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 Briefing.
The following items were adopted at the FCC’s January 28, 2016, Open Meeting:
Broadband Progress Report
The FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report concludes that while there has been significant progress in broadband deployment, broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. According to the Public Notice, the report found that:
- 34 million Americans still lack access to broadband meeting the benchmark speeds of 25 Mpbs for downloads/3 Mbps for uploads (although deployment improved significantly from last year’s report, which found 55 million (17%) without access to 25/3 Mbps service);
- there is a persistent digital divide which has left approximately 40% of the people living in rural areas and on Tribal Lands without access to service at the FCC’s speed benchmark (by contrast, only 4 percent of urban Americans lack access to 25/3 Mbps broadband);
- while connectivity for schools has greatly improved, 41% of schools have not yet met the FCC’s short-term goals for connectivity capable of supporting digital learning applications.
The report also determines that today’s communications landscape requires access to both fixed and mobile broadband services, which offer both distinct and complementary functions. However, because the FCC has not yet established a mobile speed benchmark, deployment of mobility is not reflected in the current assessment. For the first time, the report also includes data for satellite broadband services. The report concludes that no satellite broadband service met the 25/3 Mbps speed benchmark during the reporting period.
Cable Public File Requirements
The FCC adopted rules to require cable operators, satellite television (DBS) providers, and broadcast radio and satellite radio licensees to post their public and political files to the FCC’s online public inspection file database. The Order extends the online public file requirement adopted for broadcast television licensees in 2012 to these additional entities and include a number of measures to minimize the effort and cost associated with moving the public files online. Among other things, the rules:
- Only require uploading of documents not already on file with or maintained by the FCC;
- Require that political file documents be uploaded only on a going-forward basis;
- Exempt cable systems with fewer than 1,000 subscribers from all online file requirements;
- Delay for two years the requirement to upload new political file material to the online file for cable systems with between 1,000 and 5,000 subscribers; and
- With respect to radio broadcasters, impose the online file requirement initially only on commercial stations in the top 50 Nielsen Audio markets with 5 or more full-time employees while delaying for two years all mandatory online public file requirements for other radio stations.
Emergency Alert System
The FCC proposed rules to strengthen the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the national public warning system through which broadcasters, cable television providers, and other participants deliver emergency information, such as weather alerts, to Americans. The rules include proposals to:
- Encourage more strategic engagement in EAS at the state and local levels ;
- Authorize state and local alert originators and EAS participants to conduct periodic “live” EAS tests;
- Allow federal, state, and local governments to issue public service announcements using the EAS Attention Signal (i.e., sound) under certain circumstances.
The Notice also seeks comment on other issues including:
- Measures to enhance EAS security;
- Whether technological advancements have improved the ability of cable providers to offer more specific and informative alert content and, if so, whether the FCC should retain certain related rule provisions; and
- Assessing and meeting public expectations for receiving alerts as content is viewed across different technology platforms.
The PUC signed an order that extends the Right-of-Way (ROW) rules to Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) carriers. The PUC said that providing CMRS providers with nondiscriminatory access to public utility infrastructure will “facilitate investment in wireless infrastructure, encourage widespread deployment of broadband wireless services, foster the provision of wireless service in previously unserved areas, and improve access to 911.” Amendments were made to General Order 95 to ensure that CMRS pole installations are safe. The signed Decision has not yet been posted by the PUC (D.16-01-046 in R.14-05-001).