Essential Reminder to Check FCC Maps ASAP, and the Need for Standalone Broadband Funding

I wanted to start this email update with a graph and a table from recent FCC filings and publications, as well as a development flagged in recent press reports to help explain what is driving NTCA’s focus on the need for a more sensible IP evolution regulatory framework in 2013—but before I get there, I wanted to implore members one last time as noted in my last DC update to make sure they check the FCC’s “unserved areas” map. It’s important to do so to make sure that universal service support decisions are made based upon the best possible data, especially as they might affect your operations. Replies on this issue are due January 24, and even if you aren’t already working on this and need to file late, it’s still worth considering putting your information to present a more complete record. Read more

Hitting the Ground Running in 2013

Happy new year to all! As we hit the ground running again after the holidays, there’s certainly a lot to cover in terms of things happening in Washington, D.C.

Of course, we saw “fiscal cliff” discussions and a new Congress getting work underway, but even in the narrower world of telecom issues, lots of things are moving. NTCA’s government affairs team blanketed Capitol Hill after New Year’s Day to re-establish old contacts and build new relationships within incoming officials and staff. Meanwhile, just in the first 10 days of January, our regulatory team filed three sets of comments with the FCC and held ex parte meetings with the legal advisers to the FCC commissioners about regression analysis caps and the need for a more sensible path forward on any further reforms. NTCA’s IP Evolution petition also continues to help shape the policy debate about what comes next—what a broadband future should look like—and we had great meetings over the past several days with both our rural association partners as well as a workgroup of NTCA telcos and volunteer experts about how to develop coordinated, concrete proposals for further consideration. Read more

Old School/New School

TI-84 Graphing Calculator

The author’s 1976 “state of the art” as captured by . . . 2012 “state of art.”

 Policy Perspectives

This week, Ars Technica features a delightful article on the TI-80 graphing calculator which is going…color. You expected to me say “away,” didn’t you? You expected that a single-purpose electronic device without broadband connectivity is being herded off into the sunset of cassettes, calculator watches, dot matrix printers and film, right? Nope – as the article notes, “the constraints of the graphing calculator are key selling points. They provide something of a known quantity when it comes to doing math, especially on standardized tests, where a fully programmable smartphone with Web access would not be allowed”” That, plus the math they are challenged to digest has not changed across the centuries.

Read more

DISH Network’s High-Speed Wireless Plans Gain FCC Approval

The FCC has approved DISH Network’s request to adapt its satellite spectrum for wireless use. DISH had asked for an FCC waiver that would allow the company to use 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2 GHz band for a 4G LTE network.

“The FCC has removed outdated regulations and granted territorial flexibility for most of the AWS-4 band,” said DISH senior vice president and deputy general counsel Jeff Blum. “We appreciate the hard work and focus of the FCC and its staff throughout this process. The commission has taken an important step toward facilitating wireless competition and innovation, and fulfilling the goals of the National Broadband Plan.”

While the commission announced its approval of DISH Network’s request for wireless spectrum use, certain as-yet unspecified restrictions will apply. The commission has previously said that there need to be limits on DISH’s network in order to prevent interference problems. Consequently, DISH seems committed to proceeding with caution. “Following a more thorough review of the order and its technical details, DISH will consider its strategic options and the optimal approach to put this spectrum to use for the benefit of consumers,” Blum said.  Among these options is a potential partnership with a wireless partner, such as Sprint or AT&T. In fact, DISH and Sprint have reportedly already held talks to discuss such a joint venture.

Policy ‘Lightning Round’

Policy Perspectives

The NTCA policy team has had a real hodge-podge of activity recently, spending time on everything from regression analysis and cost models (everyone’s favorite topics) to IP evolution, from call completion to cybersecurity, and from “scope and scale” discussions to rural health care. Just to give a brief sense of what the team has been doing to juggle all of these topics on behalf of members, this update will be a kind of “lightning round” where I’ll try in five sentences or less to provide an overview of the activity on all of these items. This format, of course, doesn’t do justice to any one of these issues—nor will this update address all of the issues we’re watching for members—so if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email. Read more

FCC Commissioner Pai Calls for Creation of IP Transition Task Force

Speaking October 16 at a Washington, D.C.,  forum sponsored by the Communications Liberty and Innovation Project, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai called upon the commission to set up a task force to examine the issue of how to best make the transition from a voice to an IP world.

“This task force would study how to hasten the Internet transformation,” Pai said. “It would help us modernize the Commission’s outdated regulations and it would allow us to account for and accelerate the dramatic technological changes in the communications industry.”

Along those lines, Pai suggested the commission could close the 2010 docket which would reclassify broadband Internet access services as common carrier services regulated under Title II. “We should make clear that we have no intention of employing such a back-to-the-future regulatory approach,” he said.

Further, Pai attacked the 1996 Telecommunications Act, calling it “hopelessly outdated.”  However, until and unless Congress decides to change the law, he said, it is the FCC’s job is “to administer the act as it stands.”

Connectivity vs. Completion

Policy Perspectives

Georgetown is an upscale neighborhood in Washington, D.C., that features block after block of remarkably preserved 19th century buildings. The ideological contrasts that define politics in the nation’s capital are mirrored in the juxtapositions that occur when the hottest retailers are packed into historically defined spaces; nineteen months defined the period Apple took to gain local design approval for its store, whose façade underwent several iterations before being judged suitably consistent with its neighboring buildings.

And, like other districts packed with trendy shops, tenants arrive and depart as fads blaze and fade. Signs announcing “Coming Soon!” are about as regular as those that post hours or sales. The other day, one caught my eye. Read more

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