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Posted by Amy Gross on 3/25/20 2:43 PM

Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Announces March Open Meeting by Teleconference Due to COVID-19,  US House Energy and Commerce Leader Calls on Providers to Offer More Data for Mobile Hotspots During COVID-19, US Senate Keeping Critical Connections Act 

 

FCC meeting room-1-1FCC Announces March Open Meeting By Teleconference Due to COVID-19 

The FCC announced that, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and related agency telework and headquarters access policies, its March 31, 2020, Open Meeting will be in a wholly electronic format and will be open to the public on the Internet via live feed from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live and on the FCC’s YouTube channel. Because of these special circumstances, the items on the agenda (see below) are expected to be voted on circulation prior to the meeting. 

  • Mandating STIR/SHAKEN to Combat Spoofed Robocalls – A Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would (1) adopt rules requiring originating and terminating voice service providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication framework in the Internet Protocol portions of their networks; and (2) propose additional measures to combat illegal spoofing, including measures to implement portions of the TRACED Act.  
  • Detariffing Telephone Access Charges and Simplifying Consumer Bills – A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would propose to (1) eliminate ex ante pricing regulation and require detariffing of various end-user charges associated with interstate access service, and (2) prohibit carriers from separately listing these charges (specifically, the Subscriber Line Charge, Access Recovery Charge, Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier Charge, Line Port Charge, and Special Access Surcharge) on customers’ telephone bills. 
  • Defining Significantly Viewed Local TV Stations – A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would seek comment on whether to update the methodology for determining whether a television broadcast station is “significantly viewed” in a community outside of its local market.  
  • Revising Program Carriage Rules and Part 76 Review Procedures – A Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would seek comment on whether to modify the Commission’s rules governing the resolution of program carriage disputes between video programming vendors and multichannel video programming distributors.  
  • Amending Distributed Transmission System Rules to Facilitate Next Generation TV –A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would seek comment on whether to modify the Commission’s rules governing the use of distributed transmission systems by broadcast television stations.  

 

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US House Energy and Commerce Leader Calls on Providers to Offer More Data for Mobile Hotspots During COVID-19 

House Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) issued a statement applauding wireless service providers for waiving wireless voice and data overage fees and encouraging all providers to temporarily make as much data available as possible, as quick as possible, to existing devices so families can access mobile broadband at home immediately during this crisis period.  "During this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are wisely staying at home as much as possible. However, more than 21 million Americans do not have access to standard broadband services, and others are facing fees and data limits as they rely more on their at-home technologies for work, learning, healthcare and entertainment,” Walden said. “I am pleased to see the adjustments wireless providers have already done on a voluntary basis, such as expanding Lifeline low-income access, making new network investments, and sharing of spectrum. This is an unprecedented time, and wireless providers have already stepped up to the plate in a big way.”  

“But more can be done. Increasing data caps for hotspots is the fastest way to connect Americans temporarily who do not have Wi-Fi at home. However, while this temporary action can fill the gap during this crisis, it could cause network congestion in the long-term if everyone were to rely on this access. We must not lose sight of the bigger problem: the need to deploy broadband in the long-term. The broadband divide has never come more clearly into focus than now where states, including Oregon, are saying online school work won’t count in part because not all students have access to broadband. Whether it’s our kids keeping up with school in the virtual classroom or workers staying on track remotely, we all know there’s more work ahead, and this action will have immediate impact. We’re in it together; let’s get this done." 

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Dome and flag US CapUS Senate Keeping Critical Connections Act 

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), along with Tina Smith (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Doug Jones (D-AL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Barrasso (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Todd Young (R-IN), and Gary Peters (D-MI) announced that they introduced the Keeping Critical Connections Act to help small broadband providers ensure rural broadband connectivity for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.  

The Act would appropriate $2 billion for a Keeping Critical Connections fund at the FCC under which small broadband providers with fewer than 250,000 customers could be compensated for broadband services if they: (1) provided free or discounted broadband services or upgrades to meet certain capacity and speed needs due specifically to the presence of a student in the household of the customer who needs distance learning capability; or (2) refrain from disconnecting broadband service provided to an existing customer due to nonpayment or underpayment if the customer: (i) has a household income, at the time of the nonpayment or underpayment, that does not exceed 135 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines; (ii) is unable to make a full payment due specifically to the economic impact of the COVID-19 national emergency; and (iii) provides sufficient documentation to the provider to show that the customer meets the first two criteria.  Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) and Roger Marshall (R-KS-01) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

“Access to high speed internet is critical for students and their families during the coronavirus outbreak,” Klobuchar said. “The Keeping Critical Connections Act would help small broadband providers continue offering free or discounted broadband services to families and students in rural areas to ensure they remain connected to school, work, and their communities during this period of economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic.” 

“The federal government asked this essential industry to keep providing assistance to people during COVID—19, and they answered the call,” Cramer said. “The least we can do is make sure they are made whole when this pandemic is over.” 

“Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century. It isn’t just nice to have, it’s necessary—especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” Smith said. “Students who are finishing up their school year at home need to be able to connect to online classes. Employees who are working from home are counting on broadband to help them do their jobs. And folks are relying on the internet to help them access care through telehealth, which is also made possible by amazing health care workers. I’m glad to work in a bipartisan way to help Minnesotans stay connected during this time.” 

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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.

 

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Topics: US House Energy and Commerce Committee, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Keeping Critical Connections Act, FCC March 2020 Open Meeting, Mobile Hotspots

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