FCC is looking for new Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee Members

The FCC announces the opportunity. I hope we can flood the market with Minnesota names!

The Federal Communications Commission announced its intent to re-charter the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), a federal advisory committee, which provides advice and recommendations to the Commission on accelerating the deployment of high-speed Internet access. The Commission intends to renew the BDAC’s charter for a two year period, starting on or about March 1, 2019.

Nominations for membership to the BDAC should be submitted to the FCC no later than January 10, 2019. 

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-1239A1.pdf

FCC is moving to new broadband map format, decommissioning old maps

The FCC reports on the decommissioning of their old broadband maps – on Dec 21, 2018…

Since 2011, the National Broadband Map has been a vital tool for consumers, businesses, policy makers, and researchers by providing an easy- to-use and searchable way to find out who is offering broadband, what types of broadband they are offering, and where they are offering it.  But the mapping platform has become dated, as has the coverage data, which was collected through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) State Broadband Initiative (SBI); the last published SBI data set was current as of June 30, 2014.  Based on the age of the data, and the underlying technology, the National Broadband Map and its Application Program Interface (API), will be decommissioned on December 21, 2018.

Recognizing the value of broadband data visualizations, the Federal Communications Commission released a new Fixed Broadband Deployment map in February 2018 to display new data collected by the FCC from carriers on FCC Form 477, which is updated twice annually. Like the old map, the new map provides key information about broadband deployment for consumers, policymakers, researchers, economists, and others.

Looking at the new maps was a reminder to me that they were last updated in 2017. We are lucky in Minnesota to have updates more often.

FCC plans to classify text message in same category as broadband

I’ve been waiting for a mainstream publication to pick up this story because as most things related to broadband, it can get wonky. And like many things related to broadband policy, people have strong feelings about what should be done. The Washington Post details the planned change in text message policy…

The FCC announced in November that it plans formally to classify text messaging, currently of indeterminate regulatory status, in the same category as high-speed Internet. Proponents claim the change will help wireless carriers stop unwanted communications from flooding customers’ cellphones. But as critics point out, moving text messaging to a regulation-light realm could also allow companies arbitrarily to block even legitimate communications.

Almost everybody — except perhaps serial spammers — can agree that Americans should be sheltered from an influx of automatically dialed text messages they have no interest in receiving. The question is how to get there. The FCC says its proposed classification is the only route to appropriate protection; right now, the spam rate for texting is only 2.8 percent, and the agency argues that is because companies go to great lengths to shut down unsolicited messages. The FCC says classifying texting under the same category as phone calls instead, as advocates have petitioned, would deter carriers from those efforts.

But the FCC has made clear in previous rulings that carriers already have the ability to implement blocking technology that keeps out calls consumers do not want to receive — and that the same rules apply to texts. The FCC’s proposal would offer companies even greater freedom, allowing them to even censor content that is not proven spam at their whim rather than at the consumer’s will.

In the past, this freedom has led to abuse: Most notably, Verizon in 2007 briefly barred abortion-rights group Naral from contacting subscribers using a shortcode messaging program, citing its authority to block “controversial or unsavory” communications, even though those subscribers would have consented to receive the texts. Companies may also have economic incentives to deny senders access. Carriers signed on last year to voluntary principles that dictate what they should and should not block — but those are merely best practices, not policy.

FCC Commissioner Carr is in Dakotas and Minnesota (& Dakotas) for Senate 5G field hearing & rural broadband

From the FCC…

WASHINGTON—On Wednesday, October 10, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr will head to the Dakotas and Minnesota for events focused on 5G and rural broadband.  His trip will include broadband construction projects, smart agriculture deployments, telehealth projects, and manufacturing facilities.  He will cap off his trip by testifying at a Senate Commerce field hearing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Prior to that, Commissioner Carr will be making the following visits:
Wednesday

Carr starts off the morning in Minnesota with a tour of Meridian Blue, a woman-owned tower company.  He’ll tour two tower sites in Eden Prairie and Shorewood, MN, including a rooftop broadband deployment and another at a water tower.  Then he heads to Alexandria, MN, to visit 3M for a tour of their advanced manufacturing facility.  Next, he will meet with Medtronic to learn about their connected healthcare projects.  Then, he will meet with the Farmers Mutual Telephone Co. to see a deployment project and visit with their small business customers to discuss the role of broadband in their communities.
Thursday

Carr begins the day in North Dakota at Iteris, an applied informatics company in Grand Forks that uses big data to improve agriculture and transportation.  Following that, he goes to Emerado to visit Grand Sky, a testing and research site for drones and unmanned aerial systems.  Then the trip moves back to Minnesota, where Carr will visit Crystal Sugar, a smart-ag beet piling station in Alvarado.  Next, he heads back to North Dakota for a tour of a grain elevator and Midcontinent Communications’ 3.5 GHz CBRS testing sites in Thompson.  He’ll then head to Fargo to tour Midco’s new data center, and then will round out the day with a meeting to learn about an in-the-works project to create a fully autonomous farm in the Fargo area.
Friday

Carr kicks off the day in Yankton, South Dakota, with a visit to Ehresmann Engineering, a steel fabricating and consulting firm, which specializes in communication towers.  After that, he visits Sioux Falls Tower with Congresswoman Kristi Noem for a tower climb and meeting with tower companies.  Then, he’ll head to Rowena, SD, to learn more about the work associated with the broadcast television repacking process.  Then he’ll return to Sioux Falls to testify at a Senate Commerce field hearing convened by Chairman John Thune on “The Race to 5G: a View from the Field.”  Members of the media are invited to attend any of these events.  Contact Evan Swarztrauber at (202) 418-2261 or evan.swarztrauber@fcc.gov for more information.

October 2018 Webinar: Federal Broadband Funding: Policies and Programs to Connect America

An online, free event…

Event Time:Wed, October 17, 2018 02:00 PM

Type Of Event: Webinar

Click here to register

Join BroadbandUSA for an overview of federal funding options to support increasing broadband access in communities across the United States. Learn about recent program and policy updates from officials representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

Speakers:

  • Barrett L. Haga, Ph.D., Senior Administrator for Economic Engagement, Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce
  • Shawn Arner, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Loan Origination and Approval Division, RUS Telecommunications Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Kate Dumouchel, Attorney Advisor, Telecommunications Access Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission

We won’t get better broadband until we get better maps

The Verge recently published a fairly damning account of how bad the FCC maps are and the impact that has on broadband access and affordability. Here’s a concise description of the problem…

As it currently stands, ISPs are required to deliver Form 477 data to the FCC indicating broadband availability and speed twice a year. But the FCC doesn’t audit the accuracy of this data, despite the fact that ISPs are heavily incentivized to overstate speed and availability to downplay industry failures. The FCC also refuses to make the pricing data provided by ISPs available to the public.

Worse, the FCC’s methodology declares an entire ZIP code as “served” with broadband if just one home in an entire census block has it. As a result, the government routinely declares countless markets connected and competitive when reality tells a very different story.

The FCC’s $350 million broadband map, for example, relies on the agency’s Form 477 data to help educate users on broadband availability. But users who plug their address into the map will quickly find that it hallucinates not only the number of broadband options available in their area, but the speeds any local ISPs can provide. A recent FCC update fixed none of these problems.

 

I’ve heard providers complain about the forms, which are apparently long and unwieldy. I’ve heard consumers complain that, as the article states, the access is over stated. Usually that conversation goes something like, “They say I have access. I don’t.”

The problem is that funding is often allocated based on these maps. And people use these maps to decide where to buy a home. And providers may use these maps to figure out new markets to pursue. (And most providers would prefer to go into an area where there isn’t an existing provider at least when looking at rural markets.)

They look at Rochester (MN) as an example…

According to the FCC’s data, Rochester is awash with broadband options. The agency insists that as many as a dozen broadband providers are available to most city residents. But according to the ILSR report, the reality is far different.

At least 4,000 of the 215,000 residents living within a 30-mile radius of the Rochester city center lack access to any broadband whatsoever. Another 42,000 people lack access to any fixed-line broadband options, driving them toward satellite broadband, which is considered the black sheep of the broadband sector due to cost, high latency, and daily or monthly usage restrictions.

Wireless is often promoted as a wonderful alternative to fixed-line broadband, but that’s not always the case. Wireless is often expensive, loaded with inconsistent restrictions, and users in rural markets often find themselves booted from the network for what’s often moderate usage. A monopoly over the fiber lines feeding cell towers only complicates the problem.

In Rochester, 19,000 consumers have the choice of only one local cable broadband provider — Charter’s Spectrum — and reality looks absolutely nothing like the picture ISPs and the FCC try to paint, Mitchell’s group found.

“Even where residents have a choice in broadband, anyone looking for speeds in excess of 40 Mbps will almost certainly have to subscribe to Charter Spectrum,” the report concludes.

In policy conversations, ISP lobbyists lean heavily on the FCC’s flawed data to falsely suggest that American broadband is dirt cheap and ultra competitive, despite real-world evidence to the contrary. ISPs also use this false reality to imply meaningful consumer protections aren’t necessary because the market is healthy (as we saw during the fight over net neutrality).

Some cities like Rochester have eyed either building their own broadband networks or striking public / private partnerships to fix the problem. But incumbent ISPs not only use the false FCC data to imply such efforts aren’t necessary, but they have lobbied (and, in some cases, written) protectionist laws in more than 20 states, prohibiting that from happening.

On the wider policy level, having accurate data is incredibly important as the government determines which areas are in need of broadband subsidies. That was a major point of contention at a recent FCC oversight hearing, as states vie for $4.5 billion in rural broadband deployment funds intended to shore up connectivity gaps.

The old adage says “that which gets measured gets done” unfortunately I think that extends to that which gets measured poorly gets done poorly. There’s just no way to gauge areas of need or areas of improvement when the maps are so flawed.

The FCC is looking for comments on broadband service for veterans

The FCC is looking for comments

WIRELINE COMPETITION BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON PROMOTING BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS SERVICE FOR VETERANS
WC Docket No. 18-275
Comments Due: October 12, 2018
Reply Comments Due: October 29, 2018
In this Public Notice, as required by the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) seeks information and data for the Federal Communications Commission’s (Commission) report on promoting broadband Internet access service for veterans.1 Section 504 of the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 directs the Commission to, within one year, “submit to Congress a report on
promoting broadband Internet access service for veterans, in particular lowincome veterans and veterans residing in rural areas” and “provide the public with notice and an opportunity to comment” in preparing the report.2 In the report, the Commission is required to examine veterans’ access to broadband and how to promote such access, and provide findings and recommendations for Congress on
those issues.3
Broadband is critical to ensuring that veterans, like all Americans, have full and meaningful participation in society. It ensures that veterans in particular can
access the resources they need to connect with health care services, find jobs, get information on and apply for military benefits, and generally participate in modern
society. The Commission’s top priority remains promoting digital opportunities for all Americans, including veterans. For example, the Commission’s recent telehealth Notice of Inquiry sought comment on “developing a Universal Service Fund pilot program to explore how to promote the use of broadband-enabled telehealth services . . . [among] low-income veterans, with a focus on such services
. . . delivered directly to patients outside of brick-and-mortar health care facilities.”4 The Notice of Inquiry identified the significant obstacles faced by lowincome
veterans and veterans residing in rural areas to obtain healthcare, and noted that veterans living in rural areas are among the largest population of … (read more)