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October 21st, 2013 3:56 pm
CFIF Technotes
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(1)  Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Representatives Fred Upton (R – Texas) and Greg Walden (R – Oregon) on how the Obama Administration continues to “put the brakes on business,” including FCC red tape and regulatory uncertainty:

On Sept. 26, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking outlining potential new media-ownership rules that eliminate the so-called UHF discount.  The change would affect how the FCC determines whether a station owner has approached a 39% cap on nationwide audience that can be reached by a single owner.  The proposed FCC rules aren’t just complicated.  They won’t even be final until next year at the earliest because the FCC can take however long it sees fit—sometimes more than a decade—to promulgate rules.  Even worse, the commission says whatever rules the FCC dreams up in the future will be applied retroactively.  So between now and when the new guidelines become final, no one knows the rules of the game.  And companies have to be prepared at all times to adhere to a new set of regulations that are still a glimmer in the FCC’s eye.  This leaves one of the economy’s only flourishing industries at the mercy of bureaucrats in Washington.”

(2) From The Washington Post, encouraging analysis entitled “How the FCC Plans to Clear the Air for More Mobile Data”:

To fix the coming crunch, federal regulators think they’ve come up with the right solution: Give companies like Verizon and AT&T a lot more frequencies on the wireless spectrum to play with. But where will all those extra channels come from? That’s where the television industry comes in. If all goes according to plan, next year hundreds of TV stations will get a big check to shut down operations and give up their spectrum. Then the agency will turn around and sell that invisible treasure to the wireless companies so that when you fire up your data connection, you won’t get caught in an online traffic jam. All told, the FCC hopes to take about 20 channels worth of spectrum that are currently licensed to various TV stations across the country and auction them off to the wireless companies in various local markets.”

(3) From Jim Kohlenberger writing at GigaOM, a clarion call to free much-needed spectrum for commercial wireless use:

To advance the emerging connected device revolution, we need to continue to free up spectrum for commercial wireless use, and accelerate the transition to IP networks.  At GigaOM’s Mobilize conference on October 16, I’ll be talking about some of the ways we can do this.  President Obama has already taken important steps to make more spectrum available and accelerate the transition to faster and more capable next-generation IP-based wireless LTE networks.  It is absolutely essential that we continue to invest and upgrade our next-generation networks today in order to keep pace with innovation and meet the wireless demands of consumers and businesses tomorrow.”

(4) From Bloomberg, a report on FCC observers’ recommendations for quick action if and when its new commissioners are confirmed:

Once confirmed, the new chairman of the FCC should spell out the agency’s perspective on the issues facing the modern telecommunications sector, industry analysts said Oct. 15 at a panel hosted by the Technology Policy Institute.  The FCC should ‘take a look at where the industry is today, [ask] what are the challenges ahead, is there a role for regulation in that, what is it and how should we, in fact, plan for that?’  Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior vice president of external and legislative affairs, said Oct. 15.  This requires the FCC to ‘modernize its approach and its outlook and, frankly, modernize some of its regulations,’ he said. Cicconi said he believes the FCC has an oversight role as telecommunications companies and customers migrate from wired copper telephone networks to IP-based networks.  AT&T has a pending proposal with the commission to coordinate tests at wireline facilities which would replace their time-division multiplexed facilities with IP-based alternatives.

Cicconi urged the FCC to avoid setting spectrum caps that would prevent larger carriers from bidding on certain bands in the upcoming incentive auction. ‘The notion of setting artificial limits seem purely designed to advantage one set of companies and disadvantage another,’ he said. AT&T isn’t against ‘something that is set up to be even-handed,’ Cicconi said.  ‘I think it is possible to do that with the current spectrum screen.'”

(5) From the State Telephone Regulation Report, a story on calls for fewer obstructive regulation from the FCC as we move forward in the IP transition:

Fewer regulations are needed by states and the FCC to promote competition and to move the IP transition forward, said speakers at the Telecommunications Summit at Murray State University in Kentucky Oct. 9.  The deregulation of telecom services by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission helped to spread investment and innovation in the state by AT&T and Comcast, said Commissioner Larry Landis.  State commissions have the opportunity to work with the FCC to change policies in the states, said Landis:  ‘States have a unique perspective to bring to the process, and they understand the need to share a vision as well as each having their own.’  The IP transition is a multi-year change that doesn’t need to be hampered by FCC regulation before the technologies are fully developed, said Hank Hultquist, AT&T vice president-federal regulatory.  ‘IP is a remarkably flexible protocol that allows you to operate different technologies on the same network.’  IP does provide some solutions to old technologies that will take time to adopt, said Hultquist.  Some customers were upset that Verizon deployed Voice Link as the sole service in Fire Island, N.Y., because it did not have faxing capability, he said.  ‘You can do faxing with scanning, but I’m skeptical that this should be handled in the transition or the network,’ because increasingly scanning can take the place of sending faxes, he said.  It will also take time to make sure IP interconnection works, said Hultquist.  ‘We don’t want to replicate problems.’  Rural providers are concerned about the IP transition because they base revenue on long-distance calls, which would cost them money on IP networks, said Hultquist.  ‘The revenue flow would go away and these providers want a way to resolve that.'”

(6) From The Hill, an update on confirmation hearings for FCC and FTC nominees ready to proceed:

The Senate could confirm President Obama’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission as early as Wednesday night.  Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick for FCC chairman, and Michael O’Rielly, a nominee for a Republican commission seat, have been placed on a fast track for Senate approval, according to a document circulated on Capitol Hill Wednesday.  The confirmations would likely come after the Senate votes on a deal to lift the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown on Wednesday night.  The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved Wheeler’s nomination by a voice vote in July.  O’Rielly and McSweeny testified before the panel last month, but the committee hasn’t voted on either nomination.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has indicated he might block Wheeler’s nomination unless he promised not to require more disclosure about the groups paying for political advertisements.”

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