The FCC released a streamlined agenda for its next Commission Open Meeting, scheduled for December 14, 2021. The agency will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) and Notice of Inquiry regarding how to improve the clarity and accessibility of Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) visual messages to the public, including persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and to seek comment on other EAS improvements, such as redesigns to enable matching visual and audio alert content (“EAS NPRM”). The FCC will next address an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would grant a petition for rulemaking filed by Space Exploration Holdings, LLC (“SpaceX”) to amend the spectrum sharing rules applicable to non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service (“NGSO FSS”) systems (“Satellite Spectrum Sharing NPRM”). The commissioners will close the meeting by considering a NPRM that would propose to establish a central bidding portal through which service providers would submit their bids to the E-Rate program administrator, the Universal Service Administrative Company (“USAC”) (“E-Rate NPRM”).

You will find more information about the items on the December meeting agenda after the break:


Continue Reading FCC’s December Meeting Agenda Includes Emergency Alerts, Satellite Broadband and E-Rate Items

On Thursday, November 18, 2021, just days after President Biden signed the bi-partisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (aka “Infrastructure Act”) into law, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) released a Public Notice setting forth a 60-day rulemaking process designed to implement the statute’s Affordable Connectivity Program (“ACP”) provisions.

While the final rules

On November 2, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC’s) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“Bureau”) published a public notice in the Federal Register focused on asking whether the 71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, 92-94 GHz, and the 94.1-95 GHz bands (“70/80/90 GHz Bands”) could be used “to provide broadband Internet access to consumers and communities that may otherwise lack robust, consistent connectivity.” The Commission is particularly interested whether stratospheric-based platforms, such as High Altitude Platform Stations (“HAPS”), which operate above twenty kilometers (approximately 65,000 feet), could be deployed for this purpose in the 70/80/90 GHz Bands.  Comments are due by December 2, 2021, and replies by January 3, 2022.

Continue Reading Looking to the Skies: The FCC Seeks Additional Information on Potential Stratospheric-Based Communications Platforms and Services

Over the past few years, the data collection and use practices of Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) have largely flown under the radar while large internet platforms and the broader adtech industry have been under greater scrutiny. That respite may be coming to end following a staff report released last week by the FTC detailing the scope of ISPs’ data collection and use practices. The staff report was based on orders issued in 2019 under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act and puts ISPs and large platforms on similar footing, observing that “many ISPs in our study can be at least as privacy-intrusive as large advertising platforms.” In addition, the staff report finds that several ISP data practices could cause harm to consumers but does not go as far as calling any practices unfair or deceptive.

What the FTC will do with the staff report is less clear. The Commission voted unanimously to release the report, which does not make any specific policy recommendations. Members of the Commission, however, drew their own conclusions and articulated starkly different outlooks on the report’s implications. Chair Lina Khan and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter declared that the FCC should play a leading role in overseeing ISPs’ data practices, citing the FCC’s industry expertise and legal authority. Commissioner Christine Wilson, however, stated that “oversight of ISPs for privacy and data security issues should remain at the FTC.” ISPs’ data practices – and the broader question of whether the FCC should reclassify broadband service back to a Title II telecommunications service and re-impose strict broadband privacy rules – are likely to be prominent issues as the Biden FCC takes shape in the months ahead.


Continue Reading FTC Staff Report Puts Spotlight Back on ISP Data Collection and Use Practices; FCC Re-Regulation Suggested

Partner Hank Kelly will present “The Path to a Fully Connected America: Strategies for Expanding Broadband Access and Affordability” during The 2021 INCOMPAS Show’s Policy Workshop on October 25th. Getting and keeping Americans connected has become a priority for policymakers and industry leaders alike. The increased importance of broadband in the wake of the pandemic

At its June 17 Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a Second Report and Order for its Connected Care Pilot Program, which provides administrative guidance that will enable award recipients to begin their pilot projects. On the same day, it announced its second set of projects awarded support through the Pilot Program.

The Connected Care Pilot was established in April 2020 to make up to $100 million in Universal Service Fund support available over three years for selected projects to defray costs for projects that will bring broadband connectivity and other connected care information services to eligible health care providers. The program is primarily aimed at supporting services that will benefit veterans and low-income patients. It is a longer term initiative than the short-term COVID-19 Telehealth Program designed to provide financial support for telehealth services, which are expected to remain in demand after the pandemic fully abates.


Continue Reading FCC Provides Guidance for Connected Care Pilot Program, Selects Additional Projects

On May 10, 2021, the FCC unanimously adopted final rules in a Report and Order to implement the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program (“ECF Program”). The ECF Program is a fund that enables “schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The ECF Program was funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signed by President Biden in early March. Along with the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBB Program”), the ECF provides significant, pandemic-related expenditures addressing the digital divide, funded outside of the existing federal Universal Service Fund programs.

With these rules, the FCC sets in motion a process for schools and libraries to receive funding for 100% of purchases to provide remote learning and remote library services during the pandemic.  This fund will be a significant one-time opportunity for applicants and service providers and is expected to see high demand for funding.


Continue Reading FCC Meets Statutory Deadline, Adopts Report and Order Establishing Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Rules

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will keynote “Legal Code: Reframing the Divide by Addressing Broadband Access Through Affordability and Inclusion”, a virtual event co-hosted by Kelley Drye and Silicon Flatirons on May 12th from 2:00-4:00 PM (ET) that will explore issues surrounding broadband affordability. The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality, and with it, illuminated the broader issue of digital inclusion and internet access as a civil right. Over the last four years, efforts to close the Digital Divide have been geared largely toward access to networks in rural America, but pandemic related displacement is driving a shift in focus toward affordability in both rural and urban areas. This shift is most clearly evidenced by the recently adopted Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which gives broadband providers the unique opportunity to help fight Digital Inequality by offering subsidized discounts on robust Internet service and connected devices capable of helping low-income Americans connect to classrooms, jobs, and telehealth. Other recent efforts include the schools and libraries-focused Emergency Connectivity Fund, which aims to address a homework gap that transformed into a school-year-long remote learning gap.

This event will examine the pandemic’s impact on how we think about the digital divide and digital inequality, the new administration’s approach, and related activity in Congress, at the FCC, and at other federal agencies.

Agenda
Introduction & Opening Remarks

  • Amie Stepanovich, Executive Director, Silicon Flatirons

Keynote

  • Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator for Oregon

Panel: Conceptualizing and Navigating Paths to Affordability and Inclusion

  • John J. Heitmann (Moderator), Partner, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
  • Chris M. Laughlin (Moderator), Associate, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
  • Kate Black, Acting Chief Policy Advisor, Federal Communications Commission
  • Jose Cortes, Chair, Regulatory and Government Affairs Committee, National Lifeline Association
  • Claire Park, Policy Program Associate, New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Trinity Thorpe-Lubneuski, Senior Director, Internet Essentials, Comcast

Click here for more information and to register.


Continue Reading Join Kelley Drye and Silicon Flatirons for a Discussion of the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality

On March 10, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, the COVID-19 stimulus bill recently enacted by Congress. The Act allocates $1.9 trillion to provide relief to businesses and individuals that are struggling due to COVID-19. Importantly, it appropriates $7.17 billion for emergency support for remote learning and remote library services. This stimulus follows $3.2 billion appropriated for an Emergency Broadband Benefit for low-income consumers and caps over $13 billion in broadband funding provided in addition to the traditional Universal Service Fund programs.

The new Emergency Connectivity Fund (“ECF”) will reimburse schools and libraries for internet access and connected devices for students and teachers for remote learning and remote library services. The passage of this legislation has been welcomed by the FCC, with Chairwoman Rosenworcel stating, “the American Rescue Plan provides the FCC with new tools to support the millions of students locked out of the digital classroom.”

The legislation requires the FCC to issue rules within 60 days of enactment to provide funding to eligible schools and libraries. Here’s a look at what to expect in the new fund.


Continue Reading Biden Signs Stimulus Package: FCC Set to Establish a $7 Billon Emergency Connectivity Fund to Assist with Virtual Learning

2021 is well underway and the new leadership at the FCC is taking shape. While we don’t yet know who will fill the Chair on a permanent basis, the FCC under Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel is proceeding without delay. So far, the Commission has tackled ongoing issues of bipartisan support, including broadband mapping, communications supply chain security and preventing 911 fee diversion. But the biggest challenges ahead are in the universal service fund and, specifically, efforts to bridge the digital divide.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at developments in the FCC’s $9 billion-per-year Federal Universal Service Fund and more recent pandemic-related efforts to address deficiencies in broadband access that have been exposed by our year of remote work, school and social activities.


Continue Reading The State of the Universal Service Fund in 2021