Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) announced that the Communications and Technology Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing on restoring net neutrality protections on Tuesday, March 12, at 10:00 am in room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will be entitled, “Legislating to Safeguard the Free and Open Internet.” Pallone and Doyle joined other House and Senate Democratic leaders at a press conference unveiling the Save the Internet Act.
The Regulatory Mix Today: House Hearings on Net Neutrality, FCC Commissioners React to Net Neutrality Legislation, FCC Commissioner O'Rielly on Use of E-Rate Funds to Overbuild
FCC Commissioners React to Net Neutrality Legislation
Reacting to yesterday’s announcement of new Net Neutrality legislation, See the Regulatory Mix dated 3/6/19, a spokesman for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement saying: “The FCC’s return in 2017 to the bipartisan, light-touch approach to Internet regulation has been a success. This time-tested framework has preserved the free and open Internet. It has promoted transparency in order to better inform consumer choice. It has unleashed private investment, resulting in more fiber being deployed in 2018 than any year before and download speeds increasing by an astounding 36%. And it has proven wrong the many hysterical predictions of doom from 2017, most notably the fantasy that market-based regulation would bring about ‘the end of the Internet as we know it.’ The Internet in America today is free and vibrant, and the main thing it needs to be saved from is heavy-handed regulation from the 1930s.”
On the other hand, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel issued a statement saying “The FCC was on the wrong side of the law, the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of the American public when it rolled back net neutrality. The FCC’s deeply unpopular decision is being challenged in the courts, in statehouses, and in Congress. I applaud the effort announced today to reinstate open internet rules at the FCC. I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I’m glad so many others are too.”
Commissioner Geoffrey Starks issued a statement saying: “The American people have demanded a free and open internet and I am pleased that Congress has responded with today’s legislation. I continue to believe that the FCC’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules were the right approach and the bill introduced today takes us back in that direction—a direction that will empower the FCC to keep the internet open as a gateway to opportunity for students, job seekers, consumers, creators, and businesses. They and everyone need, deserve, and expect unfettered access to the internet. Last year, the Senate passed a similar measure, to restore the FCC’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules, on a bipartisan basis. I am hopeful that the bill introduced today will energize folks across the country that care about Net Neutrality and lead to restoration of the common-sense protections needed to keep the Internet open.”
FCC Commissioner O’Rielly on Use of E-Rate Funds to Overbuild
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has written to USAC CEO Sekar outlining his concerns about the use of federal USF money to overbuild existing networks that were themselves built with USF money. In this case, O’Rielly is concerned specifically with the use of E-rate program money to overbuild USF-supported providers’ fiber networks in certain Texas school districts. O’Rielly is asking for a response to certain questions by April 1, 2019. Among the questions are the following:
- Does USAC understand the E-Rate rules to permit funding for special construction projects, whether self-provisioned networks or networks owned by a commercial provider, that would duplicate, in whole or in part, fiber networks that have been built using federal funds?
- Does USAC understand the E-Rate rules to permit a consortium to receive funding for the construction of a WAN to provide Internet access to the entire consortium, even where existing fiber-based providers are already capable of serving individual consortium members?
- Since the 2014 E-Rate Orders, how many applicants have requested E-Rate funding for special construction of consortium-wide WANs, and how much funding was requested by these applicants? How many requests for consortium-wide WAN projects have received funding commitments, and what is the total amount of funding committed for such requests? How many consortium-wide WAN projects have been denied on cost-effectiveness grounds?
- To the extent that USAC has approved funding requests for the construction of consortium-wide WANS that partially or fully overbuild existing fiber providers, and considers such projects, whether self-provisioned or owned by a commercial provider, to be eligible for funding under current E-Rate rules, has USAC alerted the FCC of the overbuilding risk created by such projects? Has USAC alerted the FCC of an apparent gap in current program rules that permits USAC approval of such projects?
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.