SIGNIFICANT FCC ACTIONS
AND KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BROADBAND ECONOMY
Over the past four years, the FCC has taken major steps to unleash the power of wired and
wireless broadband to benefit all Americans, modernizing policies, programs, and the agency
itself for the 21st century. Chairman Genachowski has reoriented the agency to focus on the
opportunities and challenges of broadband, executing on a strategy to promote innovation,
unleash investment, foster competition, and protect and empower consumers. In doing so, the
Commission has advanced President Obama’s vision of a world-leading broadband ecosystem
that drives economic growth, job creation, U.S. competitiveness, and improvements in the lives
of the American people. Key actions are summarized below.
Today, the U.S. broadband economy is thriving. The United States has regained global
leadership in key areas of broadband innovation and infrastructure. Thanks to innovative
American companies and entrepreneurs – and smart government policies – the U.S. is now the
envy of the world in advanced wireless networks, devices, applications, among other areas.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BROADBAND ECONOMY OVER THE PAST FOUR
Overall broadband investment
Nearly $250 billion in private capital has been invested in U.S. wired and wireless broadband
networks since 2009. There has been more private investment in the information and
communications technology (ICT) sector than in any other sector of the U.S. economy.
More fiber has been laid in the U.S. in each of the last two years than in any year since 2000.
Mobile investment and innovation
The U.S. is the first country deploying 4G LTE networks at scale, and in late 2012 the U.S.
had as many LTE subscribers as the rest of the world combined, making us the global test
bed for LTE apps and services.
· Annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40% between 2009 and 2012,
from $21 billion to $30 billion. By contrast, investment in European wireless networks has
been flat since 2009, and wireless investment in Asia, including China, is up only 4% during
· In 2013, analysts project $35 billion in wireless investment in the U.S., over 50% more than
all of Europe.
· More than 90% of smartphones sold globally in 2012 run operating systems developed by
U.S. companies, up from 25% three years ago.
· The new mobile apps economy is a “made in the U.S.A.” phenomenon that has created more
than 500,000 U.S. jobs.
· Investments in wireless broadband infrastructure created more than 1.6 million U.S. jobs
Broadband investment, deployment and adoption
On wired infrastructure, broadband networks capable of very high speeds (100 megabits per
second) now reach more than 80% of U.S. homes, one of the highest percentages in the
world, up from less than 20% in 2009. By contrast, networks capable of 30 megabits per
second reach only 50% of EU households.
Average U.S. broadband speeds have nearly doubled since 2009.
2011 and 2012 each saw more U.S. Internet venture capital investment than any year since
Home broadband adoption increased from less than 60% in December 2008 to almost 70%
Between 2009 and July 2012, U.S. smartphone adoption increased from 16% to 56%.
As Chairman Genachowski has said, this progress is not a reason to let up on the gas pedal. The
U.S. faces key challenges ahead, including continuing to make more spectrum available for
broadband to keep pace with growing demand; increasing broadband speed and capacity;
ensuring that all Americans have affordable access to broadband where they live and work; and
promoting competition and empowering consumers.
KEY FCC ACTIONS OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS INCLUDE:
Created the Connect America Fund to advance universal broadband access
. After a decade
of unsuccessful reform attempts, a unanimous Commission overhauled the Universal Service
Fund, an outdated and deeply inefficient program for delivering telephone service to rural
America, and created the Connect America Fund to ensure broadband access to all Americans.
The Connect America Fund is a public-private partnership that will use $45 billion over 10 years
to extend broadband across the country, making it the largest broadband infrastructure program
ever established. These reforms not only put the country on track to connect all Americans
within a decade, they also eliminated wasteful spending, harnessed market forces to drive
efficiencies, and put universal service spending on a budget for the first time.
Pioneered “incentive auctions” to unleash spectrum for mobile broadband.
Faced with a
looming spectrum crunch that threatened to stifle our mobile economy – a key driver of U.S.
economic growth and competitiveness – in 2010 the FCC developed a bold policy innovation:
incentive auctions. Incentive auctions are a new paradigm in spectrum policy -- a two-sided
auction that uses the power of the market to repurpose beachfront spectrum used by TV
broadcasters for licensed and unlicensed wireless broadband. Faced with widespread skepticism
and opposition, the FCC worked relentlessly to push the idea. In 2012 Congress passed and the
President signed landmark legislation authorizing these auctions, and the FCC is on track to hold
the world’s first incentive auction in 2014.
Established the first enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and
After years of fierce and divisive debate over “net neutrality,” the Commission
adopted a strong and balanced framework to preserve the Internet as an open platform for
innovation and expression. These rules of the road have increased certainty and predictability in
the marketplace. Since they were proposed in the first months of Chairman Genachowski’s
tenure, innovation and private investment are up significantly across the broadband ecosystem, in
both networks and applications, and the Internet remains a vibrant platform for speech and
commerce. The FCC also vigorously enforced open Internet protections, including by:
Launching an investigation into AT&T’s blocking of VoIP applications on smartphones,
which led AT&T to reverse its policy.
Entering into a consent decree requiring Verizon to end their practice of blocking tethering
apps, which allow smartphones to be used as Wi-Fi hotspots, and make a $1.25 million
payment to the Treasury.
Opposed AT&T/T-Mobile deal and took other steps to promote competition in the
In 2009, the mobile marketplace had been trending away from an
earlier era of robust competition driving innovation and investment in wireless. The FCC and the
Department of Justice decisions to oppose the AT&T/T-Mobile merger helped reverse that trend.
That strong action, along with others like the FCC's order mandating data roaming among mobile
broadband providers, and the rigorous review of a Verizon transaction in 2012 that led to the
unprecedented divestiture of significant spectrum to T-Mobile, are enhancing competition and
fostering major investments in the U.S. wireless industry. The FCC also advanced “special
access” reform to help ensure competition in the market for dedicated communications lines for
businesses, a key input for mobile carriers’ cell towers.
ADDITIONAL FCC ACTIONS
Developed America’s First National Broadband Plan.
In March 2010, the Commission
released a comprehensive national strategy to unleash the opportunities of broadband for all
Americans. The bold and ambitious Plan was the world’s first national broadband plan to
recognize that wireless broadband is just as critical as wired broadband. The FCC’s increased
focus on broadband, and National Broadband Plan proposals like incentive auctions and
enforceable open Internet protections prompted Wired Magazine
to name the revitalized FCC
one of the Top 7 Disruptions of the Year.
Unleashing spectrum for broadband, to drive economic growth and America's global
In an October 2009 speech, when less than one-fifth of Americans owned
smartphones, Chairman Genachowski sounded the alarm about a “looming spectrum crisis” and
the need to free up more airwaves for broadband to meet a surge in demand. At a time when the
FCC's spectrum cupboard was largely bare, the National Broadband Plan set an ambitious goal
of freeing up 300 more megahertz (MHz) for mobile broadband by 2015, and 500 MHz by 2020,
roughly double the spectrum available in 2010. Using a variety of traditional strategies –
including removing outdated rules and restrictions on 30 MHz in the WCS band and 40 MHz in
the AWS-4 band, and preparing to auction the 10 MHz H-block and a significant amount of
additional AWS spectrum – as well as new policy innovations like incentive auctions and
spectrum sharing, including for 100 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band, the Commission is on track to
exceed its 2015 goal and well on the way to meeting its 2020 goal.
Creating the next generation of unlicensed spectrum to maintain U.S. leadership in mobile
The FCC freed up the largest amount of low-band spectrum in 25 years for
unlicensed use by making available high-quality “white spaces” spectrum in between TV
channels – a new American platform for wireless innovation. As part of the 2014 incentive
auction, the FCC has proposed making low-band unlicensed spectrum consistently available
nationwide for the first time.
Increasing capacity and easing congestion on Wi-Fi networks.
The Commission has proposed
to free up more unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi in the 5 gigahertz band, which will help alleviate
Wi-Fi congestion at airports and convention centers and in homes and enable ultra-high-speed
“Gigabit Wi-Fi.” As a result of these actions, no country is better positioned than the U.S. on
cloud computing, machine-to-machine communications, and next-generation Wi-Fi.
Accelerating Broadband Deployment and Adoption
Modernized all four universal service programs.
In addition to replacing the old “high-cost
fund” with the Connect America Fund, the Commission modernized and reformed each of the
other components of the Universal Service Fund for the 21st century:
The Commission established access to mobile broadband as a universal service goal for the
first time, creating the
to spur deployment of advanced wireless
infrastructure. The Mobility Fund will provide $500 million annually in ongoing support to
close gaps in mobile network coverage, using market-based reverse auctions to ensure
funding is spent wisely and efficiently.
The Commission built on the success of its health care pilot initiative by creating the up to
Healthcare Connect Fund
, which will connect thousands of health
care providers across the country to broadband, enabling them to improve patient outcomes
and dramatically cut costs.
The Commission also reformed
, which helps connect America’s schools and libraries
to the Internet, cutting red tape, giving schools and libraries flexibility to get higher-capacity
and more cost-effective broadband services, removing barriers that kept schools from
opening their computer labs as hot spots for community Internet use, and creating a
Learning-on-the-Go pilot project to test the use of E-rate funding for off-campus mobile
connectivity. The new E-Rate investments and the Healthcare Connect Fund are helping the
Commission realize the National Broadband Plan goal of delivering 1-gigabit-per-second,
ultra-high-speed broadband to anchor institutions like schools and hospitals.
· The Commission comprehensively reformed the
program, which ensures the
neediest Americans can access modern communications services. By cracking down on
widespread waste, fraud, and abuse in the program, e.g., eliminating more than 270,000
duplicate subscriptions, the Commission is on track to save $2 billion by the end of 2014. A
portion of these savings is being used to transition the program to support broadband
adoption, the biggest connectivity challenge facing low-income Americans.
· Also as part of its universal service reform, the Commission fundamentally modernized the
intercarrier compensation system
– an antiquated, byzantine set of rules requiring price-
regulated payments among carriers for carrying phone calls. This overhaul is removing
outdated regulations, accelerating the transition to Internet technology by aligning incentives
for the broadband world, and providing billions of dollars in consumer benefits by
eliminating hidden subsidies paid for through consumers’ phone bills.
Helping close the broadband divide.
The FCC convened the cable industry, technology
companies, and nonprofit organizations to connect low-income families to broadband at home.
Under the Connect2Compete program, these partners made an unprecedented commitment to
provide $9.95/month broadband, $150 refurbished computers, and digital literacy training to
families throughout the country with children in the National School Lunch Program. As part of
the Comcast/NBC Universal and CenturyLink/Qwest transaction reviews, the Commission
secured commitments from carriers to offer discounted broadband service to millions of low-
income Americans. In December 2012, the Commission launched 14 broadband adoption pilot
projects serving 74,000 consumers to understand how its Lifeline program could best be re-
structured to promote broadband adoption.
Removing barriers to broadband infrastructure deployment.
The FCC launched the
Broadband Acceleration Initiative to lower the costs and speed the pace of wired and wireless
broadband deployment. Key actions include reducing the cost and significantly shortening the
time to attach communications equipment to utility poles, and establishing a 90-day “shot clock”
to speed approval by municipalities of new wireless tower and antenna siting, both of which have
been upheld by the courts. In 2012 President Obama issued an Executive Order, based on ideas
developed by the FCC, to further reduce barriers to broadband buildout by implementing policies
like “Dig Once,” which encourages laying fiber conduit any time roads are being constructed or
Pushed for the deployment of ultra-fast networks.
To ensure the U.S. maintains its global
leadership in Internet-enabled innovation, in 2013 Chairman Genachowski issued the Gigabit
Cities Challenge, which challenges broadband providers and state and municipal community
leaders to create at least one community with a critical mass of ultra-fast, affordable broadband
connections in every state by 2015. In addition to the Broadband Acceleration Initiative, which is
lowering the costs to roll out gigabit networks, the Commission is working with private and
public sector entities to help them meet this challenge.
Protecting & Empowering Consumers and Promoting Competition
Protecting and empowering consumers.
Since 2009, the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau
has conducted thousands of investigations, issuing over 3,700 decisions and levying more than
$155 million in penalties, voluntary contributions, and recoveries. In particular, the Commission
cracked down on “mystery fees,” levying a $25 million fine – the largest in FCC history –
against Verizon for charging consumers for services they hadn’t used. As part of the settlement,
Verizon also repaid consumers more than $50 million in overcharges. The Commission also
cracked down on practices like cramming, consumer ID spoofing, and deceptive marketing for
prepaid calling cards. To help empower consumers, the Commission developed a number of
online tools including the National Broadband Map and the Broadband Speed Test, which has
been used more than 1 million times. The FCC also forged a series of technology-based public-
private initiatives to safeguard and empower consumers, including:
Preventing bill shock:
Working with Consumers Union, the FCC obtained commitments
from the four largest wireless carriers to send consumers free text message alerts when they
are about to incur overage charges to prevent unexpected penalties, or “bill shock,” which
had been affecting 30 million consumers annually.
Preventing smartphone theft:
In 2012 the FCC catalyzed the creation of a database to
prevent use of stolen smartphones and tablets, working with police chiefs, Congressional
leaders, and the wireless industry. This database will enable carriers to disable stolen
smartphones and tablets, dramatically reducing their value on the black market. Six months
later, Chairman Genachowski signed an agreement with Mexico to extend the program
internationally, combatting cross-border trafficking in stolen devices.
Measuring Broadband America
: To give consumers the tools they need to understand their
choices and hold broadband providers accountable for their promises, the Commission issued
the first-ever comprehensive, rigorous report on actual U.S. broadband speed and
performance, with detailed information on performance of each major U.S. ISP. This report
improved transparency and drove competition and investment, including significant network
upgrades by poor performers to improve their showing in the next report.
Created Technology Transitions Policy Task Force.
Communications networks are
increasingly migrating from special purpose to general purpose, from circuit-switched to packet-
switched, and from copper to fiber and wireless-based networks, which is driving changes in
markets and competition. In 2012 Chairman Genachowski established the Technology
Transitions Policy Task Force to conduct a data-driven review and provide recommendations to
modernize the Commission’s policies to encourage these technological transitions, protect and
empower consumers, promote competition, and ensure network resiliency and reliability.
Advanced competition in the media marketplace.
As part of a set of unprecedented
protections for consumers and competition in its order reviewing the Comcast/NBC Universal
transaction, the Commission imposed strong conditions preserving the ability of online video
competitors to innovate and compete. Separately, the Commission closed the so-called
“terrestrial loophole,” promoting competition in the pay-TV market.
Strengthening Public Safety
Protecting and enhancing public safety.
The Commission worked closely with FEMA, state
agencies, and communications providers during and in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the
June 2012 “derecho,” Hurricane Irene, and other natural disasters to assess and accelerate efforts
to repair damage to our nation’s communications infrastructure. In the wake of these disasters,
the FCC launched a series of field hearings to identify smart actions to improve network
resiliency, accelerate the restoration of communications services, and protect and empower
consumers. The Commission strengthened its outage reporting requirements to cover VoIP
service, enabling the Commission to track and promote the reliability of IP networks. The FCC’s
National Broadband Plan recommended that Congress create a nationwide interoperable public
safety broadband network, the FCC worked with Congress to make that recommendation a
reality in landmark 2012 legislation, and since then the FCC has taken all necessary steps to help
FirstNet stand up its network.
Strengthening and modernizing 9-1-1.
The Commission has accelerated the modernization of
9-1-1 to harness the power of wireless technology and the Internet. As part of a comprehensive
strategy for enabling Next Generation 9-1-1, the FCC obtained commitments from the four
largest wireless carriers to rapidly deploy text-to-911 on mobile phones. The Commission helped
improve location accuracy for mobile 9-1-1 so emergency personnel can more quickly find
people in need, and helped launch Wireless Emergency Alerts to enable local authorities to send
warnings and other texts to people in affected areas. After issuing a report on the extensive 9-1-1
failures during and after the 2012 derecho, the Commission proposed rules to ensure those
failures never happen again.
Broadband providers serving over 90% of U.S. subscribers adopted
recommendations – developed through an FCC-led multistakeholder process – to combat three
major cybersecurity threats: botnets, Domain Name System fraud, and Internet route hijacking.
Working with the Small Business Administration, the Chamber of Commerce, the National
Urban League, and many private technology companies, the Commission also developed and
released a Cybersecurity Tip Sheet for small businesses, providing a number of commonsense
steps small businesses can take to increase their cybersecurity. Working with its partners, the
FCC released the Small Biz Cyber Planner – an easy-to-use tool to help small businesses develop
a customized cyber plan. The Commission also developed the “Smartphone Security Checker,” a
free app that walks consumers through steps they can take to better secure their mobile devices.
Broadband for Job Creation, Health Care & Education
Promoting job creation through public-private partnerships.
To drive greater collaboration
among government, nonprofit, and private-sector entities on broadband-related goals, Chairman
Genachowski created the Public Private Initiative. As part of this effort, the Commission worked
with leaders of the customer contact center industry to launch Jobs4America in 2011 – a project
to create 100,000 contact center jobs in the U.S. within two years. More than 75,000 U.S. jobs
were created in the first 14 months after the announcement.
Advancing the power of broadband and mobile technologies to improve health outcomes
and lower costs.
In addition to creating the Healthcare Connect Fund, the FCC entered a first-of-
its-kind partnership with the FDA to cut red tape and get wireless medical devices to market
more quickly. The Commission also allocated spectrum for technologies that can help restore
movement for veterans and other victims of paralysis, and enabled Medical Body Area
Networks, wireless sensor networks that un-tether patients at hospitals and at home from devices
that monitor their vital signs.
Seizing the opportunities of broadband to improve education.
The FCC modernized and
expanded E-Rate funding for schools and libraries to support faster and lower cost Internet
connections. Together with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chairman Genachowski serves
as an honorary Chair of the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission, a
blue ribbon commission developing a comprehensive proposal to maximize the power of
technology to improve American education, and challenged states and the private sector to
ensure that every U.S. K-12 student has a digital textbook within five years.
Open Government, Open Data
Re-tooled agency operations for the information age.
In 2009, Chairman Genachowski
appointed a special counsel for FCC reform, and set the goal of making the FCC a model of
excellence in government. The Commission has eliminated more than 200 outdated rules,
eliminated unnecessary data collections, reduced backlogs, and sped processing times, e.g., the
time to review routine wireless transaction was cut by more than half. Streamlined operations
have saved millions in operating costs, and a 2010 employee survey by the Office of Personnel
Management identified the FCC as the Most Improved Agency in the federal government. To
make the agency more open, efficient, and effective, the Commission increased the transparency
of agency proceedings, slashed backlogs, and repealed dozens of antiquated regulations. The
Commission launched a re-imagined FCC.gov, and now streams online all Commission
meetings, hearings, and workshops. Chairman Genachowski also tasked the Office of Strategic
Planning and Policy Analysis with the Commission’s first-ever, top-to-bottom review of its data
collection practices to ensure agency proceedings are fact-based and data-driven. As a result of
this review, the Commission hired its first Chief Data Officer and launched the Data Innovation
Improving the transparency of political advertising.
To substantially increase transparency
for citizens, journalists, and others, the Commission required television stations to move their
“public files” – statutorily required records of political advertising expenditures and other key
information – from file cabinets to the Internet. This is part of the Commission's broader efforts
to open up government and data, and move processes and documents from paper to online.
Promoting Media Diversity and Journalism
Enabling the largest ever expansion of community radio.
In 2012 the Commission created
opportunities for non-profit organizations to launch thousands of new low-power FM radio
stations, with the application window opening in fall 2013.
Promoted diversity in media and communications.
The FCC established the Office of Native
Affairs and Policy, proposed improving the use of spectrum over Tribal lands, and expanded
opportunities for Tribal entities to provide broadcast radio services to Tribal communities.
During its review of major transactions like Comcast/NBC Universal, the Commission secured
unprecedented commitments to promote diversity in the media marketplace. The FCC has
significantly improved data collection about minority broadcast ownership, which will help
develop smarter policies. The FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities (OCBO)
and Office of General Counsel have launched a major investigation into barriers to market entry
for minorities and women in the telecom industry. And OCBO has connected minority- and
women-owned media and communications businesses with banks, other lending institutions, and
financial experts, including through access-to-capital seminars.
Updating media policy for the digital age.
The Commission issued an in-depth study of the
current media environment and how to meet the information needs of communities in a
broadband world. The Information Needs of Communities report sparked a national discussion
on the future of media and journalism, its recommendation to move the broadcast TV “public
file” has been implemented, and the state of North Carolina has begun establishing a state-level
C-SPAN – another recommendation of the report.
Advancing Broadband and Internet Freedom and Openness Internationally
Advanced Internet freedom and openness and broadband goals internationally.
helped develop a landmark 2011 agreement among OECD members and stakeholder groups on
core principles for Internet policy-making, which strongly support Internet freedom and
openness. The FCC has also worked in international fora, including as the 2012 World
Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai to preserve and advance the
international multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and eliminate global barriers to
Internet freedom and openness. The Commission successfully negotiated major spectrum
agreements with Canada and Mexico, which enable operators to deploy 4G wireless broadband
services near the U.S.-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican border.
Promoting Digital Inclusion & Responsible Use of Technology
Harnessing power of broadband to aid persons with disabilities.
implemented the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act to enhance
communications access for those with disabilities, established the Accessibility and Innovation
Forum, and improved hearing aid compatibility with mobile devices. The FCC also preserved a
vital communications link for deaf and hard-of-hearing people and saved taxpayers $275 million
by reforming the Video Relay Service and IP Captioned Telephone Service programs to
eliminate waste and fraud.
Promoting safe and responsible use of technology by kids and teens.
developed educational initiatives and held events to educate kids and parents about safe and
responsible use of technology, including addressing cyberbullying and texting while driving.