It’s Thanksgiving week, and the FCC is heading into the holidays on a high note. Just last week, the Commission concluded the bidding on one of the highest grossing spectrum auctions in FCC history; we advanced a significant text-to-988 proposal to make it easier for people to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and receive life-saving counseling; and the President signed into law a bipartisan infrastructure package that includes over $14 billion for the FCC to update and extend our broadband affordability efforts. We are looking to build on this positive momentum with our December agenda. Here’s what we’ve got lined up.
- We’re improving emergency alerts. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) allows the President, FEMA, the National Weather Service, or state and local authorities to deliver warnings to TV viewers about dangerous weather and other imminent threats. Unfortunately, alerts sent using legacy broadcast technology have limited ability relay text, which can create disparities between the information conveyed in the audio and visual alert messages, including during nationwide tests of the system. The Commission will vote on a proposal to improve the clarity and accessibility of EAS visual messages and tests, especially for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing or are otherwise unable to access the audio message.
- We’re promoting competition in the satellite broadband market. A new generation of low-orbit satellite systems can provide broadband services with dramatically higher speeds and lower latency than previous satellite broadband offerings. This technology could be a game-changer for connecting the hardest-to-serve rural households on the wrong side of the digital divide. This December, we will consider revisions to the spectrum sharing requirements among these satellite systems. This proposal will not only facilitate the deployment of this new technology, it will promote competition and make it easier for new competitors to enter the market.
- We’re promoting fair and open competitive bidding in the E-Rate program. In 2021, the Commission has made historic progress in closing the Homework Gap thanks to the new Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is already supporting internet connectivity for 9 million students during the pandemic. Looking long term, the centerpiece of the Commission’s work to connect students continues to be our E-Rate program, which supports connectivity for schools and libraries. To enhance the program’s integrity and efficiency, we will consider changes to the competitive bidding process for E-Rate.