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 Senate Commerce Committee approved the MOBILE NOW Act (S. 2555) to boost the development of next-generation 5G wireless broadband by ensuring more spectrum is made available for commercial use and reducing the red tape for building wireless networks. Co-sponsors John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) provided the following statements: “The committee’s advancement of the MOBILE NOW Act was truly a bipartisan effort,” Thune said. “Enactment of this legislation will pave the way to a 5G future where Americans have access to ultra-fast, next generation wireless technology.” “It is hard to imagine our lives today without our mobile phones,” Nelson said. “And our reliance on these devices will only grow. This bill will help consumers get better coverage, faster service, and more access to innovative new technologies.” The bill and approved amendments are available here.
Broadband Privacy and CPNI Rules
In a speech before the FCBA / ABA 11th Annual Privacy and Data Security Symposium, Wireline Competition Bureau Chief Matthew DelNero spoke about FCC staff’s work towards developing a notice of proposed rulemaking that would set forth proposals and seek comment on rules to protect the privacy interests of broadband subscribers. He emphasized that staff is focused on the privacy practices of broadband providers regarding the data they obtain by virtue of providing broadband service, not other activities. He said: “Everyone we’ve spoken with seems to agree that the privacy protections for customers of broadband services should include certain basic principles. We at the staff level are keeping these principles front and center as we develop proposals and areas of possible comment for the Commission’s consideration.” The three principles are: (1) transparency, “ the notion that customers of broadband access services should receive clear, conspicuous, and understandable information about providers’ privacy practices;” (2) choice, with the goal of ensuring consumers “have the tools they need to make choices about the use and sharing of that information, with a recognition that what those tools should be are dependent in part on context;” and (3) data security, because “[b]roadband subscribers expect that their broadband providers will protect their data with reasonable measures to safeguard customer information from unauthorized use, disclosure, or access. And when that information is breached, customers have a right to know.” DelNero said that there are “many paths to choose from in deciding how best to apply these principles in practice… one of our goals at the staff level is to present the Commission, for its consideration, with an item that sets a pathway to final rules – seeking comments and encouraging parties to propose their own ways of achieving an effective privacy framework for broadband providers.”
In a blog posting, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly discussed why a hard budget is needed for the federal Lifeline program, saying “[f]ailing a major change in direction, the FCC is preparing to massively expand the size and scope of the Lifeline Program without the necessary inclusion of a hard budget or financial constraints. Such irresponsible action will balloon a program plagued by waste, fraud, and abuse and result in higher phone bills for every American – including those already struggling in the current economy. In sum, it’s a recipe for disaster, and I can’t and won’t be part of it.” He said the connecting all households eligible for the program would make the program cost more than $5 billion and make it more costly than the high cost program. Expressing concern about the impact of this expansion on the USF contribution factor he said: “If you plugged this additional Lifeline spending into the 2016 first quarter formula, the percentage of Americans’ phone bills that goes toward the FCC’s USF spending (as opposed to service-related purposes or state and local taxes) would increase from 18.2 percent to 26.7 percent, based on the FCC data.” Rebutting what he called the “false arguments against a hard budget,” including that Lifeline funding is an entitlement, O’Reilly proposed using the 2014 Lifeline spending level, or $1.63 billion, as a cap for five years.