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Blog Posts by Jonathan Chambers

A Dialogue on E-rate Pricing Data

November 16, 2015 - 12:48 PM

As part of the E-rate Modernization Order adopted last year, the Commission decided to increase pricing transparency in the E-rate program by making information publicly available regarding services and equipment purchased by schools and libraries, including line-item costs. To that end, the Commission directed the Office of the Managing Director and USAC to make such information available through open APIs and bulk data files posted on USAC’s website:

Helping schools and libraries obtain the best possible pricing is important for several reasons. First, funding for E-rate comes from ratepayers, and we seek to ensure that the public is getting the best value for its money. Second, E-rate does not foot the entire bill for E-rate supported services; schools and libraries share the cost of their E-rate services, which means taxpayers across the country have an interest in making sure their schools and libraries don’t spend more than necessary. Third, the funding is a shared resource -- every school or library that secures a better price helps stretch the E-rate budget to serve even more schools and libraries with better, faster service. Finally, by federal statute, all telecommunications carriers are to provide services to schools and libraries “at rates less than the amounts charged for similar services to other parties” (that's all customers, not just other schools and libraries). As a tool to help deliver on this Congressional objective, however, providing the data to make comparisons even just between and among schools and libraries is a good starting point.

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Notes from the Sandbox - The Rural Broadband Experiment Auction Results

by Jonathan Chambers, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis
December 24, 2014 - 09:10 AM

Recently, the FCC released a full list of bidders in the Rural Broadband Experiment auction, collected information from the low bidders on that list, and released a notice providing an opportunity for those who bid to indicate by January 6 their interest in continuing with the Rural Broadband Experiment and participating in a future auction. Over the past year, I have often been asked what we sought to learn from this experiment. Let me answer that by starting with a little history.

For decades, Universal Service – access to telephone service for all – has been an obligation of telephone companies and federal funding has been provided to help meet that obligation. In 2011, the FCC decided to move to a competitive bidding process to award ongoing support to serve rural and high cost areas in certain circumstances. The FCC has become skilled at running auctions. But the auctions we typically run are spectrum auctions, and a Universal Service reverse auction is a different animal.

So, the Rural Broadband Experiment was designed to answer questions about auctions for Universal Service funding. How should such a bidding process be structured? Who would participate? Would incumbent telephone companies cross into neighboring service territories? Would other types of entities step in – cable companies, satellite broadband, electric utilities? What types of technologies would be proposed? What amount of support would be requested? What happens if the FCC's cost model, which we are currently using to allocate universal service funding, is used to set a reserve price? Is competitive bidding for universal service funds scalable to the nation? What happens in areas where there are no bids?

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Notes from the Sandbox: The Rural Broadband Experiment

by Jonathan Chambers, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis
March 11, 2014 - 05:37 PM

In his office at home, the Chairman of the FCC keeps a slice of an old C&P telephone pole, a small piece of history commemorating the Pole Attachments Act of 1978. It is a reminder of the physical nature of networks. The networks that carry my observations to you are physical and tangible – poles, ducts, conduits, wires, antennae on towers, nondescript buildings housing cables, routers, servers, generators and cooling units, and, of course, glass, millions of miles of glass.

That slice of telephone pole is also a reminder of how networks are built, and how an occasional nudge from the government can make a difference. I was fortunate enough to know some of the pioneers in cable and wireless when I worked with them in the 1990s. They were the ones who had climbed poles, the ones who had spliced cable and dug trenches and connected communities to the rest of the world, one community at a time. The cable pioneers built networks in rural areas where a television set couldn’t pick up a broadcast signal. First, they provided their communities with basic television service and then something interesting happened. They showed the country that cable television wasn’t a service just for rural communities – that with a new type of network you could watch more than local broadcast television. Those early pole climbers first helped themselves and their communities and then showed the rest of us what was possible.

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