It’s hard to believe but a year ago this month, the President signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The FCC has spent much of the last year implementing key elements of this historic legislation, better known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. On New Year’s Day, we launched the Affordable Connectivity Program, which has helped more than 15 million households get and stay connected. Earlier this month, we unveiled a pre-production draft of our new broadband maps, which will provide the clearest picture to date of where broadband is available and where it is not in order to help inform high-speed internet investment. Recognizing that investments in broadband deployment and affordability are not enough on their own to achieve full digital equity, the authors of the Law also instructed the FCC to issue guidance to states and local governments on how to prevent digital discrimination. The Commission’s last meeting of 2022 will be headlined by a proposal to fulfill this Congressional directive. Here’s everything we have lined up for our December agenda:
- We’re promoting equal access to broadband. Your zip code shouldn’t determine your access to high-speed connectivity. Since March, the Commission has been studying the problem of discriminatory practices that can leave certain communities with unequal access to internet service. This month, the Commission will consider specific proposals for preventing and eliminating digital discrimination based on income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin.
- We’re facilitating continued growth of the satellite industry. The space economy is booming, and the Commission is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to keep pace. As part of our Space Innovation agenda, the Commission has already moved to study communications issues involved in new space activities like satellite refueling and in-orbit repair; mitigated the risks of orbital debris by expediting the removal of out-of-service satellites; and, most recently, announced a new Space Bureau to better support the next-generation satellite industry. Building on this work, we will consider new reforms to streamline the FCC’s satellite application processing rules and policies.
- We’re making sure wireless 911 calls connect to the right call center. Wireless 911 calls are sometimes mis-routed to the wrong call center, which can cost emergency responders valuable time. Earlier this year, the Commission updated the record on what can be done to fix this problem. We learned that some wireless carriers have begun using more precise location information from cellphones, instead of cell towers, to route 911 calls and texts where they need to go. The Commission will consider a proposal that would require all wireless carriers and text providers to implement network improvements that would reduce misrouting of 911 calls and texts and improve emergency response times.
- We’re making improvements to phone service for deaf and hard of hearing users. Automated speech recognition technology makes it possible for Telecommunications Relay Services to caption phone calls without the help of a communications assistant. While human-aided captioning may be more accurate or preferable for some calls, fully automatic captioning improves the timing of captions, and can increase their accuracy. The Commission will vote on a proposal to apply different TRS Fund compensation formulas to the distinct captioning methods. This proposal would promote program efficiency, while ensuring that providers have appropriate incentives to use the captioning method preferred by users or most effective for a call.
- We will also consider an Enforcement Bureau related matter.