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Modernizing and Streamlining the Universal Service Fund

Posted February 7th, 2011 by Haley Van Dÿck - FCC New Media

This morning, Chairman Genachowski laid out a proposal to get broadband to rural America while cutting waste and inefficiency in two of the Commission’s largest programs.

Universal service has been core to the FCC’s mission since the Communications Act of 1934 created the agency and committed our nation to making vital communications services accessible to all.  The Universal Service Fund helped connect virtually every American to our 20th century communications grid.  But this program, along with Commission’s closely related Intercarrier Compensation rules, have become riddled with waste and inefficiency and are not up to our nation’s broadband challenge. Today, up to 24 million Americans have no access to broadband—fixed or mobile.
At tomorrow’s meeting, the Commission will vote on the proposal to transform the Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation rules from programs designed to support 20th Century voice networks to a force for expansion of 21st century fixed and mobile broadband and voice networks, while eliminating waste and inefficiency.

Posted in Open Meetings Office Of Chairman
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New Rules for an Open Internet

Posted December 21st, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Julius GenachowskiAlmost everyone seems to agree that the openness of the Internet is essential -- it has unleashed an enormous wave of innovation, economic growth, job creation, small business generation, and vibrant free expression.

But for too long, the freedom and openness of the Internet has been unprotected. No rules on the books to protect basic Internet values. No process for monitoring Internet openness as technology and business models evolve.

No recourse for innovators, consumers, or speakers harmed by improper practices. And no predictability for Internet service providers, so that they can effectively manage and invest in broadband networks.

Earlier today, that all changed.

As a result of a vote, which was just taken by the FCC, we have -- for the first time -- enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness.

The rules we have adopted are straightforward, and they enshrine a set of key principles.

First, consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed. We have adopted a transparency rule that will give consumers and innovators the clear and simple information they need to make informed choices in choosing networks or designing the next killer app.

Second, consumers and innovators have a right to send and receive lawful traffic -- to go where they want, say what they want, experiment with ideas -- commercial and social, and use the devices of their choice. Our new rules thus prohibit the blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of devices to the network.

Third, consumers and innovators have a right to a level playing field. No central authority, public or private, should have the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet; that’s the role of the commercial market and the marketplace of ideas.

That is why we adopted a ban on unreasonable discrimination. And we are making clear that so-called “pay for priority” arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others are unlikely to be allowed.

The rules also recognize that broadband providers need meaningful flexibility to manage their networks to deal with congestion, security, and other issues. And we recognize the importance and value of business-model experimentation, such as tiered pricing.

These rules fulfill many promises, including a promise to the future – a promise to the companies that don’t yet exist, and the entrepreneurs who haven’t yet started work in their dorm rooms or garages.

Today, the FCC did the right thing for the future of Internet freedom, and I look forward to building on today’s roles as the FCC continues its work to promote innovation, investment, and job creation, and to improve the lives of the American people through communications technology.

Posted in From The Chairman Open Meetings

October's Open Commission Meeting: Empowering Consumers

Posted October 14th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

New technology is an exciting thing, and what's happening in the mobile space is simply incredible. With any new technology, consumers need to be empowered to address concerns quickly and with simple solutions.

During the October Open Commission Meeting we took bold moves on our consumer empowerment agenda. Following the meeting I recorded a video that outlines how the FCC is taking on important consumer issues -- like bill shock -- to empower and educate Americans.

Watch the video to learn more, then leave your comments below.

Posted in From The Chairman Open Meetings Consumers

Bill Shock: Starting to Set the Rules

Posted October 14th, 2010 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

At today’s FCC open meeting, the Chairman and the four other commissioners unanimously voted to propose rules to prevent Bill Shock. These proposed rules would require mobile carriers to send their customers a voice or text message when they are approaching their limit for a text, voice, or data plan, and when they are starting to incur roaming fees. The Commission notes that there are already similar rules in the European Union, where these alerts appear to be helping consumers without putting an undue burden on wireless companies. You can read the proposed rules and the commissioners’ and Chairman’s statements here.

We in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which prepared these proposed rules, are happy to have the full support of the Commission as we go forward. What happens next is a period of comment to allow all interested parties – including the industry, consumer groups, and the public at large – to weigh in on our proposals. That’s where you come in. You can go to our Consumer Help Center, at fcc.gov/consumers, and use the “File a Comment With the FCC” button to make your views known. If Bill Shock has happened to you, you can “File a Consumer Complaint” from the same website. You can also share your stories with us posting a comment to this blog, or sending me an e-mail at joel.gurin@fcc.gov.

In voting to propose these rules, the commissioners stressed the importance of a full record in determining the best way to prevent bill shock. The record on Bill Shock is growing all the time. Just yesterday, we learned about a new Consumer Reports online survey that found one-fifth of the respondents had experienced unexpected charges on their wireless bills. We need to hear from experts and the public alike to understand this problem and make sure consumers have the best tools to solve it. Please let us know about your views and your experiences. We look forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Open Meetings Consumers

Reflections from the Chairman on the May Commission Meeting

Posted May 21st, 2010 by George Krebs

Chairman Genachowski provides his thoughts on yesterday’s Open Commission Meeting in the below video blog.


Posted in From The Chairman Open Meetings
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Helping Haiti: Second Update

Posted January 20th, 2010 by Mindel DeLaTorre - Chief of the International Bureau

The conditions in Haiti remain urgent.  USAID – the lead agency for U.S. relief efforts in Haiti – gives a daily update of developments in Haiti on its website, including the difficulty in meeting the critical needs of the people devastated by the earthquake. 

While life-saving needs such as water, food, and medical attention are the highest priorities, getting those supplies and services to the Haitians in need is made much more difficult without a working communications infrastructure.  Communications is the invisible enabler of these services, and of course, it is essential for connecting people in Haiti and outside to know how their loved ones are doing.   

I’m happy to report that there’s been a lot of progress in the U.S. Government’s efforts regarding communications issues in Haiti since my blogpost on Friday, January 15.  We at the FCC continue to share our expertise in domestic and international communications and disaster recovery with USAID and our other federal partners, including the National Communications System.  We are also working closely with the communications industry.

I’m also pleased to report that this past weekend, we were able to communicate with Mr. Montàigne Marcelin, the Director General of Conatel, the FCC’s counterpart in Haiti.  In a statement issued this Sunday, January 17, Chairman Genachowski said that “[T]he FCC was pleased to hear from our counterpart in Haiti, Mr. Montàigne Marcelin, the Director General of Conatel, for the first time since our initial outreach [to him] soon after the earthquake. Though he survived, two of his staff did not, several are injured, and the agency's buildings are destroyed. We stand ready to assist Mr. Marcelin and his agency in any way that we can.”  We have continued to be in regular communication with Mr. Marcelin, and one of our people on the ground in Haiti met with him yesterday.  This direct link between our two regulatory agencies – the FCC and Conatel – has proven invaluable in our assistance to Haiti.

Today, I along with Rear Admiral (ret.) James Barnett, Jr., Chief of the Public Safety Homeland Security Bureau, briefed the Chairman and the Commissioners during the FCC’s monthly open meeting on the communications situation in Haiti and our ongoing efforts to support the U.S. Government’s Haiti relief efforts.  As part our report, we noted that the FCC:  (1) deployed staff to Haiti to support FEMA’s Mobile Emergency Management System and the implementation of the FCC’s Project Roll Call; (2) assigned staff to work directly with USAID, U.S. Southern Command, and CITEL with regard to communications issues in Haiti, and (3) in response to a request from Conatel’s Director General, is developing a proposal for an FCC-USG team to deploy to Haiti to assess communications needs, priorities and possible solutions. 

Here’s a snapshot of the communications situations at this time:

•    Mobile service in Port-au-Prince is functioning but there are still problems with call completion due to a high number of calls and because both mobile operators lost a large numbers of cell sites.  Mobile service in the rest of Haiti, however, continues to function, but is compromised by the lack of fuel.
•    Wireline service has yet to be restored in the capital.  Teleco, the wireline incumbent, lost the cable landing facility with the Bahamas which provides its primary international connectivity.
•    Reliance on satellite services is high among NGOs, relief workers and first responder entities supporting the Haitian government.
•    The largest ISP is operating at 85% capacity, with 8 of its 60 towers down, while its international connections are reported to be at 100%.
•    Radio and television services in Port-au-Prince are very limited – two of 18 TV stations are online, and evidence from the FCC’s Roll Call efforts indicates that about 30 of 40 FM stations are running.
•    The 2 public safety answering points in Port-au-Prince are no longer functioning, and, in essence, there is no “911” service there.
•    Through the efforts of many in the U.S. Government, including the FCC, a shipment is on its way to Haiti that includes telecommunications equipment needed to restore and improve cellular service in the country. 

As before, we will continue to provide updates on the status of communications in Haiti and what we’re doing to help.

Please check back here for updates.

Posted in International Bureau Open Meetings
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Today's Open Meeting

Posted January 20th, 2010 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media

At 10:30 AM EST, tune in to watch today's Open Commission Meeting at FCC.gov/live.  You can find background documents from the meeting at FCC.gov/OpenMeetings and it will be live-blogged at Blogband

Posted in Events Open Meetings Office Of Managing Director
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