Tag Archives: fcc

CPUC tells FCC not to confuse copper networks with telecoms service


Don’t confuse copper wireline infrastructure with the services it supports. That’s the message from the California Public Utilities Commission to the Federal Communications Commission. In comments regarding possible changes to federal wireless and wireline telecoms regulations, the CPUC said that the "FCC’s assumption that copper has outlived its usefulness is overstated"…

Copper technology is not inherently obsolete. Copper was originally used for telecommunications because it could serve as the backbone of a universal voice network: it was cheap to install, easy to use, and readily available. When the voice network expanded to provide broadband capability, new copper technologies were invented to provide data services and the internet to homes and businesses, using the existing architecture and infrastructure. Meanwhile, telecommunications carriers have gradually pushed fiber technologies further out from the core (where its capacity was well-suited to the big traffic requirements of interoffice communications), but fiber-to-the-home is not yet ubiquitous. Many carriers—especially those without a wireless affiliate—provide high-speed service to the home using either fiber or copper. For example, advances in the G.fast protocol have led to carrier strategies for serving multi-dwelling units using the existing copper loops. And some services—certain credit card readers, alarm systems, closed captioning, and emergency services, for example—still rely on copper technology. In a transitional technical environment like this one, all of these technologies—copper, fiber, wireless—should be used to their fullest. The FCC’s conflation of “fiber facilities” with “next-generation services” masks the difficulties that may arise if copper retirement is approached hastily.

That’s a position that four of the five CPUC commissioners agree with – they voted to approve these comments at their meeting on 15 June 2017, with commission president Michael Picker abstaining.

The comments also pushed back against federal preemption of California’s utility pole and right of way regulations, pointing out that the CPUC "currently has three ‘pole and conduit’ proceedings open". Under federal law, individual states can opt to regulate pole access and other telecoms policy themselves. California is one of twenty states that has done so.

Trump appoints Rosenworcel to FCC


Trump appoints Rosenworcel to FCC

Third time is the charm.

Jessica Rosenworcel is on her way back to the Federal Communications Commission. President Donald Trump has re-nominated her to one of the two seats reserved for democrats. The question he left hanging, though, is which seat?

This will be the third attempt at reappointing Rosenworcel to the commission. She was originally appointed by president Barack Obama in 2011, served her initial five year term with high marks from both sides of the aisle, and stayed until the end of last year, as the law allows when no renomination or replacement has been confirmed by the U.S. senate. Obama put her name forward twice: the first nomination expired in the senate, the second one was withdrawn when Trump took office.

Trump has a reputation for backing people with a track record of intelligent and competence, and Rosenworcel has that. Now her name is back on the table.

What’s not clear is whether Rosenworcel is being appointed to fill the open democratic seat or if she’s going to replace Mignon Clyburn, the only democrat on the commission, whose term expires at the end of the month (although, like Rosenworcel, she can stay on for a time, pending confirmation of a replacement). That detail should be cleaned up when the white house sends the formal paperwork to the senate.

The FCC is currently operating with only three commissioners – Clyburn, and two republicans, chairman Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly. If Rosenworcel is being appointed to the open democratic seat, then we can expect to see a third republican nomination sent to the senate soon – otherwise, the FCC would be in a two-to-two deadlock.

One name that keep popping up is Brendan Carr, currently the FCC’s general counsel and formerly an aide to Pai. But that’s just at the rumor stage right now – other names, including members of the shadowy transition landing team that Trump sent to the FCC before he took office.

Pai drives FCC with eyes on rear view mirror


During a rural broadband road trip through the midwestern U.S., Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai shared time with a republican senator on a Milwaukee talk radio program (h/t to Phillip Dampier at Stop the Cap for tracking the interview down and getting the word out). Although he professed an open mind regarding the repeal of common carrier rules for broadband service – it’s under consideration at the FCC, so he has to say that – he dismissed net neutrality as a "slogan".

According to a story by Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica, Pai dismissed concerns raised by program host Gene Mueller about Internet service providers manipulating traffic for their own benefit…

"I have access to what I need when I need it, but with the removal of this Title II where we start treating the Internet as a commodity as opposed to a utility, that means the provider can then decide what I’m going to see more of," Mueller said. "If Spectrum [Charter] wants me to see Spectrum products first, then I’ll see that and other things will be slowed down."

Mueller described a "fear that this wide open pipe will become monetized for providers’ profit."

Pai said there’s no reason to worry. The scenario described by Mueller "is not the Internet we had prior to 2015 when we didn’t have these rules," he said.

The problem with that logic is that with or without FCC rules, the Internet we have now is not the Internet we had in 2015 or 2005 or 1995, and it never will be again. Pai is right to be concerned about "the government deciding how the internet is run", but he’s ignoring two key points: broadband service is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies, and those companies are bulking up on digital content ownership.

As acquisition-driven debt piles up and shareholder value is increasingly dependent on revenue generated from content, the economic imperative to maximise profit from it by using monopoly control over broadband access becomes irresistible. The concept of common carrier obligations has evolved over hundreds of years as a counterweight to exactly this problem. If Pai has a better idea, he needs to stop popping off sound bites and start articulating it now.

Copper network killer rules could be back on the table


Yanking out copper networks and replacing them with wireless service is one of the possible outcomes of the Federal Communication Commission’s reconsideration of the wireline service regulations it adopted last year. The swap can actually be done now, but only if the replacement meets certain service and quality standards.

In California, those standards are set by the California Public Utilities Commission. If the FCC rolls back its rules, it wouldn’t necessarily change that. But it could, and the CPUC might be weighing in on the FCC’s proceeding. According to a staff report prepared for commissioners

Should the FCC eliminate its 2016 standards, service providers could have the freedom to withdraw legacy services, including the attendant California nine basic voice service elements, and substitute a service that would fail to meet California’s standards. Customers might lose free access to 911, or service functionality or coverage, or access to relay service. If the substitute is wireless service, and the customer lives in a rural area, the customer could lose service altogether if the service provider has poor coverage in that area. Plus, wireless service is charged on a per-minute basis for both incoming and outgoing calls. Finally, some services, such as closed captioning and alarm systems, are dependent on copper wire; their continued viability may be threatened if the FCC does not maintain appropriate rules.

Last year, the commission went on record opposing an ultimately failed bill pushed by AT&T in the California legislature that would have done all of that. But it was by a narrow 3 to 2 vote, and only one of the commissioners who voted aye – Carla Peterman – is still on the commission.

The draft comments proposed by CPUC don’t seem likely to be controversial, though. Roughly translated, they amount to California sets its own, higher standards and we’d like to keep it that way. It’s the same position the commission has taken in the past. The harder decisions will come if the FCC tries to preempt state wireline replacement rules. Or if incumbent telcos make another run at rewriting Californian requirements.

FCC’s idea of open access to broadband service might not be so open


It’s hard to tell where the Federal Communications Commission is going with a new enquiry into open (or not) access rules for broadband, television and telephone service providers in apartments, condos, commercial buildings and other multiple tenent environments. Assuming commissioners vote to begin it – a safe bet – all they’d be doing immediately is asking for comments from anyone with an opinion on the subject. It’s not being done out of idle curiosity, though.

The draft of the notice that would open the enquiry says the grand goal is "to facilitate greater consumer choice and to enhance broadband deployment". But choice is in the eye of the chooser. It’s one thing to prohibit a cable company from signing an exclusive deal with a landlord that prevents tenants from installing satellite dishes, but quite another to say that members of a condo association can’t pool their market power and make a bulk buy of television or broadband service.

The current FCC majority is not a populist one. One of its earliest decisions was to kill an initiative begun during the Obama administration to open up the set top box market. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has gone on rants about the evils of municipal broadband and urged congress to subsidise big incumbents rather than independent competitors. It’s a world view that’s consistent with the Orwellian message pushed by telco and cable lobbyists that anything that threatens their monopolies will doom consumer choice and end broadband deployment.

It’s also clear from the draft that the FCC doesn’t think highly of local efforts, such as in San Francisco, to require open access for Internet service providers to apartments and condos – the first bullet point in the half page "fact sheet" that accompanied the notice refers to the imposition of "overly burdensome infrastructure access requirements onto private companies" by state and local governments.

Take nothing for granted.

FCC begins Act II of apartment, condo broadband access drama


The rules that govern how video, voice and Internet services are delivered to people who live in what the Federal Communications Commission calls multiple tenant environments (MTEs) are complicated. It’s a universe that includes apartments and condominiums (multiple dwelling units/MDUs), and commercial real estate, such as shopping malls or office buildings. Later this month, the FCC will consider, and likely approve, the start of a broad enquiry that could result in an update and overhaul of those regulations.

The FCC tends to prohibit exclusive deals between property owners and service providers. Tenants, including renters and those with a common ownership interest in, say, a condo or homeowners association (HOA), usually have a right to buy service from anyone, but access to a property or the wiring inside it can be restricted, or even blocked altogether. An HOA can enter into a bulk billing agreement and deliver services, at one level or another and of one kind or another, to every home, but residents are still free to buy additional service from other providers. A landlord can cut a deal with an ISP and make it difficult or impossible for a competitor to wire a building, but can’t prevent tenants from accessing wireless service.

It’s further complicated by the fact that broadband, telephone and television service have separate regulatory regimes and, consequently, different MTE access rules. Broadband, in particular, is in a grey area, since its status – common carrier or not? – is far from settled. The City and County of San Francisco stepped in and established its own open access rules for broadband service in apartments and condos, which were promptly challenged at the FCC. The initial challenge was rejected, but only because of its oddly twisted logic. The core issues of open access to services and the role of local governments in enforcing it were not addressed.

That’s about to change.

FCC votes to kill net neutrality, after a fair trial of course


Common carrier rules for broadband service are on the way out. As expected, the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to begin a rulemaking process that, in theory, is a neutral, technocratic assessment of current regulations that might lead to any outcome. But there’s never been any pretence that the result will be anything but a repeal of the FCC’s 2015 decision to bring broadband – wired and wireless – under the common carrier umbrella.

The agency’s official press release laid out the goals for the proceeding that was launched by yesterday’s approval of a notice of proposed rulemaking

First, the Notice proposes to reverse the FCC’s 2015 decision to impose heavy-handed Title II utility-style government regulation on Internet service providers (ISPs) and return to the longstanding, successful light- touch framework under Title I of the Communications Act.

Second, the Notice proposes to return to the Commission’s original classification of mobile broadband Internet access service as a private mobile service…

Third, the Notice proposes to eliminate the catch-all Internet conduct standard created by the Title II Order.

The Notice also seeks comment on whether the Commission should keep, modify, or eliminate the bright-line rules established by the Title II Order.

Title II is the section of telecommunications law that governs what companies that are classified as common carriers can do.

You’re likely to be disappointed if you’re hoping that the common carrier regime, and particularly the net neutrality rule, will be saved by another wave of public protest, as it was in 2014 when the democratic FCC chairman initially floated a plan that wasn’t all that much different from what’s on the table now. Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly blew off the flood of comments that have already come in, saying “thankfully, our rulemaking process is not decided like a Dancing with the Stars contest, since counts of comments submitted have only so much value”.

Muni ISPs are as common a carrier as any other


Buried within a half million comments about common carrier regulation of broadband service, in the midst of a system crash brought about, or not, by a John Oliver rant, is a letter from 19 municipal (to one degree or another) Internet service providers supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s current effort to roll those rules back.

In what must have been an epic, nay, herculean, speed reading session, FCC chair Ajit Pai came across those comments and felt compelled to issue a press release trumpeting the blindingly obvious conclusion that, hey, these guys agree with me so they must be pretty smart. I hope he lets his sidekick, Michael “what I am unwilling to do and will never support is allowing government-sponsored networks” O’Rielly, in on his eureka moment.

The muni ISPs make a couple of points in their letter: imposed service standards are a burden for small providers and munis don’t really need regulation since they’re directly answerable to elected officials.

Our customers have choices and can opt for another provider if we degrade their Internet experience. Moreover, because we are effectively owned by our customers and responsive to them politically, we make sure their interests are the primary drivers of our businesses. We always provide our customers with unfettered access to legal content on the Internet. We never block, throttle, or impair our customers’ traffic nor engage in paid prioritization. We have always said we would adhere to any such principles adopted by the Commission, as we have been doing since the Commission first articulated its Internet Policy principles in 2005. Yet, the Commission ignored the evidence, and imposed the straight-jacket of utility regulation, subjecting us to the constant threat that the Commission or some other party may bring an enforcement action based on the “unknown and unknowable” general conduct standard.

There is truth in their arguments. But there’s also a generous helping of disingenuousness. For example, several of the ISPs are affiliated with muni electric utilities. Being small or governed by a city council does not exempt electric utilities from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission standards or from complying with California Public Utilities Commission safety rules regarding jointly owned utility poles. And they know it.

Munis properly have latitude that privately owned utilities do not enjoy. City councils are rightly reckoned to be at least as good as the CPUC at setting electric rates and protecting consumer interests. But it isn’t a total exemption from oversight. Nor is simply being small. The federal and state rules for small rural telcos are different than those for AT&T and Frontier, but there are rules they must follow nevertheless.

Common carriers and other public utilities are subject to a complicated web of federal, state and local regulation. Dealing with it is just part of the job.

Did John Oliver take down the FCC, again?


After another classic net neutrality rant, John Oliver is getting credit in some quarters for inspiring a flood of online comments that brought the Federal Communications Commission’s website to a grinding halt. 150,000 comments were filed in the first 36 hours after the broadcast, three times the number over the same period three years ago when Oliver issued his first net neutrality call-to-arms.

It didn’t long for the FCC’s comment system to crash, or for the agency to claim it was someone else’s fault

Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos). These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host. These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.

Both random netizens and Washington, DC politicians questioned the FCC’s claim, and asked for some kind of proof.

The truth might lie somewhere in between. It now appears that a botnet was used to file tens of thousands of anti-net neutrality comments – the exact opposite of what Oliver was advocating. According to Gizmodo

Thousands of identical anti-net neutrality comments came flooding in. First noticed on Reddit and later reported by ZDNet and the Verge, more than 58,000 identical comments supporting Pai’s effort to repeal the net neutrality rules have been filed since the proceeding was opened…

Even more concerning, however, is that the names and addresses attached to those comments may not belong to whoever filed them. Both the Verge and ZDNet managed to reach a few of the supposed commenters, and found that they had no knowledge of their alleged comments.

Oliver’s campaign is on temporary hold now. Citing its procedures and rules, the FCC says it won’t formally accept comments until after it meets next week and, presumably, votes to begin the process of undoing its net neutrality decision, which defined broadband as a common carrier service

Don’t force us to subsidize wireless companies, cities ask FCC


The Federal Communication Commission’s move toward preempting local and state review of wireless infrastructure building plans and locations, and, potentially, their ability to control public right-of-ways and real estate they own, has produced a useful primer on the issues involved, as cities and counties see it. A coalition of more than 1,800 communities filed a joint response to a request from Mobilitie, a mobile infrastructure company, that asked the FCC to give it free rein to install tens of thousands of towers, which it tries to pass off as 120-foot steel utility poles, along public roads (h/t to Omar Masry at the City and County of San Francisco for the pointer).

The comments do an admirable job documenting Mobilitie’s deceptive dealings with local government, and focus in on the key issue at stake: whether a select group of private companies should get an automatic right to use public property at little or no cost…

The FCC should reject Mobilitie’s request that it regulate either the regulatory fees associated with applications to place wireless facilities, or the rents it must pay to use public property. A federal policy that allows Mobilitie or other wireless service or facilities providers to obtain permits without paying the full costs of those permit, or to use public property without paying fair market value will encourage inefficient, intrusive deployments, deter innovation and could impose billions of dollars in costs on local communities and their citizens. Any such policy will have marginal benefits, at best. It is unlikely to lead to deployment in areas that are not served today…

As a basic principle, the Commission should be reluctant to adopt any rules that have the effect of requiring states or local governments to subsidize the business plans of these service and facilities providers, or to assume risks that flow from their business plans.

It’s a conclusion that Californian legislators should take to heart as they consider senate bill 649, which would have pretty much the same effect.

The only Californian community that signed on to the filing was the City of Los Angeles which, as the comments note, was the first to trial a particular sort of next generation cell deployments on streetlights – hardly an anti-wireless zealot.

Comments of smart communities siting coalition, on petition by Mobilitie LLC petition for streamlining deployment of small cell infrastructure, 8 March 2017