FCC’s Starks on Network Security
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks released a Report on the results of an FCC workshop held in June 2019 regarding the security threats that stem from the presence of certain Chinese communications equipment in US networks. The workshop contained three panels: Find It, Fix It, and Fund it. According to Starks, a “major takeaway from the workshop is that our networks must only contain equipment from trusted sources. When evaluating the security of a piece of communications networking equipment we should not ask “do I trust this piece of equipment” but instead, “do I trust the manufacturer?” Because networking equipment today relies so heavily on software from its manufacturer, no equipment from an untrustworthy manufacturer should be used. Even if the equipment appears secure at first, if a manufacturer must comply with the Chinese national security law by providing “front door” access to the Chinese government via upgrades and patches, then no amount of mitigation will fully address the problem.”
Among other things, the report describes the nature of the threat posed by China and Chinese-manufactured communications equipment, and provides a summary and analysis of the discussion that took place in each of the workshop panels. The report concludes that while emerging 5G technology holds great promise it also highlights network vulnerabilities that must be addressed if those benefits are to be fully realized. Starks said: “[t]hanks to participation of a wide variety of industry experts, this workshop helped to define the nature of threats to our communications networks posed by China and Chinese-manufactured communications equipment. They also point the way forward: finding and replacing untrustworthy equipment is a national problem that requires a national solution. I look forward to working with these stakeholders, leaders in government, and the communications industry as whole toward a comprehensive solution.”
The Regulatory Mix Today: FCC’s Starks on Network Security FCC Task Force on Precision Agriculture, New NARUC President to Pursue Broadband Agenda
FCC Task Force on Precision Agriculture
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the appointment of members to serve on the Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States (Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force or Task Force). The Task Force will hold its first meeting on Monday, December 9, 2019, at FCC headquarters. Chairman Pai has designated Teddy Bekele, Land O’Lakes Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, to serve as Chair of the Task Force, and Catherine Moyer, Pioneer Communications Chief Executive Officer and General Manager. to serve as Vice Chair. A full list of Task Force members is attached to the announcement.
In addition, the FCC announced four working groups that will assist the Task Force in carrying out its work: (1) Mapping and Analyzing Connectivity on Agricultural Lands; (2) Examining Current and Future Connectivity Demand for Precision Agriculture; (3) Encouraging Adoption of Precision Agriculture and Availability of High-Quality Jobs on Connected Farms; (4) Accelerating Broadband Deployment on Unserved Agricultural Lands. Nominations for membership on these four working groups should be submitted to the FCC no later than December 3, 2019. Nominees for membership on the Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force need not reapply; the FCC will consider these existing nominees for membership on each of the four working groups. However, existing nominees may email PrecisionAgTF@fcc.gov to request consideration for a specific working group or, conversely, to request not to be considered for a specific working group. The Public Notice provides specific information about the focus of each of the working groups.
New NARUC President to Pursue Broadband Agenda
The newly elected President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), Mississippi Public Service Commission Chair Brandon Presley, announced a yearlong theme: Bridging the Divide. The program is aimed at ensuring that all undeserved communities—including rural areas such as those in many parts of Mississippi—benefit from modern utility services. He also noted a goal of identifying and closing other gaps (resources, training, technology, etc.) that impede regulators and industry alike from best representing the public interest. He also announced his plan to assemble a taskforce looking at rural broadband service across the nation.
In his installation remarks, Presley said that “many challenges exist for the least, the last and the left out” and he expressed a dislike for the term ‘ratepayer.’ “They’re a customer—a person. We’ve got to keep that in the forefront of our minds.” Further elaborating on his theme, he observed the “growing gulf between connectivity in urban areas and suburban areas and rural areas in this country to what is the electricity of the 21st century: high-speed Internet service. I hope in the next year, we can be progressive, we can be alert and on the lookout for opportunities to make real, impacting decisions and policies that translate back to the people. He pointed out the important end-users of utility services who should not be overlooked, such as the family farmers, small business owners, industries and working families who rely on decisions made by regulators. “There’s no greater satisfaction in life than knowing that you left something better than you found it,” he concluded.
The election was part of NARUC’s 131st Annual Meeting and Education Conference in San Antonio, Texas, November 17-20. NARUC is a national advocacy and education association that represents the interests of utility regulators in U.S. states and territories.
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.