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.
The Broadband Adoption Act of 2015 was introduced in both Houses of Congress. The bill would reform the federal Lifeline program to support broadband services and enable program participants to choose how they would like to use their Lifeline support: for broadband, mobile, basic telephone services, or a bundle of these services. The bill is technology neutral to promote competition from broadband service providers under the program. Eligible households would have to meet federal low-income guidelines or qualify for one of a handful of social service programs including, but not limited to: SNAP, Head Start, WIC, National School Lunch Program, Tribal TANF, or Medicaid.
According to the bill summary released by the authors, the bill would:
- Direct the FCC to establish a broadband Lifeline Assistance program that provides low-income Americans living in rural and urban areas with assistance in subscribing to affordable broadband service;
- Require the FCC, in calculating the amount of support, to routinely study the prevailing market price for service and the prevailing speed adopted by consumers of broadband service;
- Allow eligible consumers to choose how they would like their Lifeline support (for broadband, mobile, basic telephone services, or a bundle of these services) and clarify that eligible households will qualify for only one lifeline support amount for one of those functions, not for multiple purposes;
- Require the FCC to establish a national database to determine consumer eligibility for Lifeline and to prevent duplication; and
- Encourage the FCC to consider providing a preference to participating broadband service providers that include components involving digital literacy programs as part of their offerings.
In response to the recent GAO report on Lifeline See the Regulatory Mix dated 4/27/15 , the bill would also: (1) require the FCC to perform annual performance reports of the Lifeline broadband program and (2) require the GAO to conduct another analysis of the Lifeline program one year after the date of enactment of the bill.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J). In the House, the bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06), Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, Michael Doyle (PA-14), Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Peter Welch (VT-At Large). In the Senate, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
The introduction of the Act comes just days after the FCC Chairman Wheeler announced his own proposals to reform the program, which are on the tentative agenda for the FCC’s June 18, Open Meeting. See the Regulatory Mix dated 5/19/15 and 6/1/15.
In a Blog posting, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau announced it has updated the charts and tables in the 17th Mobile Wireless Competition Report released in 2014. Among other things, the updated information shows:
- Total wireless connections increased by 23.5 million from 2013 to 2014, with 14.7 million connections added between the 2nd and 4th quarter of 2014;
- The post-paid market continues to show noteworthy growth with 3.9 million connections added in the 4th quarter 2014; and
- Quarterly net adds for connected devices almost doubled between the 4th quarter 2013 and 4th quarter 2014.
The Bureau also released a Public Notice seeking input for the 18th Mobile Wireless Competition Report. Comments are due June 29, 2015; reply comments are due July 14, 2015. The Notice seeks comment and information on competitive dynamics within the mobile wireless marketplace, including the number of subscribers and financial indicators such as revenue or profitability. It also seeks comment and information on: (1) overall industry metrics such as coverage, including by spectrum band, technology, geography, and demographics; (2) consumer behavior with respect to mobile wireless services, including consumer usage, handsets, mobile applications, and intermodal developments such as mobile-wireline substitution; (3) pricing levels and trends and other non-price factors on which service providers compete; and (4) performance metrics for mobile broadband networks, such as speed and latency, including the methodologies used for assessment. As it did in the 2014 Report, the Bureau expects to analyze competition across the entire mobile wireless ecosystem, including key input market segments such as spectrum and infrastructure, and downstream segments such as mobile applications. It invites commenters to address the sources of data utilized and the analysis of metrics and information relating to the various aspects of the mobile wireless ecosystem.