FCC legal advisor: Potential End of ACP Is the ‘Biggest Challenge’ Facing the Broadband Marketplace

On Wednesday April 17th, broadband officials and experts called for continued pressure to replenish the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) [1.]. Some panelists during Next Century Cities’ bipartisan tech policy conference also urged community leaders to engage with their state broadband offices as NTIA approves states’ plans for the broadband, equity, access and deployment program.

Note 1. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a benefit program from the FCC that helps households pay for broadband for work, school, and healthcareThe program is separate from the FCC’s Lifeline Program. The ACP is targeted at low-income families and individuals, and may include a one-time benefit of up to $100 for a phone or internet-capable device like a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. The program also offers a monthly service discount and one device discount per household. The FCC said that unless lawmakers act to give the program additional funding, the full $30 discount will end at the end of April. The loss of ACP will hit poor people very hard and significantly widen the digital divide.

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The biggest challenge facing the broadband marketplace right now is “the potential end of ACP next month,” said Hayley Steffen, legal adviser to Commissioner Anna Gomez. Ensuring the program is funded and continues is Gomez’s “highest priority right now,” Steffen said. FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Chief Alejandro Roark agreed, noting the program has “accomplished more over the past two years to bridge our country’s digital opportunity divide than any other standalone effort in our nation’s history.”

On Monday, a coalition of 271 civil-society groups and local, state and Tribal governments sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives that urges all members to sign a discharge petition to support the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Extension Act. The legislation would provide an additional $7 billion to save a successful broadband-subsidy initiative.

Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., is circulating a discharge petition (House Resolution 1119) in a bid to force a floor vote on her Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Extension Act (HR-6929/S-3565), which would appropriate $7 billion to keep the ailing FCC broadband fund running through the end of FY 2024. ACP “has been a transformative force, empowering nearly 23 million American households in rural and urban communities with reliable, high-speed, and affordable broadband access,” Clarke said Wednesday in a statement.

“To continue this progress, I implore my colleagues to join me by signing the discharge petition. This will ensure [HR-6929] receives the vote it deserves” on the House floor. “We cannot turn our back on the progress made in closing the digital divide,” she said.

Advocating in numbers is powerful,” said TDI CEO AnnMarie Killian. ACP “really requires that we take a stance and bring forth the importance of digital inclusion for all,” Killian said. DigitalC CEO Joshua Edmonds agreed, but “at the same time, we should walk and chew gum here and look at the value and potential of community-based networks, too.”

Affordability is “a key factor” for individuals with disabilities who rely on broadband for telecom relay services, Killian said, and the end of ACP could have a “significant impact on our economically disadvantaged consumers.” Fort Collins, Colorado, Broadband Executive Director Chad Crager encouraged local officials to start considering “another solution” to addressing affordability in their communities if ACP ends. “We hope it’s renewed” and extended, Crager said, but “the reality will not be forever.”

This really is the moment for us to not give up” on advocating for ACP’s future, Roark said. ACP has been the FCC’s “best and most successful” effort at broadband affordability, Steffen said. Many households enrolled in the program will be eligible for the Lifeline benefit should ACP end, she said, but Lifeline is “definitely no replacement for ACP.” Roark also encouraged discussions on “how potentially ACP could be integrated into the USF framework.”

NTIA is “actively reviewing” states’ BEAD applications, Senior Policy Adviser Lukas Pietrzak said, noting that 48 states’ volume I proposals have already been approved (see 2403060046). “I have great expectations” for the states’ plans because “at the bare minimum, they did include Black community anchor institutions,” said Fallon Wilson, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council vice president-policy, citing states with several historically Black colleges and universities. The challenge now is ensuring the states’ plans are executed so that those institutions actually receive funding, Wilson said.

NTIA is also preparing to announce “in the next few weeks” how many applications it received for the second round of tribal broadband connectivity program funding, said Pietrzak. Projects funded by the middle-mile infrastructure grant program are “also starting to break ground in the spring and summer,” Pietrzak said, “which is exciting to see here.” He also noted that 20,000 devices have been distributed through the connecting minority communities program.

References:

https://www.fcc.gov/acp

https://communicationsdaily.com/article/view?search_id=853996&id=1940601

https://communicationsdaily.com/reference/2404100075?BC=bc_66205df7037e5

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=aabc18cb-3e53-4085-bda8-42a894e71a08

Analysis: FCC attempt to restore Net Neutrality & U.S. standards for broadband reliability, security, and consumer protection

FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced the tentative agenda for the April 2024 Open Meeting scheduled for 10:30 am EDT on Thursday, April 25, 2024. As part of the agenda, the Commission will consider a draft Declaratory Ruling, Order, Report and Order, and Order on Reconsideration (Order) that would restore Net Neutrality [1.] and bring back a national standard for broadband reliability, security, and consumer protection.

Note 1.  Net neutrality is a concept that internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data on the internet equally. This means that ISPs should not block, slow down, or charge more money for access to certain websites or services. Net neutrality is important because it helps to ensure that everyone has equal access to the internet.

In 2017, the FCC repealed the net neutrality rules that had been in place since 2015. This decision was controversial, and many people believe that it will harm consumers and businesses. There are currently efforts underway to restore net neutrality rules.
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If the FCC order is approved, the Chairwoman’s proposal would ensure that broadband services are treated as an essential resource deserving of FCC oversight under Title II authority [2].

Note 2.  U.S. carriers providing “telecommunications services,” are regulated under Title II. of the 1934 U.S. Communications Act.

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Rosenworcel confirmed the planned commission vote in an interview with Reuters.
“The pandemic made clear that broadband is an essential service, that every one of us – no matter who we are or where we live – needs it to have a fair shot at success in the digital age,” she said.  “An essential service requires oversight and in this case we are just putting back in place the rules that have already been court-approved that ensures that broadband access is fast, open and fair.”
Rosenworcel has said the reclassification would give the FCC important new national security tools. The agency said in its initial proposal that rules could give it “more robust authority to require more entities to remove and replace” equipment and services from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE.

What the Declaratory Ruling and Order Would Do:

 Classify broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service and classify mobile broadband Internet access service as a commercial mobile service.

 Find that reclassification would provide the Commission with additional authority to safeguard national security, advance public safety, protect consumers, and facilitate broadband deployment.

 Find that classification of broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service represents the best reading of the text of the Act, and that such reclassification accords with Commission and court precedent and is fully justified under the Commission’s long standing authority to classify services subject to its jurisdiction.

 Establish broad, tailored forbearance—including no rate regulation, no tariffing, no unbundling of last-mile facilities, and no cost accounting rules—in the FCC’s application of Title II to broadband Internet access service providers (ISPs).

What the Report and Order Would Do:

 Reinstate straightforward, clear rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid or affiliated prioritization arrangements, and adopt certain enhancements to the transparency rule.

 Reinstate a general conduct standard that prohibits unreasonable interference or unreasonable disadvantage to consumers or edge providers.

 Make clear that the Commission will employ a case-by-case review under sections 201 and 202 to ensure that Internet traffic exchange practices do not harm the open Internet.

 Establish a multi-faceted enforcement framework comprised of advisory opinions, enforcement advisories, Commission-initiated investigations, and informal and formal complaints.

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Legal Opinions on FCC net neutrality draft order:

Legal experts and FCC watchers say the net neutrality draft order on the FCC’s April 25th  open meeting agenda will face legal arguments similar to what the 2015 net neutrality order did, with many of the same parties involved.

An appeal of the FCC order is likely and probably would land before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, legal experts and net neutrality watchers say. Such an appeal also would feature many of the same appellants and FCC supporters say.  That appeals court dealt with the 2015 order and its subsequent repeal, telecom and tech lawyer Marc Martin of Perkins Coie said. Most of the same parties that fought in 2015 “are going to want to fight it again.”Any appeal will largely resemble the appeal of 2015’s order, said Cato Institute research fellow Brent Skorup. Major questions, Chevron deference and the First Amendment will likely be the primary legal issues, he said.The First Amendment played a large role in litigation the last time, and the FCC in the order detailed why it thinks the rules satisfy First Amendment scrutiny, he noted. Several parties might dispute in an appeal some of the FCC grounds in the order, said Stephanie Joyce, Computer & Communications Industry Association chief of staff.In the draft order, the agency tries to preempt First Amendment arguments against it. The FCC draft says the proposed general conduct standard doesn’t burden any of the 1A rights of broadband internet access service (BIAS) providers, which “are conduits, not speakers.” “When broadband providers deliver content that has been requested by their customers, they are no different from telephone companies or package delivery services like FedEx, which have never been thought to be engaging in their own expressive activity when merely carrying the messages of others,” it said.Many court watchers expect the conservative supermajority to rewrite the rules on agency deference in the same way they have overturned established precedents in recent years. Recent Supreme Court decisions have embraced its own “major questions doctrine,” holding that when an administrative agency decides an issue of major economic or political significance, a broad delegation from Congress is no longer enough.

Starting with a briefing for reporters the day before the draft order was released, the FCC argued the proposed rules would survive legal challenge. Net neutrality rules are “wildly popular,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in California last week, adding the draft rules are “court approved.” Rosenworcel said, “I want to make sure that they are again the law of the land.”

Major Questions:

The proposed order is “legally vulnerable,” Free State Foundation President Randolph May told Commissioner Brendan Carraccording to a filing Friday in docket 23-320. May said it was “extraordinary … for an agency to propose burdensome restrictive major regulatory mandates without any meaningful evidence of any present harm to consumers or competition.”

Daniel Deacon, assistant professor at the University of Michigan Law School, pointed to Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent as a D.C. circuit judge in the 2017 en banc affirmation of the 2015 net neutrality rules. Kavanaugh argued that imposing net neutrality rules via Title II represents a “major” policy that requires clear congressional authorization under the major questions doctrine, and that such authorization was lacking, Deacon said: SCOTUS “could reach that conclusion regardless of what they end up doing in Loper Bright and Relentless.”

The commission tries to head off major questions arguments in the draft order. “We do not think the major-questions doctrine properly comes into play in this context at all,” it said. “We are simply following the best reading of the Communications Act, as demonstrated by the statute’s plain text, structure, and historical context: there is no call for deference to an interpretation that is not the statute’s most natural reading.”

The rules won’t “have the extraordinary economic and political effect required to implicate the major-questions doctrine,” according to the draft order.

While the rules “will have substantial benefits for the American public … not every regulatory action that has substantial effects is so momentous as to trigger the major-questions doctrine. The Internet will continue to sustain its enormous economic and social value under our actions today, just as it did under the 2015 Order.”

The pending net neutrality order “is the antithesis of the Supreme Court’s major-questions cases,” the FCC said. “There is nothing novel about the Commission’s exercise of its classification power here,” as the agency has exercised it numerous times, it said. “Regulating communications services and determining the proper regulatory classification of broadband falls squarely within the Federal Communications Commission’s wheelhouse,” the commission said.

Cato’s Skorup disagreed. The agency sees national security implications in net neutrality and finds that it’s important for free speech, “telegraphing they believe” it’s a major question, he said.

It’s unclear how the Supreme Court seemingly heading toward some change to its Chevron doctrine would play out in the inevitable appeal of the FCC’s order. The net neutrality issue isn’t about the FCC having superior insight into the nature of broadband but is a political question about oversight, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, American Action Forum president. By the time a net neutrality case comes before the D.C. Circuit, there would likely be a SCOTUS ruling affecting Chevron, and the appellate court would have to be guided by it, he said.

CCIA’s Joyce said that even if SCOTUS rejects Chevron, that doesn’t apply to net neutrality, since it doesn’t involve a brand new and novel FCC action. “How can you possibly say that about whether broadband is a Title II service?” she asked. “This stuff is old.”

Some see a net neutrality legal fight charting new territory. The draft order is broader than 2015’s, with issues of national security and broadband contributing to Universal Service Fund (USF), so there are several different issues than were involved in the past, said Holtz-Eakin.

While it seems likely that SCOTUS will curtail or reject the Chevron doctrine sometime this summer, that isn’t going to deter the FCC, Skorup said. But it could change how the D.C. Circuit — which upheld the 2015 net neutrality order — approaches things, he said. Given SCOTUS reversals of the D.C. Circuit on federal agency deference issues, such as 2021’s Alabama Association of Realtors decision, “I would hope the D.C. Circuit would get the message … that it needs to apply more scrutiny than it is giving agencies currently,” he said.

The net neutrality rule will undoubtedly be characterized by the reviewing court as a major question because it is an issue of ‘vast economic and political significance,’” emailed Thomas McGarity, University of Texas’ Lozano Long Professor in Administrative Law. “That being the case, Chevron will be inapplicable,” he said: “The court will only ask whether Congress has clearly authorized the agency to promulgate the rule. The clarity of the authorization will be the primary issue on appeal.”

Other lawyers said it’s not preordained that the order will be overturned.

“It’s important to remember that the only reason why broadband is an ‘information service’ is because of Chevron deference,” said Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003 ruled that cable modem service was a telecom service, he said. SCOTUS’ 2005 Brand X decision, then “reversed the 9th Circuit on the grounds of Chevron deference. In 2019, the 2017 order rolling back the 2015 net neutrality rules survived a challenge at the D.C. circuit only because of precedent,” Feld said.

Two of the judges, Patricia Millett and Robert Wilkins, indicated they would have found the rollback order “arbitrary … but for Chevron and Brand X.  One cannot help what activist judges will do,” but if the pending order is returned to the D.C. Circuit, “I would expect it to be affirmed,” Feld added.

The Supreme Court held in Brand X that the FCC has the discretion to decide how to classify broadband, emailed Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Senior Counselor Andrew Schwartzman.

“If, as is likely, the Chevron, and Brand X precedents will be modified to some degree this spring, and depending on what the Court says, the matter might then have to be resolved by analysis of the text,” he said.

Perkins Coie’s Martin said it’s likely the D.C. Circuit could affirm the FCC’s action again, as there’s consistent precedent that agency action on the matter is OK. However, if SCOTUS overturns Chevron, the appellate court may feel compelled to come out differently, he said. And if the D.C. Circuit overturns the FCC, SCOTUS could very well deny any subsequent cert petition by the agency, he said.  Schwartzman questioned whether SCOTUS will ultimately hear the case. The court is “loath to overrule precedent unless absolutely necessary,” he said.

CTIA discussed concerns about how non-broadband internet access services are treated under the draft net neutrality order circulated by Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. In meetings with staff for all five commissioners, CTIA asked the FCC to remove warnings not present in the 2015 order. Non-BIAS services, and network slicing, have emerged as major issues. The draft “favorably references non-BIAS use cases that ‘cannot be met over the Open Internet,’ but any suggestion that an offering that can function to some extent over BIAS must be offered over BIAS would be a dramatic shift from the 2015 framework,” said a filing posted Wednesday in docket 23-320. The draft also says the commission “will closely monitor any services that have a negative effect on the performance of BIAS in any given moment or the capacity available for BIAS over time” and that the commission “will be watchful of services that do not require isolated capacity.

CTIA said, “The 2015 Order did not set forth any of these rigid warnings, and for good reason. The net effect of such guidance could restrict the offering of non-BIAS services. Customers would lose out on choice and innovation, and networks would operate less efficiently.”

References:

https://www.fcc.gov/consumer-governmental-affairs/fcc-april-25-open-meeting-consider-restoring-net-neutrality

Link to the Draft Declaratory Ruling, Order, Report and Order, and Order on Reconsideration: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-401676A1.pdf

Link to the April 25, 2024 Meeting webpage: https://www.fcc.gov/april-2024-open-commission-meeting

https://www.fcc.gov/document/promoting-fast-open-and-fair-internet

https://www.reuters.com/technology/fcc-vote-restore-net-neutrality-rules-reversing-trump-2024-04-02/

FCC Draft Net Neutrality Order reclassifies broadband access; leaves 5G network slicing unresolved

FCC Votes to Reverse Net Neutrality & No Longer Regulate Broadband Internet Services

Internet Association to Join Law Suits to Restore Net Neutrality

Is FCC Net Neutrality Rollback Coming? Will that spark cablcos investment in rural/ suburban areas? 

https://communicationsdaily.com/article/view?search_id=851581&id=1935719

 

 

 

 

FCC Draft Net Neutrality Order reclassifies broadband access; leaves 5G network slicing unresolved

Introduction:

The FCC will take a series of steps to reestablish the commission’s net neutrality framework and reclassify broadband internet access service (BIAS) as a Communications Act Title II telecom service in a 434 page declaratory ruling and order which doesn’t resolve the issue of network slicing as a paid priority 5G service.

A draft of the items to be considered during the agency’s April meeting, released Thursday, would establish “broad” and “tailored” forbearance for ISPs.  “Access to broadband Internet is now an unquestionable necessity. We also exercise broad forbearance for broadband providers as part of the Title II reclassification. Since the Commission’s abdication of authority over broadband in 2017, there has been no federal oversight over this vital service. This item would reestablish the Commission’s authority to protect consumers and safeguard the fair and open Internet, which protects free expression, encourages competition and innovation, and is critical to public safety and national security.”

Network Slicing:

The draft doesn’t make a final determination on how network slicing should be treated under the rules.  Network slicing, which requires a 5G SA core network, enables 5G network operators to create multiple virtual networks on top of a shared network. How slicing should be treated has been hotly contested.

“To the extent network slicing falls outside of BIAS, we will closely monitor these uses to evaluate if they are providing the functional equivalent of BIAS, being used to evade our open Internet rules, or otherwise undermining investment, innovation, competition, or end-user benefits in the Internet ecosystem,” the draft said.

“The record reflects that the potential use cases for network slicing are still under development” and that carriers “are in the early stages of adopting the technique, with some moving more quickly than others.  Given the nascent nature of network slicing, we conclude that it is not appropriate at this time to make a categorical determination regarding all network slicing and the services delivered through the use of network slicing.”

Yet the document also says it agrees with NCTA “that we ‘should not allow network slicing to be used to evade [the] Open Internet rules.’”

The FCC declined to do what either side wanted” on slicing, New Street’s Blair Levin stated in a note to investors. “While this was not the clear, decisive win the wireless providers may have hoped for, we don’t believe this or a future FCC is likely to crack down on the primary uses of network slicing, which we understand to be network management techniques that better match wireless services to specific needs in ways that increase spectrum utilization.”

The text left me rather confused more than reassured,” Digital Progress Institute President Joel Thayer said Friday. The commission seems interested in addressing slicing case by case, he said: “This does not bode well for consumer-facing uses of slicing as that tech starts to develop.”

One implication is the FCC might crack down on slicing if the agency sees it as a form of paid prioritization of network traffic, said Jonathan Cannon, R Street Institute policy counsel-technology and innovation and former aide to FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington.

The report and order would: “Reinstate straightforward, clear rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid or affiliated prioritization arrangements, and adopt certain enhancements to the transparency rule.”

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The new FCC order would adopt “conduct-based rules” in the commission’s net neutrality framework, establishing “bright-line rules to prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization” by ISPs. An accompanying draft report and order would also reinstate a general conduct standard and establish a “multi-faceted enforcement framework.”

The draft declaratory ruling would officially reclassify broadband as a Title II service, saying the step would allow the commission to “more effectively safeguard the open internet” and establish a nationwide framework. The draft would largely adopt the commission’s 2015 rules on forbearance, making clear that the record “does not convincingly show that imposing universal service contribution requirements on BIAS is necessary at this time.”

The commission in the draft defended reclassification as a national security matter, noting it has previously taken action under Title II to address national security threats against voice services. “The nation’s communications networks are critical infrastructure, and therefore too important to leave entirely to market forces that may sometimes, but not always, align with necessary national security measures,” the item said.

The draft declaratory ruling also addresses the impact of reclassification on the commission’s universal service goals under section 254 of the Communications Act. Reclassification “will put the commission on the firmest legal ground to promote the universal service goals of section 254 by enabling the commission and states to designate BIAS-only providers” as eligible telecom carriers, the draft said, adding that BIAS-only providers would be allowed to participate in the high-cost and Lifeline programs.

The draft elaborates on the importance of reclassifying broadband to the agency’s authorities under Section 214 of the Communications Act, another issue raised by industry (see 2403070040). Reclassification “enhances the Commission’s ability to protect the nation’s communications networks from entities that pose threats to national security and law enforcement.”

We find that reclassification will significantly bolster the Commission’s ability to carry out its statutory responsibilities to safeguard national security and law enforcement,” the draft said: “There can be no question about the importance to our national security of maintaining the integrity of our critical infrastructure, including communications networks.” It noted that Congress created the FCC “for the purpose of the national defense.”

The agency dismissed arguments that reclassification isn’t justified for national security purposes: “The nation’s communications networks are critical infrastructure, and therefore too important to leave entirely to market forces that may sometimes, but not always, align with necessary national security measures.” Arguments about potential costs “are unpersuasive given that, at this point, they represent only speculation about hypothetical costs and burdens.”

A draft order on reconsideration included with Thursday’s item said the net neutrality order would resolve four outstanding petitions for reconsideration filed against the FCC’s 2020 net neutrality remand order by Incompas, California’s Santa Clara County, Public Knowledge, and jointly several public interest groups including Common Cause. “As a procedural matter, we find that we have effectively provided the relief sought by each of the Petitions through a combination of the 2023 Open Internet NPRM and today’s actions,” the draft order said. “In light of the Commission’s actions today, we grant in large part and otherwise dismiss as moot” all four petitions for reconsideration. “We agree with the petitioners that the Commission’s analysis in the [Restoring Internet Freedom] Order and RIF Remand Order was insufficient in addressing the public safety, pole attachment, and Lifeline-related repercussions of classifying BIAS as a Title I service,” the draft said.

House Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Communications Subcommittee ranking member Doris Matsui, D-Calif., praised Rosenworcel “for moving to finalize rules that reflect reality: broadband internet service is critical infrastructure and an indispensable part of American life, and it must be treated that way.” The FCC’s move for Title II reclassification shows the commission is “recognizing this reality and asserting its rightful authority over broadband providers in order to protect this vital service and the hundreds of millions who rely on it each day,” Pallone and Matsui said. The two lawmakers “have confidence that a court reviewing this action will uphold it, just as courts have done in the past.” Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also lauded the proposal Thursday after earlier urging Rosenworcel to prevent loopholes in the rules.

The House Commerce GOP majority was tight-lipped after the draft’s release Thursday. Republican members tweeted Wednesday that the net neutrality proposal showed the commission “continues pushing Biden’s Broadband Takeover by imposing unnecessary heavy-handed regulations.”

References:

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-401676A1.pdf

https://communicationsdaily.com/reference/2404040064?BC=bc_661167bc293cd

https://communicationsdaily.com/article/view?search_id=847526&id=1928175

BT Group, Ericsson and Qualcomm demo network slicing on 5G SA core network in UK

ABI Research: 5G Network Slicing Market Slows; T-Mobile says “it’s time to unleash Network Slicing”

Ericsson, Intel and Microsoft demo 5G network slicing on a Windows laptop in Sweden

Is 5G network slicing dead before arrival? Replaced by private 5G?

5G Network Slicing Tutorial + Ericsson releases 5G RAN slicing software

Network Slicing and 5G: Why it’s important, ITU-T SG 13 work, related IEEE ComSoc paper abstracts/overviews

 

 

 

FCC increases broadband speed benchmark (x-satellites) to 100/20 Mbit/s

The U.S. FCC voted this week to implement a 4x increase to its “broadband” benchmark, from 25/3 Mbit/s to 100/20 Mbit/s (download/upload speeds).  The Commission’s Report was issued pursuant to section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The FCC concluded “that advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion based on the total number of Americans.”

Using the agency’s Broadband Data Collection deployment data for the first time rather than FCC Form 477 data, the Report shows that, as of December 2022:

• Fixed terrestrial broadband service (excluding satellite) has not been physically deployed to approximately 24 million Americans, including almost 28% of Americans in rural areas, and more than 23% of people living on Tribal lands;

Mobile 5G-NR (ITU-R M.2150/3GPP Release 16) coverage has not been physically deployed at minimum speeds of 35/3 Mbps to roughly 9% of all Americans, to almost 36% of Americans in rural areas, and to more than 20% of people living on Tribal lands;

• 45 million Americans lack access to both 100/20 Mbps fixed service and 35/3 Mbps mobile 5G-NR service; and

• Based on the new 1 Gbps per 1,000 students and staff short-term benchmark for schools and classrooms, 74% of school districts meet this goal.

The Report also sets a 1 Gbps/500 Mbps long-term goal for broadband speeds to give stakeholders a collective goal towards which to strive – a better, faster, more robust system of communication for American consumers.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement discussing the agency’s new 100/20 Mbit/s benchmark.

“This fix is overdue. It aligns us with pandemic legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the work of our colleagues at other agencies. It also helps us better identify the extent to which low-income neighborhoods and rural communities are underserved. And because doing big things is in our DNA, we also adopt a long-term goal of 1 Gigabit down and 500 Megabits up.”

“One more thing. The law requires that we assess how reasonable and timely the deployment of broadband is in this country.”

Don’t expect much change. As noted by Engadget, U.S. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offering speeds under the new benchmark won’t be able to call their services “broadband” on the new telecom information labels the FCC will soon begin requiring. However, ISPs and network providers are not required to hit the FCC’s new 100/20 Mbit/s speeds.

Moreover, it will not impact the NTIA’s massive $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which already requires 100/20 Mbit/s speeds on networks receiving government subsidies.

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The FCC’s definition of broadband excludes satellites at a time of frenzied investments in Internet services from space. Championed by Elon Musk’s Starlink, companies ranging from Amazon to OneWeb to Telesat are planning similar low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations for space-based Internet.

Starlink’s parent company – SpaceX – this week conducted another test of its massive Starlink rocket. That rocket is in part intended to launch Starlink’s second generation satellites.

However, the FCC has excluded such satellite efforts from most of its broadband programs. For example, it rejected Starlink’s application for government funding through its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program.

“It is evident that fixed wireless access (FWA) offerings already compete aggressively with traditional wired broadband services, and LEO satellite-based services are poised to do the same. Accordingly, all three should be treated as robust rivals within a single ‘home Internet’ product market,” wrote the Free State Foundation, another think tank.

According to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican, the agency specifically excludes Starlink from its overall efforts because he thinks President Biden dislikes SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk. “The Biden Administration is choosing to prioritize its political and ideological goals at the expense of connecting Americans,” Carr alleges.

With its roughly 5,000 satellites, Starlink currently offers median speeds of around 64 Mbit/s, according to Ookla, and counts around 2.6 million customers globally.

References:

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-401205A1.pdf

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-401205A2.pdf

https://www.lightreading.com/regulatory-politics/the-subtle-debate-behind-the-fcc-s-new-broadband-speed-benchmark

BroadbandNow Research: Best & Worst States for Broadband Access

FCC proposes 100 Mbps download as U.S. minimum broadband speed

Fiber Connect 2023: Telcos vs Cablecos; fiber symmetric speeds vs. DOCSIS 4.0?

GAO: U.S. Broadband Benchmark Speeds Too Slow; FCC Should Analyze Small Business Speed Needs

FCC Says Broadband Deployment Lacking; Redefinition (25M/3M) Has Huge Implications for AT&T, Verizon & Comcast

ABI Research and CCS Insight: Strong growth for satellite to mobile device connectivity (messaging and broadband internet access)

 

FCC proposes 100 Mbps download as U.S. minimum broadband speed

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed a national goal of 100%  affordable broadband access in the U.S. According to the official FCC release, Rosenworcel seeks to gauge the progress of broadband deployment, focusing on crucial characteristics such as affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access for all Americans.

“In today’s world, everyone needs access to affordable, high-speed internet, no exceptions,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “It’s time to connect everyone, everywhere. Anything short of 100% is just not good enough.”

As part of the plan, FCC now proposes to increase the national fixed broadband standard to 100 Mbps for download and 20 Mbps for upload, pushing internet service providers to enhance their offerings and reach more Americans.  That’s up from  25 Mbps for download and 3 Mbps for upload which was established in 2015.

Anticipating future demands, Rosenworcel outlined a separate national goal of 1 Gbps for download and 500 Mbps for upload, ensuring that the United States remains at the forefront of digital innovation.

By increasing the national fixed broadband standard and setting ambitious targets, the FCC is taking decisive steps towards digital inclusion, opening up a world of opportunities in education, business, healthcare, and beyond.

References:

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-395473A1.pdf

https://www.datacenterdynamics.com/en/news/fcc-wants-100mbps-us-broadband-download-speeds-as-a-minimum/

FCC explores shared use of the 42 GHz band

The FCC voted Thursday to launch a proceeding to consider sharing models in 500 megahertz of spectrum in the 42 GHz band. The agency believes its examination could inform how the band might best be used —particularly by smaller wireless service providers— and provide guidance on future uses of sharing models in spectrum management.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who just returned this week from a quick trip to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for an ITU meeting, said that when she took over at the FCC, she believed the agency had overinvested in millimeter wave (mmWave) auctions and done too little to bring mid-band spectrum to market. She set out to change that, launching auctions in the 3.45 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands.

“With those successful mid-band efforts in the rear-view mirror, we are now turning back to millimeter wave,” Rosenworcel said in prepared remarks. “But this time we want to consider something different.  In the 42 GHz band we have 500 megahertz of greenfield airwaves with no federal or commercial incumbencies. So we are putting out ideas. We are exploring non-exclusive access models. This could entail using a technology-based sensing mechanism to help operators actively detect and avoid one another. It could involve non-exclusive nationwide licenses that leverage a database to facilitate coexistence. It could also entail site-based licensing. To get even more out of this effort we ask if our approaches could be combined with shared-used models in other spectrum bands, like the lower 37 GHz band.”

“Our goal here is to come up with a new model to lower barriers, encourage competition and maximize the opportunities in millimeter wave spectrum. In short, it’s time to be creative. I look forward to the record that develops—and then look forward to sharing our creativity with the world.”

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is in effect where the FCC will build a record on the benefits and drawbacks of implementing a shared licensing approach in the 42 GHz band.  The NPRM proposes licensing the 42 GHz band as five 100 megahertz channels and seeks comment on other aspects of implementing a shared licensing approach, including coordination mechanisms, buildout requirements and technical rules.

Michael Calabrese, director of Wireless Future, Open Technology Institute at New America, said his organization agrees that a shared licensing framework is the best use of the 42 GHz band, making this spectrum available to a wide range of fixed wireless ISPs, enterprises and other users.

“Coordinated sharing will be particularly powerful if the FCC adopts a common framework for the lower 37 and 42 GHz bands, giving operators as much as 1100 megahertz of bandwidth,” he said in a statement provided to Fierce. “Fixed wireless deployments are exploding, adding options and competition for high-capacity broadband at lower prices. As open access bands, wide-channel millimeter wave spectrum can fuel and accelerate this positive trend.”

References:

https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-explores-spectrum-sharing-approaches-42-ghz-spectrum-band/rosenworcel-statement

https://www.fcc.gov/document/exploring-shared-use-42-425-ghz-band

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-393517A1.pdf

5G mmWave Band n259 (42 GHz)

https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/fcc-eyes-42-ghz-shared-use

FCC proposes regulatory framework for space-mobile network operator collaboration

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a new regulatory framework meant to support collaboration between satellite and wireless terrestrial network operators.  In a statement last week, the FCC noted it’s aiming to leverage the growth in space-based services to connect smartphone users in remote, unserved, and underserved areas.  The FCC hopes to establish a more transparent process to support supplemental coverage from space.

Numerous such collaborations have launched recently, and the FCC seeks to establish clear and transparent processes to support supplemental coverage from space.  Connecting consumers to essential wireless services where no terrestrial mobile service is available can be life-saving in remote locations and can open up innovative opportunities for consumers and businesses.

“We will not be successful in our effort to make … always-on connectivity available to everyone, everywhere if we limit ourselves to using only one technology. We are going to need it all—fiber networks, licensed terrestrial wireless systems, next-generation unlicensed technology, and satellite broadband,” said FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, calling this type of seamless migration among networks the “Single Network Future.” She referenced the availability of emergency SMS service on smartphones via satellite and added, “We are starting to see direct satellite-to-smartphone communication move from sci-fi fantasy to real-world prospect. … For this innovation to have a chance to deliver at scale—and for us to move toward a full Single Network Future with more providers, in more spectrum bands, and a global footprint—regulators will need to develop frameworks that support its development.”

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking’s suggested framework plans to see satellite operators collaborating with terrestrial service providers while being able to obtain FCC authorization to operate space stations on certain currently licensed, flexible-use spectrums allocated to terrestrial services. According to the FCC, it’s also looking to add a mobile-satellite service allocation on some terrestrial flexible-use bands.

“The FCC proposes allowing authorized non-geostationary orbit satellite operators to apply to access terrestrial spectrum if certain prerequisites are met, including a lease from the terrestrial licensee within a specified geographic area. A satellite operator could then serve a wireless provider’s customers should they need connectivity in remote areas, for example in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, Lake Michigan, the 100-Mile Wilderness, or the Uinta Mountains,” said the FCC in its statement.

The FCC will also seek comment on how this framework might best support access to emergency response systems like 911 and Wireless Emergency Alerts when a consumer is connected via supplemental coverage from space. The new proceeding will also seek to build a record on whether the framework can be extended to other bands, locations, and applications that might be supported by such collaborations.

“By providing clear rules, I believe we can kick start more innovation in the space economy while also expanding wireless coverage in remote, unserved, and underserved areas. We can make mobile dead zones a thing of the past. But even better, we have an opportunity to bring our spectrum policies into the future and move past the binary choices between mobile spectrum on the one hand or satellite spectrum on the other. That means we can reshape the airwave access debates of old and develop new ways to get more out of our spectrum resources,” Rosenworcel said.

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Satellite to smartphone connectivity is expected to be crucial for emergency response systems, with the FCC noting that it is seeking input from the emergency services on how its new framework can best support these services. Companies such as SpaceX, Lynk, and AST SpaceMobile are prominent in this space.

  • Apple provides emergency SOS services when it announced its iPhone 14, with the company working with Globalstar to provide satellite connectivity through emergency SOS via satellite.
  • T-Mobile linked up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to provide mobile signal connectivity from space, promising speeds of 2-4Mbps through Starlink satellites and eliminating dead zones, using T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum.
  • A number of telcos have recently penned satellite connectivity agreements with satellite operators including Vodafone, Globe, Zain, and TIM Brazil.

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References:

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-391794A1.docx

https://www.datacenterdynamics.com/en/news/fcc-outlines-framework-encouraging-sat-to-smartphone-innovation/

U.S. military sees great potential in space based 5G (which has yet to be standardized)

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Emergency SOS: Apple iPhones to be able to send/receive texts via Globalstar LEO satellites in November

Qualcomm and Iridium launch Snapdragon Satellite for 2-Way Messaging on Android Premium Smartphones

Bullitt Group & Motorola Mobility unveil satellite-to-mobile messaging service device

 

MoffettNathanson: 87.4% of available U.S. homes have broadband; Leichtman Research: 90% of U.S. homes have internet

When the FCC announced the November 18th release date for their long-awaited broadband mapping update, reflecting location-specific broadband availability as of June 2022, analysts at MoffettNathanson  thought it would contain information on how many of  U.S. homes have access to broadband and how many are too rural and are therefore unserved.  However, that FCC release didn’t offer the numbers they needed, and the market research fim didn’t
have the necessary information to calculate it themselves.

In the underlying FCC datasets, which are provided for public download, each location served by a given technology or provider is a separate entry. One location is equivalent to one street address. But many street addresses in the U.S. correspond to multiple living units, and the number of units per location is not publicly available (the location fabric used by the FCC was contracted to a third party, CostQuest Associates, and that fabric is provided only to the FCC, broadband providers, state/local government entities, and select other interested parties). With approximately 31% of residences in multifamily homes, according to a 2019 survey by the Census Bureau, the number of units per location was, as of the November 18th release, a crucial missing piece for any meaningful coverage analysis we could do on our own.

Principal Analyst Craig Moffett wrote:

The FCC’s new maps of broadband availability can tell us coverage for residential locations or business locations, but not the combined total. The companies we cover sometimes break out residential and commercial, but not always. [As an aside, about half of small businesses in the U.S. are actually operated out of peoples’ homes, but hopefully this, at least, doesn’t introduce further distortion, since we are presumably still seeing just one subscription for one location]. So we’ll do our best to make sure we’re matching numerator and denominator by specifying whether we’re looking at all locations or residential locations only.

The FCC’s coverage data also doesn’t distinguish between occupied and vacant units. For our calculation of penetration, we’d want to exclude most vacant units, since vacant units don’t need broadband. Excluding all vacant units likely understates the denominator, though; for example, some second homes (which are treated as vacant) may have year-round broadband subscriptions. The best we can do is assume the coverage of total units is the same as the coverage of occupied units, and that vacant units with broadband subscriptions are negligible.

The FCC does report service coverage for satellite and fixed wireless. But some of those FWA subscribers are in areas where there’s no access to wired broadband, while others are in areas where wired broadband is available. Naturally, the companies won’t tell us how many of each there are. So we’ll just have to leave them all out. We’ll focus just on the availability of wired broadband.

Editor’s Note:  The FCC broadband map for my address show a Licensed Fixed Wireless operator serves my condo. It’s California Internet with symmetrical 1G upstream/1G downstream.  Also, there are two Satellite providers – Hughes Network Systems, LLC 25M/3M and Space X 350M/40M.  Wired internet is available from AT&T and Comcast.

We’d really want to know how many DSL subscribers are in each of those different cohorts. But the
companies we cover don’t report how many of their DSL subscribers are in areas where there is
also a cable or fiber operator, and how many are in areas where DSL is the only option. The first
group is at risk. The second group is not. So, we’ll just have to include all DSL.

According to the FCC’s current estimates, wired broadband (defined as anything over 200 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream) was available to 93.7% of residential units in America as of June 30, 2022. Again, we don’t know the percentage of occupied housing units with wired broadband available, but let’s assume it’s the same. And we don’t know the number of residential units in the location fabric, so we’ll use the Census Bureau’s estimate of 128.1M occupied housing units in the U.S. Given these assumptions, we estimate wired broadband was available to around 120.0M occupied housing units as of June 30, 2022. With, by our count, an estimated 104.9M residential wired broadband subscriptions in America in Q2 2022 – again, including DSL, and sometimes including commercial as well as residential subscribers – that translates into penetration of 87.4% of broadband-available homes.  We estimate that 81.5% of all households subscribe to wired broadband.

Craig’s Conclusions:

The goal for the FCC is to create maps that are not frozen in time but instead become living and breathing reflections of a dynamic marketplace. The new maps are subject to a public challenge process, enabling interested parties, including operators, local governments, and even individual would-be subscribers, to dispute reported availability. Challenges will eventually be part of a routine updating process. Indeed, the maps released in November were the product of what had already been a months-long initial challenge process. The maps are, again, a critical input to distribution of $42.5 billion of funds earmarked for rural broadband by the JOBS/Infrastructure Act. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is required by law to use the FCC’s new map to distribute those funds in what is referred to as the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, something they have committed to do by June 2023. They are likely to begin that process almost immediately, based on the number of unserved locations in each state, although NTIA chief Alan Davidson has said they will wait for the FCC to release the second version of its coverage map, later this year, before they actually begin to disburse those funds.

The network operators themselves, including the cable operators in particular, will in our view be major participants in the BEAD process, bidding aggressively to bring broadband to unserved census blocks on the periphery of their current franchise areas.

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Meanwhile,  Leichtman Research Group indicates that 90 per cent of U.S. households get an Internet service at home, compared to 84 per cent in 2017, and 74 per cent in 2007. Broadband accounts for 99 per cent of households with an Internet service at home, and 89 per cent of all households get a broadband Internet service – an increase from 82 per cent in 2017, and 53 per cent in 2007.

These findings are based on a survey of 1,910 households from throughout the United States and are part of a new LRG study, Broadband Internet in the U.S. 2022.  This is LRG’s twentieth annual study on this topic.

Other related findings include:

  • Individuals ages 65+ account for 34% of those that do not get an Internet service at home
  • 56% of broadband subscribers are very satisfied (8-10 on a 1-10 scale) with their Internet service at home, while 6% are not satisfied (1-3).
  • 44% of broadband subscribers do not know the download speed of their service – compared to 60% in 2017
  • 61% reporting Internet speeds of >100 Mbps are very satisfied with their service, compared to 41% with speeds <50 Mbps, and 57% that do not know their speed
  • 40% of broadband households get a bundle of services from a single provider – compared to 64% in 2017, and 78% in 2012
  • 59% of adults with an Internet service at home watch video online daily – compared to 59% in 2020, 43% in 2017, and 17% in 2012

“The percentage of households getting an Internet service at home, including high-speed broadband, is higher than in any previous year,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.  “Computer usage and knowledge remain the foundation for Internet services in the home.  Among those that do not get an Internet service at home, 58% also do not use a computer at home..”

References:

https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home

https://www.leichtmanresearch.com/90-of-u-s-households-get-an-internet-service-at-home/

FCC bans Huawei, ZTE, China based connected camera and 2-way radio makers

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) banned Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. from selling electronics in the U.S. by regulators who say they pose a security risk, continuing a years-long effort to limit the reach of Chinese telecommunications companies into U.S. telecommunications networks.

The FCC also named connected-camera makers Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Dahua Technology Co., as well as two-way radio manufacturer Hytera Communications Corp.

“The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders, and we are continuing that work here,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a news release. “These new rules are an important part of our ongoing actions to protect the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications.”

“On March 12, 2021, we published the first-ever list of communications and services that pose an unacceptable risk to national security as required under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act. This initial Covered List included equipment from the Chinese companies Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hikvision, and Dahua. Since then, we’ve added equipment and services from five additional entities. Last year I also proposed stricter data breach reporting rules and worked with the Department of State to improve how we coordinate national security issues related to submarine cable licenses.”

In the 4-0 vote, the FCC concluded the products pose a risk to data security. Past efforts to curb Chinese access include export controls to cut off key, sophisticated equipment and software. Recently US officials have weighed restrictions on TikTok over fears Chinese authorities could access US user data via the video sharing app.

“This is a culminating action,” said Klon Kitchen, a senior fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, a public-policy think tank. “Things that began under Trump are now being carried out. The Biden administration is continuing to turn the screws on these companies because the threat isn’t changing.”

Hikvision said its video security products “present no security threat to the United States and there is no technical or legal justification for the Federal Communications Commission’s decision.” The company said the ruling will “make it more harmful and more expensive for US small businesses, local authorities, school districts, and individual consumers to protect themselves, their homes, businesses and property.”

Huawei declined to comment, while Dahua, Hytera and ZTE didn’t respond to emails sent outside normal business hours in China.

The looming FCC move didn’t come up in the bilateral meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Indonesia last week, a US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Biden did discuss technology issues more broadly with Xi and was clear that the US will continue to take action to protect its national security, the official said.

“This is the death knell for all of them for their US operations,” said Conor Healy, director of government research for the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based surveillance research group IPVM.  “They won’t be able to introduce any new products into the US.”

Dahua and Hikvision stand to be affected most since their cameras are widely used, often by government agencies with many facilities to monitor, Healy said. Agencies including police also use handheld Hytera radios, he said.

In its order, the FCC also asked for comment on whether to revoke existing equipment authorization, Rosenworcel said in an online statement.

According to Healy, merchants could be stuck with gear that’s illegal to sell.

In 2018, Congress voted to stop federal agencies from buying gear from the five companies named by the FCC. The agency said earlier that the companies aren’t eligible to receive federal subsidies, and also has barred Chinese phone companies from doing business in the U.S.

The order released Friday was required under the Secure Equipment Act – a bill President Biden signed into law on November 2021.

The big picture: Huawei and ZTE are two of the world’s biggest suppliers of telecom equipment.

  • Countries including CanadaBritain and Australia have ramped up restrictions against the use of 5G technologies from Huawei and ZTE in recent years.
  • Huawei executives have previously said the company does not give data to the Chinese government and that its equipment is not compromised.
  • The company’s chief security officer Andy Purdy has also argued that a ban would hurt American jobs because it spends over $11 billion a year from American suppliers.

References:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-11-25/fcc-bans-huawei-zte-telecom-equipment-from-sale-in-us-lawwfpb3

https://www.axios.com/2022/11/25/fcc-bans-huawei-zte-equipment-national-security

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