FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel suggests we crowdsource a broadband map

Today FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel spoke to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She spoke to the need of better mapping to assess the broadband situation in the US and she asked consumers to help identify and map where there is no access to broadband:

“If you’ve not been able to get service, or live in an area that lacks it, help us make a map and write me at broadbandfail@fcc.gov. I’ve set this account up to take in your ideas. I will share every one of them with the agency Chairman—and put on pressure to do something about it.”

Lawmakers to FCC: Do Not Weaken Broadband Internet Standards for Americans

Several Minnesota Legislators on this list…

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), Senator Al Franken (D-MN), and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rick Nolan (D-MN), and Keith Ellison (D-MN) sent a bicameral letter today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai opposing his efforts to lower broadband Internet standards for millions of Americans.

The letter comes in response to a recent Notice of Inquiry that suggested the FCC will consider significantly lowering national advanced broadband standards from the current level of 25 Mbps download / 3 Mbps upload down to 10 Mbps download / 1 Mbps upload. Additionally, the FCC is contemplating a finding that Internet access through a cellphone plan is a sufficient substitute for fixed broadband at home.

“As you well know, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to economic development, public safety, and a vibrant quality of life. Ensuring every home, school, and business has adequate access to the Internet is essential to unlocking the innovative potential of all Americans …” wrote the lawmakers. Simply moving the goalposts is not a policy solution, and weakening the definition of high speed internet is a disservice to the rural and tribal communities the FCC has an obligation to serve.”

The changes currently contemplated could immediately result in reduced connection reliability and Internet speeds for rural, tribal, and low-income communities in every state. In 2016, according to the FCC, 39% of rural America and 41% of those living on tribal land lacked access to advanced broadband, which is defined as 25 Mbps/3 Mbps under current FCC policy.

“At this time, mobile access at 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is not a reasonable replacement for fixed advanced broadband at home. This fact is well known to any child seeking to complete a homework assignment, small business owner hoping to develop an Internet presence, or individual completing an online job application or communicating with their doctor,” added the members of Congress in today’s letter.

In addition to Reps. Huffman, Pocan, Nolan, Ellison, and Senator Franken (D-MN), the letter was signed by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as well as Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), John Conyers (D-MI), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), John Lewis (D-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Michael Doyle (D-PA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Timothy Walz (D-MN), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), John Yarmuth (D-KY).

The letter is supported by Public Knowledge and Communications Workers of America.

You can read more about Rep. Huffman’s work to increase access to broadband for every Americans here.

The full text of the letter can be found here or below.

The Honorable Ajit Pai
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Pai:

We write in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) request for comment in the recent Notice of Inquiry (NOI) “Concerning Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion” (GN Docket No. 17-199). We are gravely concerned that the policies contemplated by this NOI could undo significant progress and investment by the FCC and Congress to ensure that all Americans have access to reliable, high-speed broadband. Specifically, we strongly oppose any proposal to lower speeds from the current standard of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload to 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps or to find mobile broadband as a universally appropriate replacement for fixed, home broadband.

As you well know, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to economic development, public safety, and a vibrant quality of life. Ensuring every home, school, and business has adequate access to the Internet is essential to unlocking the innovative potential of all Americans. However, as the annual section 706 broadband report demonstrates, our nation’s rural and tribal communities continue to lag behind urban America and much of the developed world when it comes to broadband access, speed, and reliability. As the FCC has noted, thirty-nine percent of rural America and forty-one percent of those on Tribal land lack access to advanced broadband.

The FCC has a statutory obligation to take steps to deploy broadband that supports high-quality telecommunications capability to all Americans in a reasonable and timely manner. The policy changes contemplated by this NOI would run counter to the intent of Congress by attempting to fulfill that statutory obligation through definitional changes, rather than concrete action to connect more Americans online. Simply moving the goalposts is not a policy solution, and weakening the definition of high speed internet is a disservice to the rural and tribal communities the FCC has an obligation to serve.

In particular, we are concerned with any effort to weaken the FCC’s current policy finding that every American should have access to broadband services with speeds of at least 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload. Finding instead that only mobile service of 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is sufficient would result in significantly slower and less reliable Internet access for millions of Americans, particularly those with low incomes or those living in rural and tribal communities. At this time, mobile access at 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is not a reasonable replacement for fixed advanced broadband at home. This fact is well known to any child seeking to complete a homework assignment, small business owner hoping to develop an Internet presence, or individual completing an online job application or communicating with their doctor.

We strongly urge you to maintain the highest connectivity standards, which are critical to the FCC’s statutory obligation to support high-quality telecommunications capability to all Americans.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,

Easiest way to ubiquitous broadband? Lower the goalpost. Quickest way to hurt rural areas? Lower the goalpost

I wrote about this earlier. I thought it bore repeating – especially when I found a great, straightforward explanation of what’s going on in the Huffington Post

Every year, the law requires the FCC to issue a report on whether “advanced telecommunications capabilities” is being deployed to “all Americans.” The FCC treats mobile services as different from cable, DSL or other services that run to the home. The FCC reasons that people use direct to the home services and mobile services very differently. For technical reasons, wireline services like cable or fiber or DSL work faster and more reliably than mobile services. So even though some people rely exclusively on mobile broadband (largely because they can’t afford both a wireline and a wireless subscription), the vast majority of Americans own both mobile devices and have a wireline subscription at home.

At the moment, the FCC defines home “broadband” as providing 25 mbps down and 3 mbps up (“25/3”). Many communities can only get that speed from a cable provider – assuming they have one that serves their communities. If you don’t have a home broadband provider that offers those speeds in your community, then the FCC reports that your neighborhood doesn’t have access to “advanced telecommunications services” (the technical term the statute uses). If the FCC discovers that certain identifiable groups of people, like rural Americans, don’t have access to broadband that meets the standard, then the law requires the FCC to take steps to ensure that those left behind get the access they need.

Pai’s Proposal: Lower the Standard For Broadband So We Can Say Everyone Has Access.

There is a proceeding for determining the rules about upcoming reverse auction for Connect America Funds. There are concerns that the FCC will give much of that money to satellite companies and declare that America’s broadband problem is basically solved. Comments for that proceeding are open now but closing soon. (Senator Franken helped keep that door open until Oct 6.) The Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Community Networks recently did a podcast with Jon Chambers (formerly of the FCC) on the topic.

Word is out on a letter being circulated in the House of Representatives for Members to sign on to express their concern on the idea of lowering speed goals. That should be available next week.

Mobile broadband is good enough for rural areas?!

Ars Technica reports…

Americans might not need a fast home Internet connection, the Federal Communications Commission suggests in a new document. Instead, mobile Internet via a smartphone might be all people need.

The suggestion comes in the FCC’s annual inquiry into broadband availability. Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act requires the FCC to determine whether broadband (or more formally, “advanced telecommunications capability”) is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. If the FCC finds that broadband isn’t being deployed quickly enough to everyone, it is required by law to “take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market.”

Sounds like an easier answer than making sure broadband is being deployed quickly – it is move the goalpost – closer and lower…

But with Republican Ajit Pai now in charge, the FCC seems poised to change that policy by declaring that mobile broadband with speeds of 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream is all one needs. In doing so, the FCC could conclude that broadband is already being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, and thus the commission could take fewer steps to promote deployment and competition.

This would also be the first time that the FCC has set a broadband speed standard for mobile; at 10Mbps/1Mbps, it would be less than half as fast as the FCC’s home broadband speed standard of 25Mbps/3Mbps.

Nothing is set in stone, yet, you can chime in!

The changes were signaled yesterday in a Notice of Inquiry, the FCC’s first step toward completing a new analysis of broadband deployment. The document asks the public for comments on a variety of questions, including whether mobile broadband can substitute for fixed Internet connections. You can file comments at this link; initial comments are due September 7, and reply comments are due September 22.

FCC Connect2Health Task Force to host virtual listening sessions

Announcement from the FCC… (Note – Parties interested in participating in these virtual sessions should contact the Task Force by July 28, 2017, by sending an e-mail to connect2health@fcc.gov, and inserting “Virtual Listening Session” in the subject line.)

The Federal Communications Commission’s Connect2Health Task Force announces that it will convene several virtual listening sessions over several weeks, starting the week of August 7, 2017, to more efficiently facilitate targeted input on broadband health issues (including on the rural/urban gap and other digital divide issues) from non-traditional stakeholders and those outside the Washington, DC area. This effort specifically relates to the Task Force’s development of recommendations on critical regulatory, policy, technical, and infrastructure issues concerning the emerging broadband-enabled health and care ecosystem described in the April 24, 2017, Public Notice issued in GN Docket No. 16-46 (FCC Seeks Comment and Data on Actions to Accelerate Adoption and Accessibility of Broadband-Enabled Health Care Solutions and Advanced Technologies).

In addition, the formal comment period for GN Docket No. 16-46 will remain open until September 29, 2017, to give interested parties an opportunity to file additional comments and information following the completion of the virtual listening sessions.1 Parties have also expressed interest in submitting comments and suggestions for enhancements related to the Mapping Broadband Health in America platform released on June 8, 2017, and this extension will facilitate such filings.

The scheduled virtual listening sessions will serve to supplement the Commission’s typical in person, ex parte meeting process and will be conducted via teleconference with participants from specified stakeholder groups as detailed below. We anticipate that each of the sessions will last for about an hour. Conducting these sessions via teleconference will help ensure that interested parties based outside the Washington, DC area can participate. The calls will be led by Task Force staff and will be recorded and transcribed for the record. The resulting transcripts will be publicly-available in the above referenced docket on the FCC’s website. Interested parties may submit comments and any additional input in response to the discussions reflected in the transcripts.

Parties interested in participating in these virtual sessions should contact the Task Force by July 28, 2017, by sending an e-mail to connect2health@fcc.gov, and inserting “Virtual Listening Session” in the subject line. Please identify the session(s) of interest; provide a brief personal biography; your contact information; a description of your organization (and/or link to your organization website), if applicable; and the extent of your availability (specify days and EST times) during the specified week.3 Please note that the stakeholder groups listed below are based on stakeholders that have submitted comments in the above-referenced docket and/or have engaged the Task Force; the list below is not intended to reflect the full range of stakeholders relevant to broadband health issues. The Task Force welcomes the participation of any interested party. Once final schedules are determined, the Task Force will notify participants of the date and time of their selected session(s), as well as any additional information and instructions.

Virtual Listening Sessions — TENTATIVE SCHEDULE AND STAKEHOLDER GROUPS

Week of Aug. 7: Health Care Provider Forum: e.g., Health system administrators and CIOs, clinicians and other health care providers (including allied health professionals); community health officials and clinicians; small medical practices; public safety and EMS professionals; and researchers

Week of Sept. 11: Rural and Consumer Issues Forum: e.g., Associations and advocacy groups representing rural interests, Tribal lands, people with disabilities, veterans, and older Americans

Week of Sept. 18: Technology and Broadband Services Forum: e.g., Telecommunications carriers, broadband services providers, manufacturers, innovators, and entrepreneurs

Week of Sept. 25: Policymakers Forum: e.g., Federal policymakers; state and local health officials (or their representatives) and other policymakers; associations representing state, county, and city health officials and policymakers; state and local officials involved in developing technology and broadband policies and strategies

For questions and additional information about these virtual listening sessions, please contact Ben Bartolome, Special Counsel, Connect2HealthFCC Task Force, at (770) 935-3383, or via e-mail at Ben.Bartolome@fcc.gov.

August is Rural Broadband month at the FCC

FCC Chair Ajit Pai announces

I’m pleased to announce that August will be Rural Broadband Month at the Federal Communications Commission. Our agenda for the open meeting on August 3 will feature several items that will help bridge the digital divide.

Leading off will be a Public Notice to initiate the pre-auction process for the Connect America Fund Phase II auction. This auction will award up to $2 billion over the next decade to broadband providers that commit to offer voice and broadband services to fixed locations in unserved high-cost areas in our country. To maximize the value the American people receive for the universal service dollars we spend, this will be the first auction to award ongoing high-cost universal service support through competitive bidding in a multiple-round, reverse auction. With this Public Notice, we are seeking comment on the procedures to be used during this auction. Moving forward now will put us on track to conduct the auction in 2018.

The FCC will also consider taking the next step in implementing Phase II of another key universal service program, the Mobility Fund. In February, the Commission adopted a Mobility Fund framework to allocate up to $4.53 billion over the next decade to advance 4G LTE service, primarily in rural areas that would not be served in the absence of government support. The proposed Order on the August agenda would establish a “challenge process”—that is, a process for resolving disputes over whether areas should be eligible for Mobility Fund subsidies. This measure will allow us to proceed to a reverse auction as soon as possible. It is critical that we use accurate data to determine which areas will be included in that reverse auction. Many have complained to the FCC that the data that we currently collect through our Form 477 isn’t good enough to serve as the basis for that decision. I agree. Therefore, I am proposing to collect new and more granular data that will serve as the starting point in deciding which areas will be included in the Mobility Fund Phase II auction.

Separately, we need to do a better job collecting data through the FCC’s Form 477.

Does the Internet look different to you today? It’s a glimpse at a repeal of Net Neutrality

The Washington Post reports…

Visitors to Facebook, Google, Netflix and dozens of other websites will likely be greeted Wednesday by a special message about the future of the Internet, as part of a broad campaign by the companies to stop what they say is a threat to the Web as most consumers know it. …

It’s up to each site to decide how far to go — and virtually all of them are mum about what they intend to do — but the participating businesses are expected either to write messages to visitors, or change the look of their homepages or user interfaces, in ways that make it impossible to browse those sites without learning about the issue of net neutrality. Some may post graphics like these that seek to simulate the experience of a “slower” Internet.

I wrote about the event last month. You can learn more about the movement, who is participating and what it means.