Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Issues Staff Report on Robocalling Tools, USDA Announces Funding for Georgia Broadband, US Congress Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, US Congress Bills To Close the Digital Divide
FCC Issues Staff Report on Robocalling Tools
The FCC issued its 2020 staff report on the availability and effectiveness of call blocking tools offered to consumers. The report finds that call blocking tools are now substantially available to consumers at no or low cost. The report finds that that billions of unwanted calls are now being blocked each year, often at no cost to the consumer. It also discusses call labeling, another tool that empowers consumers to choose which calls to answer by displaying categories for potentially unwanted or illegal calls such as “spam” or “scam likely” on the caller ID display.
The report notes that commenters indicate there are few instances of false positive blocking (when a potentially wanted call is blocked), and that they are unaware of any instances in which their programs have blocked an emergency call, or a call-back from a Public Safety Access Point to a caller who dialed 911. The report is the latest step in the FCC’s ongoing work to protect American consumers from illegal and unwanted calls, the agency’s top consumer protection priority.
USDA Announces Funding For Georgia Broadband
The USDA announced it is investing more than $12.5 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Georgia. This investment is part of the $100 million in grant funding made available for the ReConnect Pilot Program through the CARES Act. DoveTel Communications, LLC (dba SyncGlobal Telecom) will use a $12.5 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 7,348 people, 121 farms, 15 businesses, four fire stations, and one elementary school to high-speed broadband internet in Heard, Troup, and Carroll counties.
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”
US Congress Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act
U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) along with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-06), and members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force announced the introduction of HR 7302, the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which invests $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities and ensure that the resulting internet service is affordable. The Act would do the following:
Encourage Universal Broadband Access by:
- including $80 billion to deploy broadband infrastructure nationwide;
- allocating $5 billion for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new secured loan program; and
- establishing a new office within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure efficient use of federal money.
- Creating a new dig once provision to ensure better coordination of transportation and broadband infrastructure projects,
Ensure Internet Affordability by:
- requiring an affordable option for internet service plans offered on the newly-built infrastructure;
- providing a $50 monthly discount on plans for low-income consumers; and
- directing the FCC to collect and publicize data on prices charged for broadband service throughout the country.
Promote Internet Adoption by:
- providing over $1 billion to establish grant programs for states to close gaps in broadband adoption, as well as digital inclusion projects for organizations and local communities to implement;
- including $5 billion to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning; and
- authorizing funding for Wi-Fi on school buses so students can stay connected, especially in rural areas where longer bus rides are common.
US Congress Bills To Close the Digital Divide
House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OR) unveiled a comprehensive package of 26 bills that aim to streamline the deployment of broadband infrastructure. These bills would promote new and upgraded infrastructure deployments, incentivize competition and consumer choice, right-size regulations for building infrastructure across industries, and facilitate broadband deployment on federal lands.
Bills to Promote New Infrastructure Deployment
- The Winning the International Race for Economic Leadership and Expanding Service to Support Leadership (WIRELESS Leadership) Act, led by Rep. Latta (R-OH), would streamline permitting processes for wireless providers by preserving State and local zoning authority subject to reasonable limitations, like shot clocks and cost-based fees, to ensure providers receive an answer on their applications in a reasonable amount of time;
- The Barriers and Regulatory Obstacles Avoids Deployment of Broadband Access and Needs Deregulatory Leadership (BROADBAND Leadership) Act, led by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), streamlines permitting processes for telecommunications service providers by preserving State and local zoning authority subject to reasonable limitations, like shot clocks and cost-based fees, to ensure providers receive an answer on their application in a reasonable amount of time;
- The Cable Access for Broadband and Local Economic Leadership (CABLE Leadership) Act, led by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), would place shot clocks on a cable franchising authority to act on a request for a new franchise to speed up deployment;
- The Communities Overregulating Networks Need Economic Competition Today (CONNECT) Act, also led by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), would promote competition by limiting government-run broadband networks throughout the country;
Bills To Incentivize Competition and Consumer Choice by Promoting Collocation and Modifications to Existing Infrastructure
- The Streamlining Permitting to Enable Efficient Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure (SPEED) Act (H.R. 6488), led by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), would reduce federal red tape by exempting broadband facilities from environmental and historic preservation reviews on federal property where a communications facility has already been approved;
- The Wireless Broadband Competition and Efficient Deployment Act, led by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), would remove the requirement to prepare an environmental or historic preservation review for collocations of wireless facilities;
- The Wireless Resiliency and Flexible Investment Act, led by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), would expand eligible facilities requests to include facilities that would improve the resiliency of the communications network and provide a direct benefit to public safety, such as backup power, hardening the tower or structure, or providing more reliable connection capabilities;
- The Consumer Access to Broadband for Local Economies and Competition Act (CABLE Competition Act), led by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), would streamline the transfer of a franchise from a franchise authority to a cable operator;
- The Cable Transparency Act, led by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would clarify and make more transparent the terms for a cable franchise;
- The Protecting Critical Infrastructure Act, led by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), would establish a penalty of a 2-year prison term for anyone who willfully or maliciously destroys a communications facility;
Bills To Remove Unnecessary or Duplicative Barriers from Environmental and Historical Reviews
- The Tribal Interest Maintained for Infrastructure Needing Greater Certainty Act (TIMING Certainty Act), led by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), would provide clarity and certainty for providers to comply with historical regulations and speed up the deployment of wireless infrastructure;
- The Brownfields Broadband Deployment Act, led by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), would ensure the deployment of a broadband project entirely within a brownfields site is a category of activities to be excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental or historic preservation review;
- The Coastal Broadband Deployment Act, led by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), would accelerate the deployment of broadband projects entirely within a floodplain;
- The Timely Replacement Under Secure and Trusted for Early and Dependable Broadband Networks Act (TRUSTED Broadband Networks Act), led by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), would accelerate the replacement of projects subject to reimbursement under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019;
- The Proportional Reviews for Broadband Deployment Act, led by Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), would speed up the deployment of eligible facilities requests, which modify an existing wireless tower or base station that do not substantially change the physical dimensions of the tower or base station that involves the collocation, removal, or replacement of transmission equipment;
- The Wildfire Wireless Resiliency Act, led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), would speed up the deployment of projects to replace or improve communications facilities after a wildfire;
Bills To Allow Broadband Deployment on Federal Lands
- The Standard Fees to Expedite Evaluation and Streamlining Act (Standard FEES Act), led by Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), would establish a common fee for processing applications to deploy communications facilities on Federal property;
- The Broadband Deployment Streamlining Act, led by Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), would streamline the process to place or modify communications facilities on land under the control of the Department of Interior;
- The Enhancing Administrative Reviews for Broadband Deployment Act, led by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), would create a study on barriers within the bureaucracy to reviewing communications use authorization requests to deploy on Federal land;
- The Expediting Federal Broadband Deployment Reviews Act, led by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), would direct NTIA to lead an interagency strike force to help prioritize reviews for communications use authorization requests to deploy on Federal land;
- The Federal Broadband Deployment in Unserved Areas Act, led by Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), would allow the Department of Interior to view FCC broadband mapping data to show Federal real property that can support communications facilities in unserved areas;
- The Deploying Infrastructure with Greater Internet Transactions And Legacy Applications (DIGITAL Applications) Act, led by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), would establish an online portal to accept, process, and dispose of the common form application to deploy a communications facility on Federal real property;
- The Facilitating the Deployment of Infrastructure with Greater Internet Transactions And Legacy Applications (Facilitating DIGITAL Applications) Act, led by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), would require the NTIA to update Congress on whether the Departments of Interior and Agriculture have established an online portal for the acceptance, processing, and disposal of the common form application to deploy a communications facility on Federal real property;
- The Federal Broadband Deployment Tracking Act, led by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), would require NTIA to submit a plan to Congress on tracking the acceptance, processing, and disposal of requests for communications use authorizations on Federal real property;
- The Connecting Communities Post Disasters Act, led by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), would accelerate replacing and improving communications facilities in Presidentially-declared disaster areas;
- The Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act of 2019, led by Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), would allow Federal departments to delegate Federal environmental compliance for broadband projects to States and Indian Tribes.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.