Thursday, January 20, 2011

FCC Releases Comcast - NBC Order 01/20/2011 San Francisco - The media relations staff of the Federal Communications Commission has released to various outlets the 279 page Order of the Commission's approval, with conditions, of the merger between Comcast and General Electric's NBC-Universal operating unit.

The full text copy is published here:

Order Comcast NBC Merger FCC 11 4A1                                                              

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FCC's February Active Meeting Agenda Leads with ICC / USF Item

FCC Press Statement via 01/18/2011 San Francisco - Washington, D.C. -- Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that the following items will be on the tentative agenda for the next open meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 8, 2011:

  • Connect America Fund and Intercarrier Compensation Reform NPRM: A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to get broadband to all of rural America and spur investment and job creation, by modernizing the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation (ICC) system while cutting waste and inefficiency.  Through the use of market-driven, incentive-based policies and increased accountability, the NPRM proposes near-term support for broadband deployment in unserved areas and measures to address ICC arbitrage, as well as a long-term transition from current high-cost support and ICC mechanisms to a single, fiscally responsible Connect America Fund.

  • Data Innovation Initiative Presentation: A presentation on the status of the comprehensive reform efforts to modernize and streamline how the Commission collects, uses, and disseminates data in order to improve the agency’s fact-based, data-driven decision-making.

  • Broadband and Voice Data Modernization NPRM: A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, initiated as part of the Commission’s Data Innovation Initiative, to streamline and modernize the collection of data via Form 477, in order to ensure that the data the Commission collects enables informed policymaking while minimizing burdens on voice and broadband service providers.

  • CEI/ONA Reporting Elimination NPRM: A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, initiated as part of the Commission’s Data Innovation Initiative, to eliminate the legacy narrowband comparably efficient interconnection (CEI) and open network architecture (ONA) reporting requirements that currently apply to the Bell Operating Companies (BOCs), due to a lack of continuing relevance and utility. 
 Topics selected for FCC open meeting agendas are posted on the Commission’s website approximately three weeks prior to the Commission’s next monthly meeting. The FCC will also issue a public notice of the “Commission Meeting Agenda” one week before the meeting and announce at that time the items that are scheduled for the agenda.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Genachowski to CES: Spectrum at Top of FCC 2011 Agenda

Obama Administration Rallies Troops for Spectrum Battles Ahead, Sees High Growth in Mobile Broadband Sector 01/06/2011 San Francisco - In a speech to be given tomorrow afternoon to a session at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will declare that this year "unleashing spectrum to support mobile innovation is at the top" of his Commission's agenda.

Mobile Ecosystem
The need for greater wireless spectrum has been identified as the holy grail of U.S. tech policy by groups, like CES sponsor the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), for years. Without more spectrum the growth and development of the flowering mobile ecosystem gets uprooted.
CEA President Gary Shapiro welcomes FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowski to CES 2010.

This exploding sector covers a mix of app developers, carriers, digital content providers, infrastructure equipment manufacturers, investors, backhaul providers, site owners and managers, and smartphone makers.  In the speech Genachowski leaves no doubt as to where he comes down in the years old brawl between wireless providers and broadcasters. This is nothing new, given the clear statements in the National Broadband Plan (Chapter 5: Spectrum) issued in March of 2010. 

What is new is the urgency with which President Obama's FCC Chairman underlines the need to move ahead with incentive auctions aimed at delivering new wireless bandwidth to the mobile sector, shifting it from broadcasters, and driving a growth sector of the American economy in the process. 

"If we don't act," says Genachowski in his prepared remarks "we will put our country's economic competitiveness at risk. Make no mistake: We are in a global race for world leadership in mobile."   

The important details of how and how soon the Commission can be expected to reach the Plan's goal, also iterated in the speech by the Chairman, of "freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum for mobile broadband" aside, one central and organizing principle in all of this is now clear: 

The belief of the Obama Administration that a high growth mobile broadband sector can help lift the American economy out of its continued post-recession slump is clear. That is the reason why the Commission's controversial Open Internet Order allows for a new loosely regulated wireless Internet to be driven by emerging carrier business models which in the opinion of many violate classically defined network neutrality definitions.

Look for CTIA, the largest wireless trade association in the nation, and policy savvy VCs to applaud the vision of an newly energized mobile sector as outlined in the Chairman's speech over the next few days.

Entrenched Interests: Broadcasters, Public Safety 
The political challenges to the mobile broadband future come primarily from broadcaster incumbent licensees of spectrum, and secondarily from (some but not all) the elements of the public safety community that do not want to share their access to D-block frequencies with commercial carriers.

The former will continue to be abetted by Republican supporters in Congress. The latter by the newly spun-off Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI) as it works to keep its stranglehold on 80% of the public safety equipment market. It will do so, by continuing to build tech standard firewalls between commercial and public safety subscribers, keeping economies of scale in radio terminal gear as far removed from first responders (and tax dollars) as possible.    

This One's A Keeper 
FCC Commissioners give speeches all the time. Most of them are forgotten within hours by the few of us that read them. This speech, given the current context of the economic and policy hopes tied to an exploding mobile ecosystem is different.  

The speech had been embargoed until 9:00 PM (ET) today. We publish it now as the embargo is lifted  (although we might ask Commission staff to leak documents to us from time to time, we'd never break an embargo):
Speech of FCC Chair Genachowski to CES2011 01-07-2011

Rep. Blackburn's H.R. 96 Seeks to Ban FCC Internet Regulation 01/06/2011 San Francisco - It is short, but in the minds of many advocates and a majority of Commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission, not at all sweet. 

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) speaks at a net neutrality event at
The Heritage Foundation on December 21.
 (Photo: Heritage Foundation)
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) has refiled at the start of the new 112th Congress her legislation which proposes, in a succinct two pages of text, to fully prohibit the FCC from any effort to "propose, promulgate, or issue any regulations regarding the Internet or IP-enabled services."

The filing of the bill, now named H.R. 96 The Internet Freedom Act, by Blackburn has been widely reported and anticipated since her comments in December during the deliberations by FCC Commissioners over what would become the Open Internet Order voted through on December 21. The current legislation appears identical to Blackburn's filed proposal during the previous Congress.

Given the processing of hundreds of pieces of legislation filed at the beginning of the current Congress however, the full text of the bill is not yet available via the Thomas legislative tracking service of Library of Congress. We publish the bill below, as it was provided to this publication this morning by Rep. Blackburn's communications director, Claude Chafin.

Blackburn Internet Freedom Act - H.R. 96 of 112th Congress

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

FCC Schedules Public Safety & Data Innovation Items for January 25 Meeting

No Comcast-NBC Vote Scheduled, No Return of The Woz Expected 01/04/2011 San Francisco - The Federal Communications Commission has scheduled 2 items for its next Open Meeting of January 25, neither of which will be nearly as controversial or as exciting (the most wonkish among us excepted), as the Commission's December 21 meeting on focused on network neutrality. 
Return engagement not expected: Apple co-founder
Steve Wozniak interviewed at the December 21 Open Meeting.

Missing from the schedule of the January meeting is any reference to FCC action on the pending merger between leading cable MSO Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and the NBC Universal unit of General Electric's (NYSE: GE). Under FCC rules a Commission vote must be announced 3 weeks prior to its placement on an open meeting agenda.   

While the December meeting was arguably the most controversial and critical in decades, the January meeting will see the Commission moving back into the many detail level rulemakings required to implement parts of the National Broadband Plan. In the aggregate, the agency's implementation proceedings triggered by the Plan will have a lasting impact on the American tech economy of greater significance than the Open Internet rulemaking itself.

It is doubtful many Commission meetings going forward will attract the media attention or presence of real life digerati like The Woz, as did the December 21 hearing. 

Public safety will be first up as Commissioners put to a vote a new  initiative described as the "Interoperability Order and FNPRM: An Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to ensure that the public safety broadband network is interoperable nationwide."  Several recent Commission items demonstrate continued work on the Plan's Chapter 16: Public Safety section

"Comprehensive Reform"......Still Lacking
Additionally, Commission staff has informed the media that FCC will review a presentation "on the status of the comprehensive reform efforts to improve the agency’s fact-based, data-driven decision-making." Best seen in the evolution of the Commission's data section of its emerging new web presence, the data initiative is an effort to make the mountains of information collected by the agency more accessible to the public.  

While doing so, Commission Julius Genachowski has continued his use of legacy Commission practices which clearly lack the level of public transparency called for by the man that appointed him, President Obama. The National Broadband Plan's Chapter 15: Civic Engagement calls for a variety lofty transparency goals that remain at odds with the ongoing use of several Commission rules by the Chairman. 

Most prominent among these is the arcane procedural rule which allows the chair to keep fully secret from the public drafts of Commission orders as they are being redrafted by staff working in consultation with the five Commissioners. This publication's effort, which remains unsuccessful to date, to win the release of the Chairman's first draft of the recent Open Internet Order is the most prominent recent case in point. 

Notice of the January Open Meeting was posted at the FCC main site this afternoon Washington time.
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