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.
District of Columbia
The PSC will hold an evidentiary hearing on November 5 and 6, 2014, in its investigation of Verizon’s use of its copper infrastructure for the provision of telecommunications services and whether, and under what circumstances, Verizon plans to transition customers from the telecommunications services provided over copper facilities to telecommunications services provided over fiber facilities. In its Order, the PSC said it “applauds the introduction of new technologies for telecommunications in both the regulated market and in the competitive unregulated market. We also recognize that as this transition is made from copper-based facilities to fiber-based facilities, we have an obligation to make certain that the core values of the copper-based technology era, public safety, universal service, competition and consumer protection, endure.” Comments on the questions posed by the PSC are due by July 14, 2014. Reply comments are due by July 21, 2014. TMI Regulatory Bulletin Service subscribers see Bulletin dated July 10, 2014.
At its July 11, 2014, Open Meeting, the FCC adopted an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will significantly expand funding for Wi-Fi networks and distribute it fairly to all schools and libraries. The Order maintains E-rate’s current budget of $2.4 billion (adjusted by inflation) and makes available an additional $2 billion to support Wi-Fi over the next two years through improved financial management practices that free up excess reserves. For the following three years, the program will target $1 billion annually to Wi-Fi by employing increased efficiencies and by phasing out support for non-broadband services, such as pagers and phones. In total, the program improvements will target an additional $5 billion for Wi-Fi over the next five years. According to the FCC, this effort will potentially provide a 75% increase in Wi-Fi funding for rural schools over the next five years and a 60% increase for urban schools, delivering Wi-Fi to an additional 10 million students in 2015 alone. The Further Notice seeks comment on a series of additional issues, including the appropriate long-term funding necessary to meet the goals established in the Order.
USF Strike Force
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the creation of a Universal Service Fund (USF) Strike Force, to be housed in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and led by Loyaan Egal. Mr. Egal joins the FCC after serving as a senior Assistant United States Attorney in the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The Strike Force will focus on safeguarding the USF and the other funding programs the FCC oversees. Specifically, it will investigate violations of the Communications Act, the FCC’s rules, and other laws bearing on USF programs and contributions. In addition to leading the FCC’s enforcement activities in these areas, the Strike Force will coordinate with the FCC’s Office of Inspector General , the U.S. Department of Justice, and other law enforcement agencies to prosecute unlawful conduct. USF contributions support four separate universal service programs: (1) Lifeline; (2) E-rate; (3) the Connect America Fund / High-Cost Program; and (4) Rural Health Care.
Workshop on Accessibility and Social Media
The FCC announced it will hold a public event “Accessing Social Media,” #AccSocMedia on Thursday, July 17, 2014, from 9 am to 4 pm. The event is intended to facilitate a collaborative, cross-sector exchange of information about making social media tools and content accessible to people with disabilities, including information about authoring tools, client apps, and best practices. The event will include panels of industry, consumer, and government representatives and feature technology demonstrations in an exhibit area on the same floor. The meeting will be webcast with open captioning at www.fcc.gov/live.