Tomorrow is Opening Day at ballparks across America, but I’m not waiting until then to roll out our lineup for the FCC’s April meeting. Here’s what’s on deck:
- We’re advancing U.S. leadership in a new era of commercial space launches. Thanks to powerfully innovative American companies, commercial space launches are becoming more common. Last year, United States companies sent 39 rockets into orbit, up from only 7 in 2012. Yet despite the revolutionary activity in our atmosphere, the regulatory frameworks we rely on to support these efforts are dated. The FCC will vote on a proposal to make much needed spectrum available for the first time to support the private launch industry. We will also consider a rulemaking to explore how the FCC can continue to support future communications needs of this growing industry.
- We’re making it easier to access mental health and suicide prevention services. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-8255—helps people in crisis. Beginning next summer, you will be able to reach the Lifeline to have a voice conversation by dialing just three digits—988. I’ve circulated a proposal for the Commission to consider the next step—requiring carriers to support text messaging to 988. This change could make it even easier for vulnerable communities, including young people, low-income individuals, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, to connect and seek the help they need.
- We’re continuing our efforts to improve the reliability of 911. Over the last two months we’ve taken action to stop 911 fee diversion, better prepare for emergencies like Winter Storm Uri, and update the way Americans receive emergency alerts. Now we will consider a proposal to harmonize and strengthen our rules for reporting 911 outages. Better outage reporting can save people from wasting time on repeated 911 calls that won’t be answered, which can ultimately save lives.
- We’re opening the door to new wireless microphone technologies. Whether they run a music venue or a convention center, users of wireless microphones want the spectrum capacity to accommodate multiple speakers or performers. An emerging technology called Wireless Multi-Channel Audio System (WMAS) uses spectrum more efficiently, which enables the use of more microphones per megahertz of spectrum available. The Commission will vote on a proposal to allow this new wireless microphone system to operate on a licensed basis, while also exploring the use of this technology on an unlicensed basis.
- We’re enhancing transparency of foreign-government-sponsored programming. If you are consuming programming broadcast over the public airwaves, you have the right to know who is behind that content. Although the law restricts foreign governments and their representatives from holding a broadcast license directly, foreign governmental entities are increasingly purchasing time on domestic broadcast stations. At the April Open Meeting, the Commission will vote to adopt new sponsorship identification requirements to disclose when foreign governments or their representatives lease time to broadcast content on our airwaves. These rules will help to ensure transparency of foreign government-sponsored broadcast content in the United States.
- We’re expanding educational programming over FM airwaves. This past October, the Commission announced it would open an application filing window for new noncommercial educational (NCE) FM stations, the first in over a decade. The Commission also sought public comment on what would be an appropriate limit for applications. In three weeks, the Commission will vote on a Public Notice that sets that applications cap at 10. The public record and prior experience shows that the 10-application cap strikes the best balance of the Commission’s objectives—providing a meaningful opportunity for applicants to file for new NCE FM stations in to expand service while, at the same time, deterring speculative applications and procedural delays.
- We’re closing the books on the successful reconfiguration of spectrum for public safety systems. In 2004, the Commission adopted a plan to relocate Sprint’s commercial services in the upper range of the 800 MHz band while relocating public safety services to the lower end of the band. Over 2,100 licensees have been successfully relocated to new channels in the band, with no interruption to public safety communications during the transition. The re-banding process is now essentially complete. Accordingly, the Commission will consider an Order to close out the re-banding program and terminate the proceeding.
- Lastly, the Commission will consider an enforcement matter.