AM

Last weekend’s record-setting launch of the new iPhone is just the latest reminder that our appetite for new mobile technologies appears to be insatiable. And this continuous cycle of mobile innovation is not only delighting U.S. consumers, it’s a major force in driving economic growth, boosting U.S. competitiveness, and enabling solutions to challenges like education and health care.

Seizing the opportunities of mobile innovation is one of the FCC’s highest priorities. Our mobile agenda rests on three pillars: making more spectrum available for broadband; using the market and technology to ensure more efficient and effective use of our spectrum; and promoting the deployment of mobile infrastructure. Today, I’m circulating to my colleagues a series of proposals that would advance each of these goals.

High-speed mobile broadband requires high-speed broadband buildout. However, the regulatory burdens associated with deployments can be expensive and time-consuming. We have to fix that.

For that reason, I circulated an item today that takes concrete steps to immediately and substantially ease the burdens associated with deploying wireless equipment.

The draft order recognizes that a technological revolution with regard to infrastructure deployment has changed the landscape. New Distributed Antenna System (DAS) networks and other small-cell systems use components that are a fraction of the size of traditional macrocells and can be installed – unobtrusively – on utility poles, buildings, and other existing structures.

The draft order accounts for that change by crafting a far more efficient process for small deployments that do not trigger concerns about environmental protection or historic preservation.

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Talking Tech in the Cradle of Liberty

by Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
September 22, 2014 - 05:27 PM

Two-hundred twenty-seven years ago this week, the U.S. Constitution was ratified in Philadelphia, establishing our system of government and enshrining a vision of a more perfect Union that still guides us today. Part of that vision was the belief that promoting communications promotes a healthy democracy. The Constitution established the Postal Office, in part to help subsidize the press and to facilitate the distribution of news and information to the American people.

Today, I spent the day in Philadelphia and saw just the latest evidence that, while the technology has changed, our Founding Fathers’ insight into the importance of communications to our democracy’s health remains evergreen.

I met with local leaders who explained how people in their communities needed access to modern communications not only to stay informed, but also to find jobs, to further their education, and to and engage with their elected leaders.

I visited Philadelphia’s Free Library, which serves a community on-ramp to the world of information, especially for children and for people on fixed incomes. And, increasingly, this information is not found in books but on the Internet. Philadelphia residents who don’t have computers are visiting the Free Library to get online. And area students visit the library after school to use the computers to help complete their homework assignments.

The FCC’s E-Rate program has helped ensure that libraries and schools across America have Internet connectivity. This past July, the Commission approved the first major modernization of the E-Rate program since it was established 18 years ago. These reforms will substantially increase funding available to support Wi-Fi connectivity in libraries and schools, will make the program more user-friendly for libraries, and will increase efficiencies to make E-Rate dollars go farther.

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Exploring New Ideas for Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet

by Julie Veach, Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau
September 22, 2014 - 12:29 PM

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 - 12:55 PM

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 - 01:02 PM

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 - 12:31 PM

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 - 08:03 AM

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 - 04:15 PM

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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