The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of 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 a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has released a statement on “Broadband’s Impact On Schools And Libraries In South Dakota.” He said that “the E-Rate program just isn’t meeting the needs of rural America. E-Rate’s funding formula favors larger, urban school districts that can afford to hire consultants to navigate the administrative process and draw every dollar E-Rate makes available to them. In contrast, E-Rate offers smaller, rural schools and libraries less funding, even when broadband costs more for them and they don’t have the resources to hire outside help. A sad refrain I’ve heard over and over is that applying for E-Rate funding just isn’t worth the effort. That’s a digital divide we shouldn’t tolerate. The FCC needs to reform E-Rate to make it more user-friendly and target the needs of students and library patrons. We cannot expect those who teach our children and serve our communities to master arcane rules that few lawyers or accountants can understand. They deserve better.”
In a speech before the Progressive Policy Institute, FCC Chief of Staff Ruth Milkman discussed whether ISPs should be subject to interconnection obligations of the kind imposed on owners of public switched telephone networks. After discussing various disputes that have recently arisen between ISPs she noted that one question that needs to be resolved is: “Are such disputes, in fact, business negotiations that can be resolved adequately in the marketplace? Or are they an advance warning sign of a breakdown of the functioning marketplace of interconnection and traffic exchange on the Internet? We don’t know the answer. But we do know that we need to learn more about how the marketplace is, or is not, functioning.”
To “learn more,” she said the FCC would be “reviewing information about interconnection on the Internet in a number of contexts.” This includes the recently adopted Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on new net neutrality rules See our blog “FCC Announces Next Moves on Net Neutrality,“ dated 2/19/14. Milkman noted that while the issue of how networks exchange Internet traffic, such as through peering, is outside of the proposed scope of the Rulemaking, “some parties have sought to expand the scope of the 2014 proceeding to include issues relating to Internet backbone providers, including issues of traffic exchange, peering, transit, and CDNs. We are seeking comment on this question, in order to hear from those who may disagree with this suggested treatment of peering/traffic exchange. We will learn from those comments. Second, we expect that parties will continue to raise concerns and provide information to the Commission about ISP interconnection practices. These avenues, and no doubt others, will serve the Commission’s and the public’s interest in gaining a better understanding of traffic exchange on the Internet today.”