Ap MiCTA Legislative & Regulatory Update April 2014 As we’ve all finally moved into a semblance of Spring after a seemingly endless Winter, along with maybe just a bit of spring cleaning in the office it’s a great time to again review communications procedures for severe weather or other critical events.
Occasionally, news reports will run regarding the latest telephone scam, when in fact they’re often essentially a new version of an age old scam. One of the latest to be circulated is called the “One-Ring” scam, which is just an updated version of the call-back scams to pay-per-call numbers. In the old pay-per-call scams, advertising and other means were used to get people to inadvertently call off-shore telephone numbers in the North American Numbering Plan that were international (does area code 809 ring a bell for ya?), for which the scammer might receive a portion of the inflated international/900-type charges and/or would have a single service fee added to the call (such as $17.95) This scam was enhanced into a call-back mode when these calls appeared on callerID boxes, etc., prompting the curious to call the numbers back.......and be hit with similar charges.
More recently, however, in taking advantage of the instant aspect of callerID/call log features of wireless phones that are with us all the time (and also of the not always with us but callerID aspects of landline phones), with this most recent one-ring version, calls are placed to telephone numbers and let ring just once, long enough for the originating/callback number to be logged. Using the same rationale of “curiosity killing the cat,” victims call back unrecognized off-shore numbers to complete the scam. So just a note to beware of and to pass along to others!
On the legislative and regulatory front, we report below on the Appeals Court ruling on Net Neutrality (and what’s next), the U.S. House continuing its moves toward a Communication Act rewrite, the ebb-and-flow of the USF contribution factor (and other USF items), and a number of other items we must stay on-top of!
As always, there’s much to be reported, so grab some coffee/tea and a favorite treat, and dig right in!
House Issues Paper on Spectrum Policy for T-Com Act Update
On April 1st, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) continued the process of seeking public input as part of the review leading to an update of the Communications Act.
As you’ll recall, in December, Upton and Walden announced that the committee will spend this year gathering information for a comprehensive Communications Act update, including a white paper series that seeks to understand areas where the law is no longer working effectively and find ways to improve it to foster an environment for innovation, consumer choice, and economic growth. This most recent white paper focuses on spectrum policy. Since that time they’ve created a communications act website (http://energycommerce.house.gov/CommActUpdate), held a hearing with former FCC Chairs to gain their perspective, released an initial white paper, and now released their second white paper.
“Today we continue our white paper series as we work to gather information and perspectives for our review of the Communications Act,” said Upton and Walden. “Our inaugural paper generated a great response, and we appreciate the time and attention that went into the informative submissions and encourage continued participation as the series develops. Our work leading to an update of our communications law will be exhaustive, and we anticipate a number of white papers over the coming months that will each focus on a specific issue related to our effort to ensure our laws correspond with the innovation era.”
While the questions posed in this white paper address specific spectrum issues, the committee encourages interested parties to comment on any aspect of spectrum policy. Responses should be submitted to CommActUpdate@mail.house.gov by April 25, 2014.
On January 14th, just days after the last Leg/Reg update was put to bed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit both upheld aspects of the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules and overturned other aspects. NOTE: the following includes a historical summary from December 2010 of the Net Neutrality ruling. For a summary of the more recent court ruling, drop-down to “January 2014 Court Ruling.”
As you may recall from a few years ago, the issue of net neutrality raised its head, as a handful of incidents came to light in which broadband providers impeded or totally blocked traffic of Internet service providers. The FCC had handled the issues somewhat quietly, with “guidelines” they had instituted in 2005. However, when Comcast was ruled to have blocked access to BitTorrent sites and the FCC ruled in that manner, Comcast pushed-back. The company indicated the FCC did not have the authority to do so, and stated the “guidelines” essentially did not have the force of law. The Appeals Court in that issue determined that the FCC hadn’t based its action on actual rules that could be legally defensible, so the Court overturned the FCC action against Comcast.
The FCC studied the issue and potential options as to what it could implement that would be defensible, but ultimately decided to implement what is known officially as the FCC’s “Open Internet Order.” Adopted in December 2010, the Order cited the FCC’s authority to regulate the Internet, and implemented net neutrality rules that were not surprisingly very similar to net neutrality “policies” issued by the FCC in 2005. And, also not surprisingly, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski decided not to try what had been known as the “Third Way” approach, reclassifying broadband under Title II rules as a telecom or common carrier service.
In the 2010 Order, the FCC provided these rules:
Rule 1: Transparency. Anyone engaging in providing broadband Internet access service must publicly disclose information about their management practices, performance, terms, etc., so consumers can make informed choices.
Rule 2:No Blocking. Those engaging in providing fixed broadband Internet access service, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices....with the ability for reasonable network management. This also applies to providers of mobile broadband Internet access service, and includes voice or video telephony services over mobile.
Rule 3: No Unreasonable Discrimination. Providers of broadband Internet access service, shall not unreasonably discriminate in the transmission of lawful network traffic. Reasonable network management practices do not constitute unreasonable discrimination.
Reaction to the decision in late 2010 and early 2011was quite predictable. Those in favor of net neutrality celebrated moderately while stating they wished the Order had gone further; those opposed to regulations concerning net neutrality stated it was government overreach, albeit less than what had been considered. And, of course, lawsuits followed, with Verizon leading the pack, citing both a lack of authority by the FCC and the specifics of the Open Internet rules themselves. And, after a period of almost 3 years in the judicial system, we are brought forward to the present time, in which the D.C. Court of Appeals issued its most recent ruling.
January 2014 Court Ruling
In the January 14, 2014 ruling of the Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit, the Court sided with the FCC on their authority to regulate the Internet, citing Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act (the FCC had cited other areas of the Act that also gave them authority, but the Court felt Section 706 was sufficient to confirm the FCC’s authority in this area).
The Court also sided with the FCC in its explanation for the need to promote broadband deployment, its authority to do so, and essentially its rationale to do so. Opponents said the FCC’s plan was a “triple-cushion pool shot” that was quite unlikely to be successful, but the Court ruled that even if it was, the FCC had the authority to proceed in that manner.
Where the D.C. Court ruled against the FCC was not in that they exerted their authority, but that they chose an incorrect methodology in implementing net neutrality. The Court ruled that the FCC’s rationale for non-discrimination was much too similar to The Telecom Act’s Title II rules for common carriers, while broadband fell under Title I rules, which has far less regulatory tools for the FCC. The Court ruled similarly regarding it establishing the no-blocking portion of its rules.
So, the big question is.......what happens now???
Well, with its authority from the court ruling to promote the deployment of broadband and its development, it can use this confirmation to continue further rollout of the National Broadband Plan (NBBP), as a Title 1 Information Service. However, in addition to Congress introducing bills following party lines to either restore net neutrality rules or prevent them, in mid-February FCC Chairman Wheeler indicated the Commission would design new net neutrality rules. Obviously, the FCC will be word-smithing their proposed new rules to more likely pass judicial scrutiny this time around. However, Chairman Wheeler’s intention to instill net neutrality rules in the FCC regulatory toolkit is quite obvious, so there should be no surprise at the gist of the next attempt in proposing such rules.
New Docket Set for Addressing Open Internet Court Remand:
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db0219/DA-14-211A1.pdf FCC Chairman Wheeler’s Statement on the Court Decision:
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db0219/DOC-325654A1.pdf FCC Fact Sheet on Internet Growth and Investment:
USF Contribution Factor Rises Yet Again in the Second Quarter 2014
On March 12, the FCC announced the second quarter 2014 USF contribution factor to continue to be a bit higher, increasing to 16.6% from 15.6% in the fourth quarter of 2013 and 16.4% for the first quarter of 2014.
With the projected carrier interstate and international revenues for the quarter to be $15.98 billion, it is definitely down from last quarter’s $16.2 billion, and substantially down from the fourth quarter 2013 projection of $16.4. The adjusted contribution base is also down further as well, from $13.79 billion in the first quarter and $13.87 billion in the fourth quarter 2013.
While the FCC’s plan in transitioning from the USF to the Connect America Fund (CAF) includes leveraging proposed savings via the redesign of programs as well as reducing waste, fraud, and abuse, I’m yet to be convinced that any of us will be paying less overall in the future for this type of program support; and I predict we will be paying more……possibly substantially more. And, with new initiatives being announced, my prediction is much more likely to come true.
However, as we review and maintain budgets in our own operations, we also must consider how the various technological and operational transitions in the ICT arena (information communications technology) can also enhance and expand upon our own business and institutional capabilities. It’s long been known that nothing is really free in this world; so as we must also look for the positive attributes these endeavors might bring to our networks, operations, and ongoing search for business opportunities.
FCC Press Release on Second Quarter 2014 Contribution Factor Proposal:
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db0312/DA-14-337A1.pdf USAC USF Support Quarterly Contribution Base Report for Second Quarter 2014:
http://www.usac.org/about/tools/fcc/filings/2014/Q2/USAC%202Q2014%20Universal%20Service%20Contribution%20Base%20Filing.pdf USAC USF Fund Size Projections Report for Second Quarter 2014:
FCC Announces Additional Investment in E-Rate Broadband Support
On February 3rd, the FCC announced it will invest an additional $2 billion over the next two years to support broadband networks in our nations' schools and libraries. This represents a doubling of investment in broadband and will connect 20 million students in at least 15,000 schools to high-speed Internet access.
According to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, “This investment is a down-payment on the goal of 99 percent of America’s students having high-speed Internet connections within five years. As we consider long-term improvements to the program, we will take immediate steps to make existing funds go farther, significantly increasing our investment in high-speed Internet to help connect millions of students to the digital age.”
Funding for new investments in high-speed Internet will come from reprioritizing existing E-Rate funds to focus on high-capacity Internet connectivity, increasing efficiency, and modernizing management of the E-Rate program. In a very positive note, Wheeler indicated the FCC will take a business-like approach to the management of the E-Rate program. He stated the Commission will identify opportunities to improve the ways funds are deployed and streamline the process for schools and libraries. This is welcome news, particularly if it fleshes-out in this manner, so there’s a greater likelihood the additional monies will result in even greater access and facilities for schools and libraries, and less likelihood of continual increases in the amounts we pay in universal service/Connect America fees on our bills!
As you know, E-Rate provides $2.4 billion to schools and libraries annually for communications services, and since its inception in 1996 has helped connect virtually all U.S. schools and libraries to basic Internet. The additional support will be targeted to address the most urgent Internet upgrade needs of schools and libraries. Today only about half of E-Rate funds go to true high-speed Internet connections.
FCC/Major Wireless Carriers Agree on Text-to-911
On January 30th, the FCC said that text providers should enable the public to text 911 in an emergency, encouraging providers that have not begun deploying text-to-911 to move more quickly and implement solutions to meet this goal. The Commission also sought further comment on regulatory proposals to make sure this effort goes nationwide by the end of 2014, so users can text to 911 regardless of which text provider they use, in areas where 911 call centers can receive texts.
The FCC made note of the increasing reliance on text messaging; and in noting that access to 911 is a core value that must be maintained as technology changes, also noted that the two must now be linked. Reports indicate that 91% of American adults own a cell phone, and 81% of cell phone owners use text messaging. In addition, Internet-based (“over the top”) text messaging applications are an increasingly popular alternative to the text messaging provided by wireless carriers (short messaging service, or SMS). While voice calling to 911 remains the preferred method, communications users also expect to be able to send a text to 911 and have it reach authorities. Yet text-to-911 is not currently available in most areas or on most texting platforms.
In adopting a policy statement that outlines objectives for text-to-911, the FCC noted that the nation’s four largest wireless carriers, with the support of leading public safety organizations, voluntarily committed to make text-to-911 available to their customers by May 15, 2014, in areas where the 911 call center is prepared to receive texts.
Accordingly, the FCC encouraged all wireless providers as well as other “interconnected” text providers (that is, “over the top” text providers with applications that support sending and receiving text messages to and from phone numbers) to work with the public safety community to develop similar commitments to support text-to-911 in a timely manner and to propose a solution for consideration by the FCC. If these entities develop a satisfactory proposal, the FCC stated that it wouldn’t need the usual long, drawn-out process for approval but would only need to codify the solution to make sure it applies to all providers equally, including those newly entering the marketplace......and that solutions give clarity to the 911 community.
In addition to the May 15th voluntary commitment of the four major carriers and the call of encouragement for others to follow, the FCC is considering a proposed rule that text-to-911 be made available by all text providers by the end of 2014. As such, the FCC adopted a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, seeking comment on the proposed year-end timeframe and several aspects of implementation, particularly to some of the technical hurdles that may be involved with smaller carriers. In a reminder, the FCC stated it had previously adopted rules requiring text providers to send an automatic “bounce-back” text message to consumers who try to text 911 where the service is not available. The FCC also reminded that text-to-911 could be a great help to those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or who has a speech disability in their placement of 911 calls.
FCC Policy Statement and Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:
U.S. to Transition Internet Domain Name Functions Globally
On March 14th, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), under the U.S. Commerce Department, announced its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multi-stakeholder community. As one could expect, this announcement has drawn a lot of reaction globally; but as one could also expect, although there has been support in the U.S., the overall reaction in the U.S. has been more in the negative.
To provide a bit of clarity about the NTIA’s role or authority, the NTIA is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth.
As the first step, NTIA is asking the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS).
NTIA’s responsibility includes the procedural role of administering changes to the authoritative root zone file – the database containing the lists of names and addresses of all top-level domains – as well as serving as the historic steward of the DNS. NTIA currently contracts with ICANN to carry out the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions and has a Cooperative Agreement with Verisign under which it performs related root zone management functions. According to the NTIA, transitioning itself out of its role marks the final phase of the privatization of the DNS as outlined by the U.S. Government in 1997.
“The timing is right to start the transition process,” according to Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling. “We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”
ICANN believes it is uniquely positioned, as both the current IANA functions contractor and the global coordinator for the DNS, as the appropriate party to convene the multi-stakeholder process to develop the transition plan. NTIA has informed ICANN that it expects that in the development of the proposal, ICANN will work collaboratively with the directly affected parties, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Society (ISOC), the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), top level domain name operators, VeriSign, and other interested global stakeholders.
NTIA has communicated to ICANN that the transition proposal must have broad community support and address the following four principles:
Support and enhance the multi-stakeholder model;
Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and,
Maintain the openness of the Internet.
In an announcement that may-or-may-not somewhat assuage those objecting to this entire plan, consistent with policy expressed in bipartisan resolutions of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 2012 (S.Con.Res.50 and H.Con.Res.127), which affirmed the United States support for the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance (and against some of the potential changes suggested in advance of ITU World Conference discussions in late 2012), the NTIA has stated it will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.
Although the aspect of giving-up the leadership and administrative role in the Internet appears to some as a “new” concept, from the inception of ICANN, the U.S. Government and Internet stakeholders envisioned that the U.S. role in the IANA functions would be temporary. The Commerce Department’s June 10, 1998 Statement of Policy stated that the U.S. Government “is committed to a transition that will allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS management.” ICANN as an organization has matured and taken steps in recent years to improve its accountability and transparency and its technical competence. At the same time, international support continues to grow for the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance as evidenced by the continued success of the Internet Governance Forum and the resilient stewardship of the various Internet institutions.
While stakeholders work through the ICANN-convened process to develop a transition proposal, NTIA’s current role will remain unchanged. The current IANA functions contract expires September 30, 2015.
As noted above, the announcement of the U.S. to “give-up” its leadership and administrative role in the Internet was met with a continuing and increasing volume of disagreement. It’s difficult not to relate the timing of this announcement with the on-going drip-drip-drip of more-and-more Edward Snowden revelations and disclosures on NSA (National Security Agency) monitoring or spying of U.S. citizens and of some questionable spying abroad. Many believe the loss of U.S. leadership in this area is a slippery slope to potentially losing the freedom and openness of the Internet as well as opening the door for more governmental interference and suppression regarding the Internet. However, in the December 2012 activities of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU), it was clear the global community was more interested in shared governance outside of U.S. hands regarding the Internet than with these concerns (although in a March 14tharticle in Today’s Zaman, I read of the Turkish public becoming increasingly unhappy about their government’s interference with the media and of a new law that places regulations on Internet news websites, as an example). And while the NTIA repeats the initial mantra that U.S. administration of the Internet to be temporary, I believe the subsequent reality of the global Internet’s importance as seen in years since as well as examples already of various governments’ actions to control their publics’ access to Internet information overall and their acts to further suppress and thus isolate their public in times of disagreements with governments, it would be very appropriate to reassess whether now is the time for the U.S. to give-up this administrative role.
Whether your business is primarily domestic in nature or if it’s global in scope, the increasing criticality of the Internet in business is the reason one must stay informed on how the Internet may be administered and governed into the future……as well as what political and geopolitical forces and issues influence the debate. It will be quite an interesting issue to monitor, both within the U.S. and globally; and of course, to see how the outcome is determined.
FCC Readies Auction for Mobile Broadband
On March 31st, the FCC adopted a Report and Order to continue ongoing efforts to make more spectrum available for flexible use of wireless services, including mobile broadband. The Report and Order reflects the FCC’s ongoing effort to make available
and promote efficient use of spectrum, including through sharing.
The Commission’s action represents the largest amount of spectrum suitable for mobile broadband that the Agency has made available for auction since the 700 MHz band was auctioned in 2008. The action also builds upon the success of the recent H Block auction. Access to these bands will help wireless companies meet growing consumer demand for mobile data by enabling faster wireless speeds and more capacity.
Specifically, the Report and Order sets flexible-use regulatory, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, which includes the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands.
The R&O establishes a band plan that makes spectrum available in a mix of spectrum block and geographic license area sizes to meet the needs of large and small wireless providers. The Report and Order also establishes construction deadlines and other service rules, including a requirement that AWS-3 devices be interoperable within AWS-3 and AWS-1 frequencies.
The FCC made this action happen as a result of years of work across multiple federal agencies and in coordination with industry stakeholders to make 40 megahertz (of the total 65 megahertz) of the AWS-3 spectrum available for commercial use. This spectrum will be available on a shared basis with federal incumbents in accordance with detailed plans for these agencies to relocate out of the frequencies or share within the frequencies.
Report and Order:
FCC Makes More 5 GHz Available for WiFi and other Uses
On March 31st the FCC adopted rules to make 100 MHz of spectrum more accessible for WiFi and other unlicensed uses in homes and congested spaces like convention centers, parks, and airports.
The FCC issued an Order modifying the rules governing the operation of Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices operating in the 5 GHz band. In so doing, the FCC increased the utility of the 100 megahertz of spectrum, and streamlined existing rules and equipment authorization procedures for devices throughout the 5 GHz band.
U-NII devices play an increasing role in the public’s desire for more wireless broadband service. Currently U-NII devices operate in 555 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band, and are used for Wi-Fi and other high-speed wireless connections. These devices support a variety of applications including Wi-Fi hot spots and wireless home local area networks. Consumers then are able to connect smart phones, tablets and laptops to the Internet, broadband service can be better offered to rural areas offered by Wireless Internet Service Providers and it assists in off-loading of traffic from commercial cellular wireless networks.
The rules adopted remove the current restriction on indoor-only use and increase the permissible power which will provide more robust access in the 5.150-5.250 GHz band. This then allows U-NII devices better integration potential with other unlicensed portions of the 5 GHz band to offer faster speeds and reduce congestion at crowded Wi-Fi hot spots such as airports and convention centers.
In their Order, the FCC also improved protection for incumbent systems by requiring manufacturers to secure their devices against illegal modification which could cause interference to incumbent users in the band.
FCC Report and Order:
http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db0331/DOC-326341A2.pdf International News
EU Progresses in Eliminating Roaming Fees Among its Members
For those MiCTA members who have business interests in the European Union (EU), you’ll be pleased to hear further steps have been taken to meet the goal of totally eliminating mobile roaming fees among EU member nations by the end of 2015.
On April 3rd, as a part of an overall proposed single telecom market/net neutrality effort, the European Parliament voted to end voice, text, and data roaming fees by Christmas 2015. In 2010, EU Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes had proposed/promised to end roaming charges by the end of 2015; and since that time, a series of steps have been taken to greatly reduce roaming charges, which has been a benefit to EU residents and visitors alike. Ms. Kroes recently noted that because nearly all of us now rely on mobile and internet connects as a part of our daily lives, users should be able to know what they’re purchasing, not be ripped-off in the process, and should have the ability to more easily switch providers, etc. She also noted that roaming charges are a highly visible barrier, and the removal of them will be a good sign of open, seamless communications opportunities and services, no matter the users’ location.
The next step in this process is for EU member states to review the regulation, with the European Commission (EC) needing to come to a final agreement/vote by the end of 2014, which is expected.
The mobile roaming elimination item became a part of the September 2013 “Connected Continent” telecom regulatory proposal by the EC, to move much closer to a more single telecom market throughout the EU. In addition to dealing with the latter-portion of the mobile roaming fee effort, the proposal calls for net neutrality, spectrum licensing for wireless broadband, providing Internet and broadband customers a clearer picture of their contractual obligations, and to make it easier for customer to choose and switch providers…….exercising their purchasing discretion as consumers.
ITU Holds Conference to Assist in Achieving Universal BB Connectivity
On March 30th, the sixth ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-14) opened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with a call to achieve universal broadband connectivity. Under the theme ‘Broadband for Sustainable Development’, the conference focused on development priorities in telecommunications and information and communication technologies (ICT) and consensus on the programs, projects and initiatives to implement them.
One of the expected outcomes of WTDC-14 is the Dubai Action Plan – which will set the agenda for telecommunication and information and communication technologies development over the next four years. The dialogue, which will shape the future of the telecommunication and ICT sector and its contribution to social and economic development, will focus on:
Sound policies and regulatory frameworks that will foster investment and further develop telecom/ICT networks
Improved access to ICT applications to provide people with services such as education, health, and empower them with the means to achieve sustainable development
Increased safety and security in the use of telecoms/ICTs
Capacity building in the area of ICTs
All-too-often, we do not see ourselves being a part of a truly global effort to spur communications technology deployment; and that many of the regulatory issues we face here in the U.S. are also those that must be dealt with in literally every country, as their ICT infrastructure evolves. And just as advances in Internet, mobile, and other technologies can assist us in business, education, etc., it does so as well all across the globe!
By the way, the theme of World Telecommunications and Information Society Day (WTISD) is “Broadband for Sustainable Development,” celebrated May 16-17. The WTISD celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph convention and the creation of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Video – Changing the Face of ICTs (Information Communications Technology):