Tag: "fcc"

Posted November 8, 2022 by Emma Gautier

Nearly one year ago on November 15, 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which contained significant legislation around broadband. One piece, which the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has studied closely over the past year and a half, is the implementation of a broadband nutrition label which would require the transparent disclosure of broadband pricing and service information.

While this issue gets very little news coverage, it is an important undertaking as the big providers have a long-established habit of hiding pricing and speed information from subscribers, which prevents them from making informed choices and can leave them vulnerable to exploitation. Our advocacy for the label, and the original research behind our position, can be found here. The FCC is now under deadline to release an order to “promulgate regulations to require the display of” the label by November 15 of this year. We’ve taken a moment here to re-access the issue, offer a few updates, and highlight the ingredients of a strong broadband nutrition label. 

Pushing for Clarity, Easy Accessibility, and Enforcement

ILSR, along with 30 other digital equity organizations, recently filed a letter to the FCC supporting the creation of the broadband consumer label and advocating that it be published in a way that makes it clear and easily accessible for customers. While ILSR believes the label is a key decision-making tool and should be published at the point of sale, we reject proposals to limit the label’s display to the point-of-sale only. We emphasize in this letter that the label should also be published on the monthly bill to provide an additional provider accountability mechanism that allows customers to understand what they're paying for.  

Another critical piece of a strong label is machine readability, or the...

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Posted November 4, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

In the year since Gigi Sohn has been nominated to fill the fifth and final seat on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), we have been perplexed as to why Gigi hasn't been confirmed yet, as you can see here and here. We were also signatories to a letter of support signed by 250 industry and public interest groups.

And yet remained mystery remained. 

Having hunted for an answer for the last several months, The Verge published a piece yesterday, after reaching out to everyone from Fox News, Comcast and former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, a number of current and former members of Congress, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and FCC nominee Gigi Sohn, even the Fraternal Order of Police.  

Here's a few snippets of what they reported:

The inability to get Gigi confirmed at the FCC has left the commission deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans. That means the commission in charge of regulating all telecom in the United States, including how you get your internet service, is unable to get much done...

Gigi was nominated to the FCC over a year ago, and throughout her career, she has been popular with just about everyone. She is known as an incredibly talented telecom regulator who has been willing to work across the aisle ...

They even interviewed Chris Ruddy, CEO of the conservative news outlet Newsmax:

Chris Ruddy: I’ve strongly supported her nomination. I’ve known her for some time. I think she’s a person of integrity. We probably disagree on a lot of issues. In fact, I know we disagree on any number of big issues. She would probably identify herself as liberal, maybe progressive, and I would say I’m conservative.

Am I going to agree with her on every issue? No, but I do think that the fact that every major big company,...

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Posted October 26, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Today marks a full year since Gigi Sohn was nominated to fill the fifth and final seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Since her nomination, Sohn has gone through two confirmation hearings and a constant barrage of right-wing attacks pushed by the big cable and telecom monopolies. 

With the lame duck session of Congress just weeks away, an array of public interest groups are ramping up a campaign to push Sen. Chuck Schumer and the White House to schedule a vote to confirm her nomination before the end of the year.

Time is Running Out

Dozens of press releases are being issued today to bring attention to the apparent foot-dragging of the U.S. Senate and White House that has left the FCC in a 2-2 deadlock for nearly two years.

Public Knowledge issued a statement today calling on Senate leaders to confirm President Biden’s nominee:

The agency has not had a full five-member commission for the entire Biden administration, which has effectively stalled key consumer protection priorities as well as our nation’s work to provide high-speed broadband to those on the wrong side of the digital divide. Public Knowledge urges Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to call the vote confirming Gigi Sohn to the FCC to get the nation’s broadband agenda back on track.

Free Press issued “an 'F' in FCC for failing to confirm” such a well-regarded public-interest advocate. In a statement released today, Free Press Action Internet Campaign Director Heather Franklin said:

Gigi Sohn has been in limbo for a year now, preventing a deadlocked agency from passing crucial policies that would help people in the United States connect and communicate. This senseless delay is harming millions of people, especially working families trying to pay their rising monthly bills and those in Black...

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Posted October 12, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Jessica Engle, Director of Community Outreach at Althea to talk about the Affordable Connectivity Program, the $14-billion fund that provides a $30 monthly service benefit ($75 on Tribal lands) to help defray the cost of Internet access to qualifying families around the country. It's a large and complicated program, and Jessica and Christopher talk about some of the bottlenecks that are causing friction both for households and for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This includes verifying eligibility in a timely fashion, modifying administrative and accounting systems, a lack of information transparency from USAC and the FCC, and the seeming lack of mechanisms for an audit should it become necessary down the road.

Jessica has started a Discord to help navigate the ACP

How much money is going out the door each month to pay for the Affordable Connectivity Program? Where have funds been spent at the state and zip code level? When will the money run out? Check out our dashboard at ACPdashboard.com.

This show is 17 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast...

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Posted September 6, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Welcome to another installment of In Our View, where from time to time, we use this space to share our thoughts on recent events playing out across the digital landscape and take the opportunity to draw attention to important but neglected broadband-related issues.

As its ongoing work to revamp the agency’s notoriously inaccurate broadband coverage maps continues, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced last week the opening of a window for states, local and Tribal governments, service providers, and other entities to challenge the service data submitted by providers over the summer.

At the end of June, as FCC chairwoman Jessica Ronsenworcel noted, the FCC “opened the first ever window to collect information from broadband providers in every state and territory about precisely where they provide broadband services.” 

The key word here is “precisely” because the truth is: no one really knows precisely where broadband is, or is not, available. And with tens of billions of dollars in federal funding being spent to deploy high-speed Internet infrastructure, accurate mapping data is essential for targeting where those funds would be best allocated in each state and U.S. territory.

Historically, the FCC relied on self-reported submissions of Internet service providers (ISPs) for information on which locations they serve and what speeds are available at those addresses. However, in practice, that meant the FCC maps could declare an entire census block to be “served” by a broadband provider if that provider claimed the ability to serve just one home in the entire block; thereby overcounting how many households have access to broadband.

The Broadband DATA Act was passed to fix that glaring problem by requiring the FCC to use a more refined methodology to verify if the data submitted by ISPs is accurate.

To that end, the FCC will now rely on something called the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (BSLF), which will combine a...

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Posted August 31, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Update November 2022:  The previous version of this dashboard included both Enrolled and Claimed household numbers. At the time, we believed that these two values (as reflected in the publicly available USAC releases) represented an important (and increasingly so) reality where a large number of the households that were eligible and enrolling in the benefit were not using (or claiming) the benefit. Thus, the data seemed to show that millions of households who had been cleared to use the program were not getting the benefit each month. After further conversation with administration representatives regarding the ACP data releases, it seems this is not the case. Instead, the difference between Enrolled and Claimed households only reflects the procedure via which ISPs participating in the program are submitting payment claims to USAC at irregular intervals. Thus, sources say, all Enrolled households should be using the benefit, and reflect the best numbers for understanding how much of the fund is being used at present. We have adjusted the dashboard to reflect this.

On January 1st, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) with $14.2 billion in funding designed to help American households pay for the monthly cost of their Internet subscription. In May, we published a story about the fate of the program, based on a prediction model we built that was intended to visualize how long we might expect the $14.2 billion fund to last before needing new Congressional appropriations to sustain it. Back then, the data showed that the fund would run out some time in 2024.

We’re back today not only with a new and improved model (based both on more granular geographic data and fed by an additional 16 weeks of enrollment data), but a new dashboard that pulls together a host of information from the Universal Service Administrative Company on where and how the Affordable Connectivity Program money is being spent. 

A New Resource for Broadband Advocates, Local Policy Makers, and Elected Officials

Located at ACPdashboard.com, this new resource from ILSR includes information local broadband advocates, nonprofits, state legislators, and...

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Posted August 24, 2022 by Emma Gautier

The Tlingit and Haida Tribes will leverage $15 million in Rescue Plan funding to bring LTE-based 100 Mbps symmetrical wireless connectivity to 10,000 unserved residents in and around the city of Wrangell, located on Wrangell Island in southeast Alaska. The Internet Service Provider in charge of the buildout is the newly-launched, tribally-owned ISP Tidal Networks. The project is a pilot the tribes plan to expand to all residents of the island, and eventually to other communities in the region.  

The pilot is made possible by Tlingit and Haida’s successful participation in the FCC’s Rural Tribal Priority Window, which allowed tribes to claim space on the 2.5 gigahertz spectrum band. Back in 2019, Tlingit and Haida partnered with southeast Alaska village tribes to gain access to the spectrum, and worked throughout 2021 to “discuss [Tlingit and Haida’s] broadband initiative and opportunities to partner for the broadband project.” 

Utilizing Spectrum to Make Connectivity Feasible

Alaskan tribes have been particularly active participants of the Rural Tribal Priority Window, which was first announced by the FCC in early December 2019 and closed on September 2, 2020. Over one third of the nearly 400 tribes that applied were located in Alaska. The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, and the Organized Village of Saxman also successfully gained access. To hold the spectrum license, tribes were originally required to provide service to 80 percent of residents no later than two years after obtaining it, and 100 percent of residents within five years. Since then, the FCC has doubled the requirement window to four and eight years, respectively. 

Tlingit and Haida secured spectrum in several communities in the southeastern part of the state, which has allowed the tribes to design a plan for broadband deployment that could be fully covered by the $15 million in Rescue...

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Posted August 16, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Jon Chambers, industry veteran and partner at Conexon. The two begin by talking about the work electric cooperatives are doing in rural areas to convert subscribers from DSL connections reluctantly maintained by monopoly providers to member-owned fiber connections.

Then, they address what Jon calls the next frontier in broadband policy and funding with BEAD, initiated by the inherent shortcomings of the new Broadband Data Collection Fabric and which underscore the FCC's continued inability to act decisively to figure out where and which types of connections are available at the address level. This includes the fraught and complicated consequences when the federal government sets too low a defintion of broadband, the challenge process, the delay in funding until a complete list of Broadband Serviceable Locations is complete, the lack of transparency in the new data sets, and more.

This show is 47 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons...

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Posted August 16, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, August 18th, at 3:30pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by regular guest Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Casey Lide, Partner at Keller and Heckman.

The panel will talk about LTD Broadband and Starlink recently getting removed from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) by the FCC, the most recent Universal Service Fund report sent to Congress, and whether the new streaming video landscape is materially different from the old cable TV model (and if we should care). 

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, on find it on the Connect This! page.

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.

Posted August 10, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

In a release today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it was voiding applications by two of the biggest Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) bidders from December 2020. This includes more than $885 million for Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) provider Starlink and more than $1.3 billion for LTD Broadband, Inc.

LTD’s original winning bids are spread across 15 states, but there has been speculation brewing since late last year from industry experts as to if funds would be released at all. We’ve seen 12 releases from the FCC since late winter authorizing funds for most of the winning bidders (from the monopoly providers to consortia of rural electric cooperatives), which we’ve collected in our Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Dashboard here. Conversely, there has been relatively little conversation about why Starlink had not yet received any of its winning bids.

Skepticism about Speed, Deployment and Cost

The FCC’s decision to revoke the winning bids for Starlink seem to be based on the (laudable) premise that when public funds go to providers to ease the capital costs of bringing service to high-cost areas, policymakers and regulators should consider the long-term digital equity implications for ISPs with baseline service tiers. Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting just wrote about this two weeks ago, asking whether “an agency that awards grants or other broadband subsidies [should] somehow insist that broadband rates are somehow tied to market rates.” It seems from the FCC’s announcement that the answer is yes, with Chairwoman...

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