Acting Chairwoman Clyburn's Remarks at FCBA Luncheon
ACTING CHAIRWOMAN MIGNON CLYBURN
PREPARED REMARKS TO FCBA LUNCHEON
SEPTEMBER 24, 2013Good afternoon, FCBA! It's really great to be back.
I have a confession to make: I come here today with mixed emotions.
After an eventful ride, this journey we've had together is coming to a close.
Yes, Breaking Bad will end this weekend. What? Were you expecting me to
say something else? They warned me that opening with a pop culture joke
would be risky at an FCBA luncheon. It presumes members of the
communications bar have lives outside of work. I know; that's a big
Okay, okay, it does appear that the Commission could be returning to
full complement in the not-to-distant future. I must admit that I've enjoyed
my journey. Having spent just over four years as a Commissioner and four
months as Acting Chairwoman, I say without a doubt that being the Chair,
is WAY better.
But, I'm looking forward to once again being at full capacity, with Tom
Wheeler and Michael O'Rielly. And one thing about their backgrounds has
me really excited: Neither of them is a lawyer. After three-plus years of
being the only non-attorney on the Commission, non-lawyers will soon rule.
Now that's change I can believe in.
With a new Chairman and Commissioner coming in, clearly this is a
time of transition for us all and a good time to take stock of where we are
and where we're headed. I want to speak about the importance of a vibrant
FCC, what I see as our core responsibilities, and what we're doing to fulfill
I sincerely believe that the need for a dynamic agency is greater than
ever before. For the communications technology sector continues to grow
in its importance to our economy, our competitiveness, and in our lives.
Since I arrived at the Commission, smartphone ownership in America
has gone from around 15% to 56%. The average smartphone owner
checks their device 150 times a day including some of you right now --
and those devices have more computing power, than the lunar module, that
put a man on the moon.
This sector, invests tens of billions of dollars into our economy every
year, and enables growth in other sectors, across our economy. So what is
our role, and what should it be, going forward?
There are different opinions, but here's how I see it. The Commission
is obviously focused on goals -- like driving innovation and investment
across the ICT sector. But to me, the FCC's four core pillars will forever
1) ensuring universal service; 2) promoting competition; 3) protecting
and empowering consumers; and (4) enabling a reliable and resilient
network, for our public safety needs.
So, just what have we been doing on each front?
UNIVERSAL SERVICELet's start with universal service. Nothing is more fundamental to the
FCC's mission than connecting ALL Americans to modern communications.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that nearly one-third of Americans
haven't adopted broadband at home. And there are fifteen million
Americans still lacking access to fixed broadband networks, living in areas
where there is no business case for rapid deployment, making government
So I'm proud that, after many years of good-faith attempts, a
bipartisan Commission was finally able to come together and modernize
USF for the broadband age.
The sheer volume of work done to modernize USF has been
astounding. During the past year or so, the staff prepared six Commission-
level orders and issued more than 30 others. We're seeing significant
progress on a number of fronts, and have taken new steps to build on
Under the Connect America Fund, significant new funding will be
matched with hundreds of millions of private sector dollars in many areas,
which would quickly expand broadband infrastructure to rural communities
in every region of the nation. Building on lessons learned from the first
round of Phase I funding, carriers just requested $385 million in funding to
connect over 600,000 housing units or over one million people in 44 states
plus Puerto Rico.
Now, we're moving forward on CAF II implementation, including the
Connect America Cost Model, which will provide the baseline for support in
the next phase of the Connect America Fund.
Building on the reverse auction we conducted in Mobility Fund I, this
fall we will conduct the Tribal Mobility Fund Phase I auction, which will help
provide 3G or better mobile voice and broadband services to populations
on Tribal lands lacking such advanced services.
In addition to ensuring every U.S. household has access to at least
basic broadband, we want every school and library in America to have
access to high capacity broadband.
E-Rate has helped connect almost every school in America to the
Internet. But having a broadband connection doesn't mean having the
broadband capacity to support the latest digital learning tools. About half of
E-Rate recipients report lower connection speeds than the average
American home. That's just not good enough.
President Obama challenged the FCC to bring high-speed Internet to
99% of U.S. students within five years. We are answering his call.
In July, we launched a comprehensive proceeding to modernize the
E-rate program around three goals: increased broadband capacity, cost-
effective purchasing, and streamlined program administration. This is the
first comprehensive update of the program since 1997, and will ultimately
assist schools and libraries in getting the high-capacity broadband they
need to support today's digital learning. We're digging into the record and
the over 800 comments filed so far, as well as looking forward to reply
comments next month. And to those of you in the room who were able to
bill hours drafting some of those comments over the summer you're
Another key universal service program that we've overhauled is
Lifeline. In January 2012, we adopted comprehensive reforms to eliminate
waste, fraud and abuse, while ensuring the availability of voice service for
low-income Americans. We've continued to make tremendous strides over
the summer, including the adoption of an Order emphasizing that a
provider must verify eligibility before initiating Lifeline service. I'm proud to
say we're making significant progress with the duplicates database.
It will be operational by the end of the year, with data loaded from five
states and will be expanded to include all states by first quarter 2014.
Altogether, these reforms are on pace to generate $2 billion in savings by
next year. We also have significant enforcement actions and investigations
pending within our Enforcement Bureau and Inspector General's office.
We not only want universal access to robust wireline networks; we
want universal access to robust wireless networks.
Our nation's leadership in mobile is a key competitive advantage. A
report came out just last week which found that the U.S. has 47 million 4G
LTE subscribers, more than the rest of the world combined. To maintain
our lead in mobile innovation and infrastructure, and to meet growing
consumer demand, we need to free up more spectrum for broadband.
Of course, all eyes are on the incentive auction, and I can assure you
that there is no higher agency priority. We continue the push to hold this
first-in-the-world auction, by the end of 2014.
What many people don't realize is that the Middle Class Tax Relief
and Job Creation Act of 2012, which authorized the FCC to conduct the
first incentive auctions, also called on the FCC to license other bands of
spectrum for flexible use by 2015.
Consistent with our Congressional directive, in June the Commission
adopted a report and order to auction 10 MHz of spectrum in the so-called
H Block. Just last week, we announced that the PCS H block auction will
be held on January 14, 2014, and set a reserve price of $1.56 billion. I am
pleased that the FCC is moving expeditiously to auction this spectrum,
which will be the first major auction since 2008, and that we are doing so in
a way that ensures substantial revenues will flow to FirstNet to deploy our
nationwide public safety broadband network.
This summer, the Commission also launched a proceeding to license
the AWS-3 band. That Notice includes proposals for identifying spectrum
that is free, clear, and available for exclusive use, as well as proposals for
spectrum that could be shared with Federal users, if clearing and
reallocating is not possible, in the near-term. We remain committed to
finding new and innovative strategies, to expedite commercial access, to
And we adopted an order to open up the 57 64 GHz band for
unlicensed use, spectrum no one ever dreamed usable. Tapping into the
lightly used upper reaches of the spectrum in the 57-64 GHz band is an
important component in our overall strategy for meeting the high bandwidth
demands of tomorrow's networks. It also promotes expansion of wireless
broadband services to rural areas of our country.
COMPETITIONIn addition to freeing up spectrum, the Commission is promoting the
deployment of wireless networks by removing barriers to infrastructure
deployment. And in two days, the Commission will vote on a NPRM to ease
access to public rights of way and facilities for the siting of wireless
The second pillar I'll discuss is competition.
Earlier this month, we scored a big win for competition in the wireless
space when carriers reached a voluntary industry solution that will resolve
the lack of interoperability in the lower 700 MHz band.
When the Commission auctioned this spectrum in 2008, it was widely
anticipated that deployment of this valuable spectrum would result in
greater innovation and competitive options for consumers. But the lack of
interoperability in the band prevented many consumers from realizing those
But after many frustrating years, AT&T, the Competitive Carriers
Association, the Interoperability Alliance, DISH, and consumer advocacy
groups, working with FCC, finally broke the logjam.
AT&T will modify its 700 MHz LTE network, to make it easier for the
customers of smaller carriers to roam on AT&T's LTE network, and devices
like the iPhone that used to work exclusively for AT&T will work on the
smaller carriers' networks in the 700 MHz band.
This is a big win for consumers, especially in rural areas, who will see
more competition and more choices. Also, by making it easier for small
wireless carriers to compete, this interoperability solution will spur private
investment, job creation, and the development of innovative new services,
Reforming special access is another key issue that I've been
committed to since coming to Washington. Special access services
underpin millions of transactions for consumers every day at places like
gas pumps and ATM machines, while easing the burden on our wireless
networks by transporting mobile calls and data. Last week, our Wireline
Competition Bureau issued a data collection clarification order and
instructions, which mark an important step forward in our data-driven
examination of the marketplace for these services. This Order will give the
Commission the detailed and comprehensive data we need to conduct a
robust analysis of the entire special access market.
Another policy we're working on to promote competition is cell phone
I support policies that enable consumers to lawfully unlock their
mobile telephones so they can seamlessly move from one carrier to
another. And I'm not alone. Earlier this year, 114,000 people signed on to
the White House petition supporting the development, of a cell phone
Wireless carriers should be able to enforce their valid customer
contracts, but consumers who satisfy the reasonable terms of their
contracts should not be subject to civil and criminal penalties if they want to
take their device to a new carrier.
Some providers have already adopted consumer-friendly unlocking
policies, and we are redoubling our efforts to explore all possibilities with
industry and stakeholders to achieve consumer-friendly policies. We are
moving quickly to develop a baseline standard that reduces consumer
frustration and promotes consumer access, to unlocked devices.
EMPOWERING CONSUMERSCell phone unlocking is a nice bridge to the next pillar of the FCC's
agenda, which is ultimately about standing up, for consumers' rights.
For 10 years, family, friends and legal representatives of inmates
urged the courts and waited for the FCC to ease the burden of an
exorbitant inmate calling rate structure.
Families on a fixed income who are barely struggling to get by were
being forced to choose between spending scarce resources to stay in touch
with their loved ones, or covering life's basic necessities.
In August, we adopted an Order reforming interstate inmate calling
services to ensure that rates are just, reasonable and fair, both to the
providers and the inmates and their families. Our new rules will require
interstate inmate calling rates, including ancillary charges, to be based on
the cost of providing service.
The Commission is also looking out for rural Americans. Last week, I
circulated an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will
help make sure that calls to rural areas are completed. This is a serious
issue that I've been committed to taking steps to address because calls are
not being completed to doctors, public safety entities, businesses and
family and friends. This is just not acceptable. I look forward to working
with my colleagues, to adopt the Order, which will enhance the FCC's
ability to investigate and crack down on this problem, while also taking
immediate steps to improve the performance of long-distance calls to rural
Standing to benefit greatly from new communications technology
would be the millions of Americans living with disabilities.
That's why I was pleased in June, when we adopted reforms to the
Video Relay Service, to enable millions of Americans with disabilities, to
access communication services in ways that are more simple, robust, and
And last week, I circulated an item that will make programming
guides and menus accessible to the blind and visually impaired on devices
that consumers use to receive or display, video programming.
PUBLIC SAFETYAnd lastly, our latest efforts to enhance network reliability and
resiliency, beginning with 9-1-1.
At the FCC, we are committed to ensuring the reliability of our 9-1-1
system when stressed by large-scale emergencies.
In the wake of the 2012 Derecho, which disrupted communications
networks affecting more than 3.6 million people, our Public Safety and
Homeland Security Bureau immediately launched an in-depth inquiry into
the causes of the 9-1-1 network failures and what could be done to prevent
them from occurring again.
And this summer, we circulated a draft NPRM that proposes to
improve wireless network reliability during disasters by requiring wireless
service providers to publicly disclose the percentage of cell sites within their
networks that are operational after disasters. This proposal, now on the
agenda for the next open meeting, could encourage competition in the
wireless industry to improve network reliability by providing consumers with
a yardstick for comparing wireless performance in emergencies.
We are also working to improve location accuracy for 9-1-1 calls from
The Commission's current E-9-1-1 rules were primarily designed to
deal with outdoor locations and this clearly needs to be reevaluated in light
of the fact that wireless calls are increasingly placed indoors. We are in the
process of examining the relevant data, and we will soon host a workshop
to examine these issues further.
So for those who've asked why I have yet to take any type of
vacation, you can now see why. While incredibly busy and often fatigued, I
am incredibly proud of what we've been able to accomplish much of which
was done in collaboration with many in this room.
But many challenges lie ahead. Our work to ensure universal service,
promote competition, and protect and empower consumers continues and
is more important than ever. Together, we can help grow our economy and
boost U.S. competitiveness. Together, we can help open new doors of
opportunity and unleash new technological discoveries. Together, we can
make a profound impact in the lives of all Americans. So for the vital role
you play, as well as for the support you've given me over the years, I
sincerely thank you.
But there's just one last ask, and this is extremely important: If
anyone can share any spectacular, off-season vacation ideas, there is one
Acting Chairwoman who is more than ready and eager to listen.
Have a great afternoon.
Note: We are currently transitioning our documents into web compatible formats for easier reading. We have done our best to supply this content to you in a presentable form, but there may be some formatting issues while we improve the technology. The original version of the document is available as a PDF, Word Document, or as plain text.